Border Patrol agents watch the land and water borders for people trying to get in illegally. US Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, hire border patrol agents to enforce federal laws. Getting a border patrol job can be the beginning of a great career.
Their sworn job is to protect the United States’ borders while making it easy for legal people and goods to move around the world. This includes keeping Americans safe from terrorists and their weapons, keeping dangerous pests out of the U.S. (agricultural protection), and ensuring immigration, customs, and trade laws are followed.
Border patrol agents watch the land and water borders for people trying to get in illegally. This is probably the most well-known thing, but managing and controlling the borders is just one of their many jobs. In addition to keeping the border safe, they do surveillance and interdiction operations to stop the smuggling of things like drugs, fake goods, stolen art, illegal weapons, and biochemically dangerous substances, among other things.
On average, border patrol agents arrest about 1,100 people for breaking U.S. laws. They will also check out nearly one million international travelers, seize almost six tons of illegal drugs, and stop more than 400 dangerous pests from entering the U.S. Theirs is one of the biggest law enforcement agencies in the US, with more than 21,000 men and women working for it.
Border Patrol Agent Employment
In their job as guardians of the US homeland, US Border Patrol agents are often put in dangerous situations. As the first line of defense against terrorists and criminals, agents must be cautious and professional in their daily work, which includes checking people, vehicles, and cargo.
The border patrol agents also carry out raids and seize illegally smuggled items like drugs, which is inherently dangerous.
If you want to be a US Border Patrol agent and think you’d be good at a job that requires always being alert, honest, and professional, it’s best to start preparing for the hiring process as soon as possible.
Getting ready for the hiring and screening process means, among other things, getting in the best shape possible and taking steps to learn about the agency’s rules, requirements, and duties. The screening and hiring process for the US Border Patrol is very long and includes several physical fitness tests. There is also a lot of competition.
Here are 5 steps to becoming a border patrol agent in the US:
FIRST, MEET THE MOST BASIC REQUIREMENTS
According to the CBP’s basic qualifications and medical requirements, people who want to work as US border patrol agents must have:
- Be a US citizen.
- Be younger than 37 at the time of the selection (except for veterans, and currently or formerly employed federal law enforcement agents covered by Public Law 100-238 special retirement provisions).
- Be of good moral character and have no criminal convictions that would keep you from getting in.
- Live in the U.S. and have done so for the past three years.
- Possess a valid driver’s license.
- Pass the Border Patrol CBP entrance exam and other tests of your skills.
- Pass the in-person interview with the panel
The CBP test for border patrol agents has three parts, one of which is a test of how well you know Spanish. Applicants who don’t speak Spanish, which is essential for most border patrol jobs, take a fake test that predicts their ability to learn and understand the language.
Logical reasoning is another part of the test. For this part, you’ll be asked hypothetical questions about the job you’re applying for, and the answers will be based on the information you gave in the exam questionnaire.
To be considered, applicants must send resumes that list their past jobs and actual accomplishments that show they can work within the CBP system. Other needed documents must be sent to the CBP Hiring Center in Minneapolis by the deadline given in the job posting or before.
Agents for the US border patrol are hired at the GL-5, GL-7, and GL-9 levels. (The Office of Personnel Management, which is in charge of hiring for the federal government, gives out the codes.)
At the GL-5 level, you need at least a year of paid or volunteer experience that shows you can make decisions and use good judgment as both a leader and a team member, help people work together and keep good relationships at work, and learn and follow law enforcement policies and procedures.
Voluntary experience is part of a national service program (like the Peace Corps) or a well-known project that shows character, personality, and skills (e.g., participating in philanthropic endeavors). Applicants with no experience can use a four-year college degree in any field from a US school accredited or from a foreign school that the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services recognizes (NACES).
Applicants with experience and college credits (but not a degree) can meet both requirements. The college units earned will be counted as experience. For example, one year of full-time semester or quarter units made equals six (6) months of experience, and so on.
