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Become a Customs and Border Protection Officer

Find out what it takes to become a customs and border protection officer. Take a look at the skills required, application process and how much you can earn in this role.

Career Information at a Glance

Customs and border protection is one of the world's biggest organizations that deals with law enforcement. Customs and border protection officers safeguard the country's borders by adhering to a number of laws which help to ensure the safety of the nation. They focus on preventing the admission of dangerous goods and individuals into the U.S. You can find more details about this career in the following table.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree from an accredited or pre-accredited university (if no relevant work experience)
Training Required Three years' general work experience (if no bachelor's degree)
Core Values Vigilance, integrity, service to the country
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% (for all police and detectives)*
Average Salary (2019) $41,830 at entry level**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **U.S. Department of Homeland Security (CBP)

What Education or Work Experience Do I Need?

For those interested in pursuing entry-level customs and border protection officer roles, the CBP states that there are three ways to qualify for the position. As this role involves working with a wide range of people in close proximity every day, being able to demonstrate three years of work experience that is relevant to meeting and liaising with people, along with showing an ability to learn and apply knowledge, is one accepted route. It is also possible to apply for the role with a bachelor's degree in any subject, but a specialized area of law or crime may be preferred. Alternatively, a combination of post-high school education plus work experience is another accepted route into the job role.

What Are the Duties of a Customs and Border Protection Officer?

This role is based around ensuring that a range of laws are enforced at U.S. ports of entry to prevent illegal trafficking into the country. This involves people, narcotics and any other contraband. Customs and border protection officers help to ensure that all trade and travel is legal by performing inspections and examinations where necessary. They are also required to interact with other agencies to exchange any relevant information. The role may also involve participating in the planning and undertaking of tactical operations.

What Training Will I Undertake?

89-day basic training is required for all customs and border protection officers. This is described by the CBP as a rigorous process which teaches the duties, obligations and philosophies of the role. Participants will undertake a range of classroom and physical training to help them prepare for all parts of the customs and border protection officer role. They will work in line with the CBP's core values: vigilance, integrity and service to the country.

What Career Progression Is Possible?

Customs and border protection offers career progression without the need to re-apply for a role. Officers generally complete one year at each grade level and, with supervisor approval, are then eligible to move to the next grade. Each grade comes with more responsibilities, with the possibility to become part of executive leadership. Roles at this level are competitive, meaning that you will apply for roles. Increased pay is also part of each move up the career ladder in customs and border protection.

What Other Benefits Can I Expect?

Customs and border protection officers benefit from a range of federal health insurance options, including dental and vision insurance. They are also eligible for federal life insurance policies of which there are several opt-in options. Officers in this role will receive the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) upon retirement. Some employees may also be eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program, which provides financial help with postsecondary education including tuition fees and books.