Border Patrol Officer: Salary Info, Duties and Requirements

Border patrol agents maintain the safety and security of the United States' borders. They must pass extensive background checks, physical, and mental exams, and must know or learn Spanish. Read on to learn more.

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Salary Information

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the annual salary of a new border patrol agent ranged from $33,829 to $42,948, depending on experience and qualifications (www.cbp.gov). Border patrol officers can earn up to 25% above their base salary by working overtime and picking up weekend and holiday shifts. Other benefits include paid training and a uniform allowance of $1,500, as well as federal employee benefits (www.cbp.gov).

Job Duties

Border patrol officers work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. They are responsible for monitoring and protecting 8,000 miles of international borders to make sure illegal immigrants, drugs, and goods do not come into the country. They identify and prevent trafficking of humans and contraband while working alongside other law enforcement agencies to facilitate legal trade.

Specific duties may include screening those entering and leaving the country, seizing illegal shipments, preventing entry of terrorist weapons, traffic control, and covert surveillance. Border patrol officers should expect arduous and sometimes dangerous shift work that includes nighttime hours. They carry firearms and must be trained in marksmanship.

Career Outlook

Border protection is a rapidly growing industry, according to the CBP. The role of border patrol agents expanded after 9/11, when counter-terrorism efforts became a national priority. More recently, the immigration debate has led to an increase in hiring, and in 2010 Congress approved a $600 million bill that stipulated employing 1,000 additional border patrol agents nationwide.

Requirements

Border patrol agents must be under 40 years old, although exceptions may be made for people with federal law enforcement experience or qualified military veterans. U.S. citizenship and residency is required, as is a valid state driver's license. If not already fluent in formal Spanish, border patrol agents are expected to learn the language.

Additionally, they must pass a background check, medical evaluation, fitness exam, and drug test and must be legally allowed to possess a firearm. Some applicants are required to take a lie-detector test. Those who meet all requirements will be asked to take the Border Patrol Exam before spending 12 weeks of intense training at the Border Patrol Academy in New Mexico. For non-Spanish speakers, an additional eight weeks is required for language immersion training.

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