The GL-7 level is more senior than the GL-5 level, and it takes at least twelve months of law enforcement experience to get there. This is because GL-7 jobs require proof of knowledge about law enforcement and the criminal justice system. A person applying must show that they can make legal arrests and use good judgment when using force and handling firearms.
They must also be able to analyze information quickly and take quick and appropriate law enforcement action based on their analysis also be able to deal with people in the criminal justice system effectively and tact, and they must be able to build and maintain good working relationships with informants.
If you don’t have any experience, you need at least one year of graduate school in law or a field related to law enforcement, like criminal justice, justice administration, or police science. If not, they can qualify under the Superior Academic Achievement (SAA) rules.
This means that they have a bachelor’s degree from a four-year US college or university accredited or from a foreign school recognized by NACES (in some cases). The SAA rules require:
- A GPA of 3.0 or higher out of 4.0 for at least the last two years of undergraduate study.
- A place in the top third of the applicant’s graduating class.
- Membership in a national scholastic honor society (not counting freshman honor societies).
The GL-9 level has a higher rank and pay scale than the GL-5 and GL-7 levels, but it doesn’t look at how much education you have. It does, however, require that applicants have worked in law enforcement for at least a year. Interrogating and arresting suspects, getting evidence against them, and making cases based on these actions are all part of the job description.
They also have to be ready to write reports, turn them in, and testify in court about their working cases. They must know how to use law enforcement databases and information retrieval systems.
US border patrol agents must have good eyesight (20/20 corrected distance vision or at least 20/100 without correction), hear well in both ears without hearing aids, and not have any disabilities or illnesses that could make it hard to do their jobs or put them in danger at work. Before being considered for a job, you must pass pre-employment fitness tests, or PFTs.
Disqualifying marks include negative information found in police databases and public records, as well as failed polygraph and urine drug tests. Background checks will be done differently by looking at credit reports and talking to former employers. The information that is gathered will be checked using legal means.
STEP 2 – OBTAIN A DEGREE OR ACCUMULATE EXPERIENCE
As explained in Step 1, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to apply for a US border patrol agent job as long as you have the right experience. But even if you have some experience, especially in a GL-5 or GL-7 position, having a college degree can make or break your chances of getting a job. Competition is quite stiff.
Criminal justice, justice administration, public administration, police administration and operations, police science, behavioral science, homeland security and counterterrorism, and human relations are all recommended degree programs for the job. Foundation courses cover international criminal justice, American politics, constitutional law, criminal law, and ethics in criminal justice. Immigration law, customs law, intelligence and surveillance, international relations, sociology, and psychology are some of the electives.
Since many illegal border crossings are started by Hispanics, being able to speak Spanish is a plus. The language course goes best with academic training in understanding and getting along with people from different backgrounds. Soft skills are learned and developed through formal education. They include getting along with others, communicating well in writing and person, analyzing and solving problems critically, and using good judgment in stressful situations.
Getting a degree is also essential to advance your career with CBP. There are many ways to do this within the organization. But there is a lot of internal competition. People in the staff know and praise those who do well in their jobs. But those with both experience and education are the “promotable best.”
Education and Degree Preferences for Border Patrol Agent Job Candidates
Border Patrol agents get ready to do their jobs long before filling out an application. U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not require applicants to have a college degree. Still, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice may be needed or recommended for some of the more complex or demanding jobs.
Even for these limited jobs, there isn’t a preferred college major, but applicants may need a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Because these jobs may involve intelligence work, the US CBP is looking for intelligent people to handle complex tasks. Some of the best majors for law enforcement jobs with the Border Patrol are
- The study of war
- Criminal justice
- Psychology used in court
- Political science
- Foreign language
To join the Border Patrol, you need to know Spanish, so applicants who already speak Spanish have an advantage, especially if they want to work on the southern border. Spanish does not have to be the applicant’s major, since most people interact with people from other countries. Being fluent in any foreign language should be enough to show the US CBP that the applicant can learn Spanish quickly.
Even if the applicant doesn’t have a college degree, they may still be qualified for some advanced Border Patrol jobs if they have worked in law enforcement or the military. If you want to join the Border Patrol with a Grade Level 7 instead of the usual Grade Level 5, you must have worked in law enforcement for at least a year.
