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Customs Officer

Customs officers work for the federal government, specifically the Treasury Department, inspecting the packages and baggage of individuals and the contents of cargo coming into or leaving the United States. They may also collect taxes related to imported goods. A custom officer keeps detailed records related to the people and goods entering and leaving the country.

These law enforcement agents work on the frontlines of our borders and airports. They may be required to apprehend people attempting to improperly import or export goods.

A customs officer’s salary directly correlates to level of education. Newly hired officers typically require a bachelor’s degree. Those officers with at least one year of graduate school could earn more immediately.

Applying for a position as a U.S. customs officer requires the following: U.S. citizenship, at least 21 years of age, physical exam, written exam, drug test and a background check. As well, new customs officers must complete training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Customs Officer Job Description

A customs officer must understand the policies, procedures and laws associated with importation and exportation of goods. Customs officers educate companies and individuals concerning the legalities of U.S. import and export laws. They detain individuals, organizations and companies who break customs take the necessary legal steps for possible prosecution.

Customs officers inspect cargo, baggage and other personal items of individuals leaving or arriving in the United States. They appropriate contraband and smuggled goods then institute the steps toward proper legal action. Customs officers may be required to testify in immigration or federal court cases.

A customs officer may be required to complete any or all of the following duties:

  • Inspect imported goods, luggage and other cargo.
  • Keep accurate and detailed records of inspections and interviews.
  • Detain individuals suspected of breaking customs laws.
  • Acquire samples of materials related to customs cases.
  • Collect duty and taxes on goods.
  • Take the necessary steps to legally process a suspect.
  • Testify in immigration or federal court.
  • Work cooperatively with other law enforcement agencies.
  • Assist immigrants, citizens and corporations who seek information about customs laws.

As employees of the federal government, customs officers begin earning a salary at the level commensurate with their degrees. According to the Department of Labor, candidates with a bachelor’s degree begin on the GS-5 level and those with at least on year of graduate school start at the GS-7 level.

The GS-5 level pays an average annual salary around $33,000. The pay rate for a GS-7 level averages over $40,000 annually. With experience, customs officers may work up to a GS-13 pay grade, which includes salaries from $77,488 to $100,972, according to the United States Government Salary Table.

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