Air Marshal Job Requirements

The Federal Air Marshal Service, which is organized under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), was created to promote confidence in the nation’s civil aviation system by detecting, deterring, and defeating hostile acts that target U.S. aircraft, passengers and crewmembers.

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The Federal Air Marshals Service was created in 1961 under the name of the U.S. Sky Marshal Program. The program was a result of an increased number of hijackings that were occurring at the time under the Fidel Castro regime and later as a result of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Federal Air Marshal Service has since grown significantly, particularly following the events of September 11, 2001, which prompted a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and Defense agencies and the creation of the DCA Access Standard Security Program (DASSP). The DASSP program requires the presence of an Armed Security Officer (ASO) onboard at least 48 general aviation flights a day that leave from designated “gateway airports.”

The Air Marshals Service is now organized into a number of divisions:

  • Business Management Office
  • Security Services and Assessments Division
  • Field Operations Division
  • Flight Operations Division



Air Marshal Careers

Federal Air Marshals are specially trained, armed law enforcement officers who are authorized to fly on general aviation aircraft. These professionals, who work on an independent basis, are called upon to blend in with other passengers and use their skills and training to protect the flying public from criminal and terrorist violence through:

  • Aircraft-specific tactics
  • Close-quarters self-defense measures
  • Criminal terrorist behavior recognition
  • Firearms proficiency
  • Investigative techniques

In addition to maintaining a presence on general aviation aircraft in the United States, these law enforcement professionals are also assigned as Assistant Federal Security Directors for Law Enforcement at airports across the country and within organizations such as the:

  • National Counterterrorism Center
  • National Targeting Center
  • FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force

Air Marshals also work within law enforcement and homeland security assignments during national events or at times of heightened national security.

How to Become an Air Marshal: Air Marshal Job Requirements

Federal Air Marshals are federal law enforcement officers and must therefore adhere to federal employment guidelines. Candidates for Air Marshal jobs must be United States citizens, and they must be between the ages of 21 and 36 or have prior federal civilian law enforcement experience.

Candidates must meet specific education and experience requirements to qualify for Air Marshal jobs, which include possessing one of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in any field from an accredited college or university; OR
  • At least three years of progressively responsible general experience, with at least one year in a position that shows the candidate’s ability to analyze problems, gather data, recognize solutions, and communicate effectively, both orally and in writing; OR
  • A combination of experience and education

Upon an assessment of a candidate’s online application, chosen individuals for Air Marshal jobs can expect to undergo a number of pre-employment tests and assessments, including:

  • Credit/criminal background check
  • FAMS Assessment Battery test – Includes writing, logic-based reasoning, and situational judgment components
  • Panel interview
  • Medical examination
  • Psychological assessment
  • Background investigation
  • Physical training assessment

The Federal Air Marshal Service also has its own tactical training facility at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The facility includes outdoor ranges, an interactive training room, a defense training room, an air traffic control tower, and an aircraft designed for on-board exercises.

US Air Marshal Programs and Operations

The Air Marshals Service operates through the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, along with the following, related programs:

  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR): VIPR operations integrate TSA assets and screening and law enforcement capabilities to coordinate activities as to increase security among all modes of transportation
  • Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO): Serves as an additional layer of security by training authorized flight crewmembers to use firearms in the event of a hostile act on an aircraft
  • Crewmember Self-Defense Program: Program available to all U.S. passenger and cargo crew members and in 22 states across the country to provide them with hands-on training
  • Canine Training and Evaluation Service: Prepares canines and handlers to support the National Canine Program mission

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