|Working as a Patent Examiner at the USPTO
Many Patent Practitioners get their feet wet with patents by working for the USPTO as a Patent Examiner. As a Patent Examiner, your job would consist of reviewing patent applications and determining whether they meet the requirements to issue as a patent. You will work closely with inventors and Patent Practitioners.
As you can imagine, gaining experience as a Patent Examiner can provide you with experience in the field of patent law. In addition, working as a Patent Examiner at the USPTO has its own set benefits as you would be working for the government. Government positions usually come with nice benefit packages and tend to be less stressful jobs compared to corporate positions. The USPTO does offer a law school tuition reimbursement program, a competitive health benefits plan, as well as an attractive vacation/holiday plan. They also often offer recruitment incentives.
The salary you qualify for would depend entirely on your background. The USPTO classifies Patent Examiners by GS grade starting at GS-05 and increasing to GS-15. The range in pay is from about $45,000 up to well over $100,000 per year. As you can imagine, many people get their start in patent law through the USPTO as a Patent Examiner, then move on to a higher paying position at a law firm.
Examiners typically work in one of the following areas of specialty; biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, or computer science.
The minimum education level for a position as a Patent Examiner is a Bachelor's degree in a science or engineering program (in-line with the specialties listed above). You do not need to have taken the Patent Bar exam in order to qualify for a position as a Patent Examiner, but it may help you stand out from others in the hiring pool who have not taken the exam.
If you accept a position as a Patent Examiner, you will receive training through their "Patent Training Academy". This is part formal classroom/part on-the-job training. You will also receive one-on-one training with an experienced Patent Examiner. A position as a Patent Examiner also includes ongoing training in the form of continuing education classes and guest speakers.
In addition to regular, paid positions, the Patent and Trademark Office also offers internships and unpaid training opportunities. A position as an intern at the USPTO can definitely help you when it comes time to find a position at a law firm or corporate office.
Take a look at the Patent Examiner positions the USPTO currently has to offer.