People who want to be Border Patrol agents but don’t have a college degree or experience in law enforcement can also apply for the GL-5 entry-level position, but they may not have a good chance of getting one of these in-demand jobs.
STEP 3 – APPLY FOR A POSITION
The official CBP website is where job openings for US border patrol agents are posted. However, the actual site where applications can be made is www.USAjobs.gov.
On those sites, you can find a list of the requirements for each step of the hiring process and information about waivers and accommodations for people with special needs (like qualifiable candidates with disabilities). On the CBP site, you can also look at and download handouts, study guides, and tips to help you prepare for the entrance exam.
The application deadline is either the date listed in the job posting or the number of applications that will be accepted, whichever comes first. The applications that were sent in first have the best chance of being looked at.
Especially since the job is so popular, applicants must follow all of the rules to the letter, from filling out online forms to sending in the right paperwork. After passing the skills and physical tests and meeting the other requirements, they must do well in the panel interview.
The oral exam is an important part of the selection process because it allows interviewers to judge each applicant’s character, personality, and skills beyond their physical and mental abilities. The questions will be based on what is said on the resumes, and some may be hypothetical.
The applicants’ answers show how they feel about the job and whether they are willing to work in a demanding and dangerous environment.
It’s important to know that the agency looks at how well-qualified applicants are. The five-grade ranking system puts candidates in order: Best Qualified, Very Highly Qualified, Highly Qualified, Well Qualified, and Qualified.
Border Patrol Agent Application Process
Applying, taking an exam, being interviewed, and being trained can take anywhere from six to eight months, so you should be very determined.
The process starts with an online application asking about your work history, physical and mental abilities, and anything that might stop you from doing the job. The Office of Personnel Management will determine how the applicant answered the questionnaire to decide if they are qualified enough to take the written test.
There are three parts to the written test:
- Using common sense
- Being able to speak Spanish
- Artificial language test
The Artificial Language Test is mostly for people who don’t speak Spanish and tests how well they can learn a foreign language.
If the applicant does well on the written test, they will be on a waiting list. If a job opens up, the applicant will be contacted, given a tentative selection package, and asked to meet with a panel from the Border Patrol.
The oral interview is done by three Border Patrol agents and tests the applicant’s ability to make decisions, get along with others, and be emotionally mature. Before the interview, the applicant will have to undergo a medical exam that includes a drug test and a test of how fit they are. Also, the applicant’s past will be looked into.
Once the recruit is approved for active duty, they will spend 19 weeks at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, which has the most extended training program of any police agency. This includes learning how to fight physically, how to drive aggressively, how to shoot, and the laws about immigration and nationality. Recruiting who don’t know Spanish also have to take an extra 200 hours of Spanish classes.
STEP 4 – COMPLETE THE REQUIRED TRAINING
Candidates who meet the requirements must take a 55-day basic resident course at the CBP Border Patrol Academy, which is part of the network of Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. Artesia, NM is where the campus is. Before going to the academy, they must pass a month of training at their duty stations.
The agency pays for all of the training costs at the academy, but the trainees have to pay to move to their duty stations for the pre-academy orientation.
The challenging curriculum has four parts: integrated law, which includes nationality and immigration laws; physical training, which prepares trainees for the timed running and confidence tests; firearms instruction, which provides range practice sessions and classroom instruction on a wide range of topics like firearms safety, survival shooting, and instinctive reaction shooting; and driving, even if trainees already have valid licenses. Those who haven’t learned Spanish must stay for an extra 8 weeks of task-based, specialized language training.
At the end of the training at the academy, the candidates take tests that show how they will do in stressful, challenging situations. These tests also measure how well they can work in rotating shifts, odd hours, and long periods, as well as in dangerous conditions caused by nature and people (e.g., harsh weather and armed confrontations).
Then, successful trainees are hired on conditional terms at first (a probationary period). After a trial period that usually lasts a year, they are given permanent jobs with the federal government. No matter if they are on probation or have a permanent position, all agents must undergo job-specific training, take random drug tests, and pass the required tests on how to use guns.
