US Customs and Border Protection Careers and Job Requirements

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for providing border security for the nation. From the nearly 7,000 miles of border between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, to the more than 2,000 miles of coastal waters encircling the Florida peninsula and the Southern California Coast, the CBP is vital to ensuring that U.S. ports of entry are protected from terrorists and terrorist weapons. The boots-on-the-ground border patrol agents and customs officers of the CBP work to ensure customs, immigration, and agriculture laws and regulations are enforced. CBP also partners with the United States Coast Guard to provide patrol to the 95,000 miles of maritime border.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates under a set of core values, which include:

  • Vigilance: Ensuring the safety of Americans by detecting, deterring, and preventing threats to the nation
  • Service to Country: Defending and upholding the Constitution of the United States, which includes defending the homeland
  • Integrity: Ensuring that they are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles

On any given day, CBP is likely to:

  • Process more than 990,000 passengers and pedestrians
  • Process more than 280,000 incoming international air passengers and crew
  • Process more than 660,000 incoming land travelers
  • Conduct more than 1,100 apprehensions at U.S. ports of entry
  • Arrest 22 wanted criminals at U.S. ports of entry
  • Seize nearly 12,000 pounds of drugs
  • Seize more than $290,000 in undeclared or illicit currency

CBP currently employs almost 60,000 employees, which include 21,650 CPB officers and 20,979 border patrol agents.

US Customs and Border Protection: Identifying and Implementing Strategic Goals

The goals of CBP’s frontline and mission critical personnel include:

  • Border Patrol Agents: Prevent illegal people and contraband from entering the U.S.
  • CBP Officers: Protect all official ports of entry
  • Air and Marine Agents: Patrol U.S. land and sea borders as to prevent the entry of terrorists and drug smugglers
  • Agricultural Specialists: Prevent the entry of harmful plant pests, foreign animal diseases, and agro- and bioterrorism

The individuals of CBP accomplish the agency’s goals through:

    • Effective Targeting: Includes assessing all people and cargo entering the US. from abroad for terrorist risk; technologies and programs that assist in this effort include:
      • Advanced Passenger Information System
      • U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology
      • Student and Exchange Visitor System
      • Automated Targeting System
      • Automated Export System
      • Advance Electronic Information Regulations (Trade Act of 2002)
      • CBP Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination’s Targeting Centers
      • Automated Commercial Environment Secure Data Portal


    • Partnering with other countries: Creating smart borders by extending the zone of security beyond our country’s physical borders by working with other countries; technologies and programs that assist in this effort include:
      • Container Security Initiative
      • Smart Border Declaration and 30-Point Action Plan (an initiative with Canada)
      • Smart Border Accord (an initiative with Mexico)
      • Secure Electronic Network for Travelers’ Rapid Inspection (SENTRI)
      • Free and Secure Trade Program


  • Partnering with the Private Sector: Implementing the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a joint effort between government and the private sector designed to strengthen the overall supply chain and border security
  • Deploying non-intrusive inspection equipment to detect and interdict the presence of nuclear or radiological weapons
  • Targeting outbound shipments and people
  • Implementing a comprehensive border enforcement strategy; technologies and programs that assist in this effort include:
    • Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System
    • Unmanned Aerial Systems
    • Remote Video Surveillance Systems
    • Geographic Information System


US Customs and Border Protection Careers: Job and Training Requirements

Frontline CBP Careers – Border patrol agents and CBP officers promote CBP’s law enforcement capabilities. These professionals must meet specific requirements for employment with this federal law enforcement agency, which include:

  • They must be a United States citizen and a resident of the U.S.
  • They must be under the age of 40 (unless they qualify for veteran’s preference status).
  • They must be fluent in Spanish or able to learn the Spanish language.
  • They must possess a valid driver’s license.
  • They must be able to pass a thorough background investigation, multiple physical fitness tests, a medical examination, a polygraph examination, and a drug test.

Candidates for CBP officer or border patrol agent jobs must be able to qualify, at a minimum, at the GS-5 federal grade level, which requires applicants to have at least 3 years of full-time general experience, which includes working well with people and displaying an ability to learn.

Candidates may also qualify through education if they lack experience. To qualify at the GS-5 level, individuals must possess a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although specific degree requirements are not necessary, many individuals choose to pursue degrees in such areas as: criminal justice, criminology, police science, emergency management, and homeland security.

CBP Operational and Mission Support Careers – In addition to CBP’s frontline careers, the CBP also has more than 8,000 employees working in operational and mission support positions, which include:

  • Budget analysts
  • CBP technicians
  • Contract specialists
  • Human resource specialists
  • Intelligence research specialists
  • IT specialists
  • Management analysts
  • Mechanics
  • Mission support specialists
  • Paralegals
  • Purchasing agents
  • Sector enforcement specialists
  • Security specialists

Education, experience and minimum requirements for employment vary with these CBP careers.

Training Requirements – Both CBP officers and border patrol agents must complete a formal training program upon being hired by the CBP:

CBP Officer Basic Training Academy

The CBP Officer Basic Training Academy is located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. This 89-day program is focused on operational effectiveness, enhanced enforcement tools and tactics, and building capacities as to ensure border security and prevent terrorism.

CBP officer training includes 105 hours of practical exercise training, classroom time, and interactive scenarios. New trainees must pass 7 practical exercise tests, 8 written examinations, and 23 graded practical exercises.

CBP Border Patrol Academy

All new border patrol agents receive training at the CBP Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. The training program, which is 58 days long, includes instruction in integrated law, physical training, firearms instruction, and driving. Trainees not fluent in Spanish must also attend a 40-day task-based language training program. Courses include:

  • Nationality law
  • Immigration law
  • Applied authority
  • Operations
  • Firearms training

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