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District Attorney vs. Prosecutor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A prosecutor is a lawyer who represents the state or federal government in a criminal case, while a district attorney is an elected official who represents the government in a particular jurisdiction. Both positions are responsible for handling criminal cases, but there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between district attorneys and prosecutors, and we provide helpful tips for those interested in pursuing a career in law.

What is a District Attorney?

District Attorneys are lawyers who work for the government to prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the state or federal government. They review police reports and evidence to determine if there is enough to bring charges against a suspect. If they believe there is, they file formal charges and work with the police to arrest the suspect. District Attorneys then work with witnesses and victims to build a case against the defendant. They represent the state or federal government in court and work to convict the defendant. In some cases, they may offer plea bargains to defendants in exchange for a guilty plea and a lighter sentence.

What is a Prosecutor?

Prosecutors are lawyers who represent the state or federal government in criminal cases. They work closely with law enforcement to investigate crimes and determine whether to bring charges against a suspect. Prosecutors also work with victims and witnesses to help them understand the criminal justice process and what to expect. In court, prosecutors present the government’s case against the defendant and try to convince the jury to find the defendant guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, prosecutors may also be responsible for recommending a sentence.

District Attorney vs. Prosecutor

Here are the main differences between a district attorney and a prosecutor.

Job Duties

A district attorney is a senior legal professional who oversees all criminal cases in their jurisdiction. They are responsible for filing charges against suspected criminals and trying those individuals before a jury. District attorneys work with many different professionals, including police officers, forensic investigators and defense lawyers.

A prosecutor is an assistant district attorney who works on specific cases. Their job is to build strong cases against defendants by conducting investigations and working with other professionals. Prosecutors may specialize in certain types of crimes or defense strategies that help them achieve successful outcomes for their clients.

Job Requirements

District attorneys (DAs) and prosecutors must first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. After completing their undergraduate studies, they must then attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor degree. Once they have completed their formal education, DAs and prosecutors must pass the bar exam in order to be licensed to practice law.

In some states, DAs are elected officials, so they may also need to campaign for office and win an election. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are typically hired by the DA’s office, so they would not need to go through the election process. However, both DAs and prosecutors typically start their careers as lawyers in private practice before moving into these roles.

Work Environment

District attorneys work in a variety of environments, depending on the location and size of their district. They may spend time working in courtrooms or other legal settings to meet with clients and discuss cases. District attorneys also have offices where they can review files and prepare for trials.

Prosecutors typically work in an office environment, but they may travel to different locations to assist police officers during investigations. Prosecutors often work long hours, especially when preparing for trial.


Both district attorneys and prosecutors need to have excellent research skills to build cases that will stand up in court. They also both need to be able to think critically and analytically to identify the best evidence to support their argument. Public speaking skills are important for both district attorneys and prosecutors, as they need to be able to present their case clearly and convincingly to a judge and jury.

Organizational skills are important for district attorneys, as they often oversee multiple cases at one time. They also need to be able to delegate tasks to support staff and keep track of deadlines. Prosecutors may also benefit from having strong organizational skills, but they typically work on fewer cases than district attorneys.

District attorneys also need to have good people skills to manage their team of lawyers, investigators and support staff. They also need to be able to develop relationships with law enforcement officers and witnesses. Prosecutors may not need to have the same level of people skills as district attorneys, but they still need to be able to work well with others to get information and evidence for their cases.


The average salary for a district attorney is $92,447 per year, while the average salary for a prosecutor is $80,405 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the state in which you work, the size of the company you work for and your level of experience.


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