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Border Patrol Agent: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for border patrol agents. Get the facts about education and training requirements, job duties and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does a Border Patrol Agent Do?

United States border patrol agents are tasked with guarding the country's national boundaries. As a border patrol agent, you would have the responsibility of line watching, which requires you to identify and avert undocumented immigrants, immigrant smugglers and terrorists. You would watch the border from a concealed area, respond to electronic sensor television systems, pursue physical evidence and make arrests. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Training Required Two months at U.S. Border Patrol Academy
Key Responsibilities Keep undocumented immigrants, smugglers and terrorists from crossing U.S. borders
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% (for police and sheriff's patrol officers)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $61,380 (for police and sheriff's patrol officers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Border Patrol Agent?

The United States Border Patrol is a branch of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The Department of Homeland Security employs these uniformed law enforcement agents to guard 8,000 miles of land and water boundaries around the U.S. As a border patrol agent, you might patrol the Mexican and Canadian borders and the coasts of Florida and Puerto Rico. You might also be stationed in isolated locations throughout the country.

What Education Do I Need?

You would need a bachelor's degree, relevant work experience or some combination of both to work for a federal agency. During school, you might also join sports teams or take physical education classes to build endurance, agility and a competitive spirit.

If accepted by CBP, you would spend 55 days training for the position at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, NM (www.cbp.gov). At the academy, you would learn about immigration and nationality laws, participate in fitness training and acquire skills in shooting. If you aren't a fluent Spanish speaker, you would spend another 40 days learning Spanish language skills.

What Qualifications Must I Meet?

To enter this career, you would need to be under 40 years of age, possess a U.S. driver's license and be fluent in Spanish or able to learn it, according to the CBP. During the interviewing and extensive background check, your honesty, judgment and sense of responsibility would be assessed. You would need to pass a medical exam, fitness test, drug test and polygraph test. You should expect to be tested randomly for drug use even after you have been hired.

You must be willing to work long hours in stressful conditions, sometimes in rough environments or in harsh weather. You may not be eligible for a career as a border patrol agent if you have been in debt, addicted to alcohol or illegal drugs, arrested or convicted of a crime.

What Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide wage statistics specifically for border patrol agents, but includes them among police and sheriff's patrol officers. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for police and sheriff's patrol officers was $61,380 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Those that worked for the federal executive branch earned an average salary of $58,130 a year for the same time period.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Pursuing a career as a private detective or investigator is somewhat similar to border patrol, as you will be responsible for finding evidence and information about ongoing investigations. Another option would be becoming a correctional officer or bailiff, in which you would supervise those who are waiting on a trial date or maintaining order in court. Becoming a security guard or gaming surveillance officer is also similar in that you would be patrolling properties to protect against potential vandalism or terrorism. All these possible occupations require high school diplomas.