Border patrol agents provide law enforcement for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in the Department of Homeland Security. Initially established to solely fight illegal entries into the United States, the mission has now evolved to include apprehension and deterrence of terrorists.
Agents patrol over 8,000 miles of international land and water boundaries, encouraging legal entry of goods and immigrants while preventing illegal smuggling of goods and aliens.
Many agents are posted in small, isolated communities along the Mexican and Canadian borders and the coastal waterways near the Florida Peninsula and Puerto Rico.
Federal law enforcement agents must have a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience. In addition, applicants must be under the age of 40 unless they have prior Federal law enforcement experience, have U.S. citizenship, and a clean criminal record.
All border patrol agents complete a 55-day training program at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in New Mexico, widely recognized as one of the most intense Federal law enforcement training programs in the country. Instruction is given in nationality laws, immigration, criminal law, anti-terrorism, ethics, constitutional law, physical fitness, and firearms.
Border patrol agents keep United States borders secure from outside threats by preventing illegal entry of goods and aliens while helping safeguard the country against terrorism. The primary duty of agents is to survey the border and watch for suspicious activity, often with the aid of highly advanced electronic surveillance equipment.
Duties may include the following:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects competition will be highest for jobs at the federal and state levels. Potential applicants with a bachelor’s degree and prior law enforcement or military experience, as well as advanced Spanish language skills, will have the best chance of securing employment as a border patrol agent.
Federal law enforcement agents are subject to the General Services pay scale. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border patrol agents typically start at the GS-5, GS-7, or GS-9 level ($27,431 to 41,563), depending on their experience and qualifications, with opportunity for advancement soon after being hired.
In addition to salary, many agents earn law enforcement availability pay for working overtime. They also receive federal benefits and leave.