STEP 5 – GET SWORN IN
When successful candidates take their oath of office, they become actual members of the elite group of US border patrol agents. The written and spoken versions of the pledge say that the main goal is keeping America safe. They are given guns and complete authority to enforce the law, which lets them search people and their property, make arrests, take things, and do other things.
BORDER PATROL AGENT JOBS & JOB DESCRIPTION
Agents of the Border Patrol work to keep their country safe by controlling the flow of people and goods into and out of the country by land, sea, air, and freight. Even though jobs vary from place to place, border patrol agents have the same basic set of duties:
- Know the basics of what border protection is and how it works.
- Awareness of the morals they stand for
- Being aware of differences
- Learn how agents help with the mission of the border.
- Provide excellent service to both internal and external stakeholders.
- Pay attention to making sure the country is safe and doing well.
- Keep an eye out for all safety issues.
- Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges.
- Decide to enforce border procedures in a fair and even way.
- Care about solid partnerships at home and abroad
- Make a promise to work together on safety, security, and trade.
- Promise to help with global security and trade
- Use the law in a fair way.
- Write down and send incorrect information
- Encourage people to follow border, trade, and tax laws
- Responsibly follow the rules
- Find and seize illegal goods
- Don’t let drugs, guns, and other things into the country.
- Figure out taxes and fees
Due to their more professional experience, senior border patrol agents are often given more responsibilities. Even though responsibilities change from place to place, senior employees should always be able to do the following:
- Knowledge of the job of border protection in depth
- Deep knowledge of the morals that they stand for
- Provide excellent service to both internal and external stakeholders.
- Make reports and presentations for the top management team and other interested parties.
- Set up timelines, goals, and budgets.
- Make sure the country is safe and doing well.
- Give your support and point of view on complex safety issues
- Professional development is something you should do and set up.
- Check the border procedures to ensure they are fair and unbiased.
- Encourage strong partnerships at home and abroad
- Work with internal and external stakeholders to make safety, trade, and security easier.
- Make sure the law is followed relatively.
- Stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the field.
- Learn to use all the materials and tools you need on the job.
- Make sure that all of your records and reports are correct.
- Ensure the procedures to enforce border, trade, and tax laws are working well.
- Encourage employees with less experience to have mentors.
- Responsibly follow the rules
- Stop illegal goods and get rid of them in the right way
- Make sure that all illegal items are recorded and thrown away.
- Charge fees and taxes in both simple and complicated cases.
BORDER PATROL SALARY INFORMATION
Salary by State
|-District of Columbia||$49,020||$60,630||$68,420||$79,190||$86,210|
Border Patrol Processing Coordinators
In April 2021, the first group of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing coordinators were sent to the Southwest border. The new position, the first brand-new one at CBP since 2003, is for civilian workers who can help CBP enforcement staff care for and process migrants who arrive.
As of September, the agency had trained and graduated five class coordinators, and there are currently 160 coordinators working at CBP facilities along the border.
With more money and help from Congress, CBP plans to grow the number of processing coordinators to 1,200 over the next three years and rely more and more on the new workers to do administrative work. This will free up Border Patrol agents to protect the border.
Who are processing coordinators and what do they do?
The new Border Patrol processing coordinators go through 36 days of training and are hired for 14-month terms that can last up to four years. The following jobs fall under the coordinators’ purview:
- When migrants are caught, CBP is responsible for taking care of them, storing their belongings and keeping track of them, and ensuring they are safe and healthy while in CBP custody.
- Writing and keeping track of administrative paperwork related to processing migrants in CBP custody, such as reports about how migrants are transported and sent back home.
- Putting information about detained migrants, such as the status of welfare checks and the conditions in custody, into CBP information systems.
- Taking people who have been detained to immigration court hearings and medical facilities.
The coordinators’ job is a civilian one. They are trained to “look at the care of people in jail from a humane point of view.” They have nothing to do with law enforcement and don’t help watch the border or catch people in the country illegally.
