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Federal Air Marshal Training Program Information

Federal air marshals watch for suspicious activity and identify threatening situations in airports and on commercial flights. They carry weapons and must be prepared to apprehend dangerous individuals without threatening bystanders. Becoming a federal air marshal (FAM) requires minimum levels of law enforcement experience, physical fitness, education and training.

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Information on the Federal Air Marshal Training Program

The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service. It requires all potential federal air marshals to complete the Federal Air Marshal Training Program (FAMTP). This program is conducted in two parts. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, NM, hosts the first part of FAM training, a basic session lasting seven weeks. In the second part, advanced training is held at the Federal Air Marshal Services Training Center in Atlantic City, NJ. The advanced session also lasts seven weeks.


In order to apply for a federal air marshal position, an applicant must be no older than 37 and a U.S. citizen. They must be able to meet physical fitness and health guidelines. Candidates must also pass reference checks, lie-detector tests and background checks to be hired. Communication and team building skills, problem solving abilities and composure under stress are important traits as well.

A bachelor's degree, usually in criminal justice, and at least four years of previous law enforcement or related experience is necessary. Without a bachelor's degree, exceptions are occasionally made for significant field experience.


Federal air marshal applicants receive a Pre-Training Guide for the FAMTP. This guide contains detailed information about the program content, including physical fitness and weapons training requirements. It focuses on how to prepare for the physical training, which is intended to improve muscular and joint flexibility and aerobic fitness. There is a suggested workout structure, complete with lists of suggested exercises and instructions on how to do them.


The FAMTP consists of instruction in several areas, including firearms proficiency, self-defense tactics, dangerous individual or situation recognition, ethical and legal issues, and terrorism-specific procedures. As explained in the Pre-Training Guide, strenuous physical fitness training occurs daily and is designed to prepare federal air marshals for the physical demands of the position.

Physical training includes Practical Exercise Performance Requirements (PEPR) related to law enforcement activities, such as making arrests. The physical training assessment test evaluates overall performance of a regimen of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups and a 1.5-mile run. A trainee must complete each stage consecutively with as little idle time in between as possible.

The firearms portion of training gives a clear understanding of firearm safety and teaches trainees how to use weapons approved for federal air marshal use, especially in stressful and chaotic situations. Federal air marshal trainees also need to qualify to use a handgun.

Like all federal law enforcement officials, federal air marshals need to stay up-to-date in their skills. Courses in firearm procedures, legal issues and self-defense tactics keep air marshals qualified to do their jobs. Advancement into supervision or management can be determined by a combination of years on the job, good performance and specialized training.

Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), federal employment was expected to decrease by roughly two percent from 2012 until 2022. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicated in December 2012 that salaries for its employees don't follow the typical GS system that most other government agencies use. Instead, Homeland Security employees could earn an entry-level salary between $17,254 and $25,227, which increases as the workers gain experience.

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