Federal Air Marshal Training Program Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an air marshal. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prerequisites to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service and requires all potential federal air marshals to complete the Federal Air Marshal Training Program (FAMTP). Federal air marshals must be 37 years old or younger, meet requirements for physical fitness and health, and be U.S. citizens. Additionally, candidates usually have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

Education Requirements Bachelor's degree and preparatory training through the Pre-Training Guide for the FAMTP
Other Qualifications Be 37 years old or younger, meet physical fitness guidelines, be a U.S. citizen
Job Outlook (2012-2022)* 5% increase for all police and detectives, including air marshals
Median Salary (2012)* $56,980 for all police and detectives, including air marshals

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


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), employment for police and detectives was expected to increase by 5% from 2012 until 2022. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicated in March 2015 that salaries for its employees don't follow the typical GS system that most other government agencies use. According to BLS data, air marshals are part of the police and detectives employment category. These workers earned a median annual salary of $56,980, as of May 2012.

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