But the coordinators don’t have much power even when it comes to administrative tasks. Because of laws and rules, they don’t have the power to screen and process migrants arriving independently. When border agents take a migrant into custody, they must fill out several forms.
Many forms can be used to claim asylum or another form of protection under U.S. law. As part of this process, CBP agents must ask migrants if they are afraid of getting hurt or being persecuted if they are sent back to their home countries. Processing coordinators aren’t allowed to do these interviews or get the necessary information to fill out these forms.
Why do we need people to coordinate processing at the border?
The job of processing coordinator was first thought of in 2014, when a border crisis was caused by the changing demographics of migrants coming to the U.S.
For years, most people who crossed the border illegally were single adults from Mexico looking for work. But in the last 10 years, many more people from Central America, including families and children, have been coming to the border to ask for protection. In 2019 and 2021, CBP caught many families and children looking for asylum (UCs).
What is the job of a Custom and Border Patrol Officer?
At each of the 328 ports of entry into the U.S., CBP officers are the first line of defense for border security and fighting terrorism. Officers also have to keep an eye on the land borders with Mexico and Canada; in some cases, they do water patrols along coastal waterways. Customs and Border Protection officials are also in charge of ensuring that laws about immigration, agriculture, and trade are followed.
CBP.gov says that a typical day’s work might include the following:
- Find and keep out terrorists, weapons used for terrorism, dangerous people, and other weapons.
- Follow the laws about immigration, customs, and farming
- Stop the illegal trafficking of drugs, goods, and people into the United States.
- Make plans for tactical operations and take part in them.
- Check all people and cars entering the U.S. through ports of entry.
- Ensure that luggage, cargo, and containers are not used to bring illegal drugs, people, or goods into the U.S.
- Use K-9 dogs to find weapons, explosives, and illegal drugs.
- People breaking U.S. customs, border laws, and rules should be arrested and held.
- Work closely with the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal law enforcement agencies to protect national security.
How to Get a Job as a CBP Officer
If you want to know how to become a CBP officer, you should know that there is a lot of competition. In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has tightened its eligibility requirements to ensure that only the best and most qualified applicants are hired.
The CBP says there are three ways to get a job at the first level. Candidates must have either a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, three years of relevant work experience, or both a bachelor’s degree and three years of relevant work experience. Desired experience includes jobs that show the potential officer’s ability to work with people and learn and understand facts.
To be considered, applicants must also meet several other rules:
- Take the GS-9 entrance exam and pass it.
- Be an American citizen under 37 years old
- Before applying, you must have lived in the U.S. for three years.
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Pass a medical checkup, a drug test, and a security check.
- Two tests of physical fitness must be taken and passed (PFTs)
- Pass an interview with a panel of current CBP officers.
- Take a standard polygraph test and pass it.
Graduates of the online bachelor’s in criminal justice program at Maryville University have found that this degree is an excellent way to start a federal law enforcement officer career. There are classes like “Introduction to Criminal Justice,” “Multicultural Policing,” “Corrections in Society,” and “Domestic and International Terrorism” in the program. By the time they graduate, students will know about criminology, the law, and how it is used in a police setting.
Border Protection Officer Salaries
The average annual pay for CBP officers depends on where they are in their career ladder (also called their grade level) and where they are stationed since officers in specific duty locations can get more pay. Customs and Border Protection Officers start at the GS-5 level and can work their way up to the GS-12 level over time.
As of December 2018, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said the average salary for a GS-5 officer was $40,154 per year. This includes a base salary of $28,945 and extra pay of $11,209 for overtime and night work.
This information also shows that a GS-12 officer made an average of $95,437 per year in the same year. This includes a base salary of $63,600 and extra pay of $31,837 for overtime and night work.
Future Growth of CBP Officer Jobs
The U.S. will always need to keep its borders safe, so there will always be job openings in U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Sources in the government say that the CBP will continue to hire, train, and recruit agents as long as the country needs to stop people from smuggling drugs, trafficking people, and doing other illegal things across borders. Attrition is also a part of hiring and recruiting, so there are always new job opportunities.