As part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are responsible for ensuring the security of the United States’ borders by preventing the entry of unauthorized individuals, weapons, drugs and other contraband.
CBP also is responsible for “protecting our agricultural and economic interests from harmful pests and diseases; protecting American businesses from theft of their intellectual property; and regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. trade laws,” according to the agency’s website.
CBP is the largest law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with approximately 60,000 employees nationwide and abroad. In addition to the more than 20,000 CBP officers who oversee the screening of passengers and cargo at more than 300 points of entry, there are numerous specialty roles available within CBP, including agriculture specialists, air and marine interdiction, and border patrol.
In fiscal year 2012, the agency seized more than $100 million in unreported currency and more than 4 million pounds of narcotics, and processed almost 25 million cargo containers and inspected 350 million travelers.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Customs and Border Protection Officers
CBP officers are employed at ports of entry throughout the continental United States, as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. According to the agency’s website, the salary range for entry-level officers is $31,315 to $38,790 annually.
As of October 2013, the CBP was seeking applicants for officer positions in all of its 12 geographic regions, with “critical need” in the Northeast and Northwest.
Because officers regularly interact with individuals from a variety of nations, the CBP is especially interested in applicants with foreign language proficiency.
As with any career, job opportunities and salary potential for Customers and Border Protection officers can be influenced by numerous factors, including an individual’s employment history and educational attainment.
Education and Training for Customs and Border Protection Officers
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university is the minimum educational requirement for CBP officers. A law enforcement-related program, such as criminal justice, is considered to be an appropriate field of study.
Applicants must also pass an entrance exam that includes testing in reasoning and writing skills, as well as demonstrate firearm proficiency. Other requirements include U.S. citizenship, a valid driver’s license, and completion of a polygraph exam, drug test, background check and physical fitness exam. In addition, prospective officers must be referred for employment before age 37, although that restriction may be waived for military veterans.
Newly hired officers also are required to complete a month-long, paid orientation at their home port of entry before attending 17 to 19 weeks of paid training at the CBP Academy in Brunswick, Georgia. Training includes classroom instruction and a strenuous fitness program, and some candidates may attend Spanish language classes based on their duty assignment.