Bomb Dog Handler: Job Description, Duties and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a bomb dog handler. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and recommended skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Bomb dog handlers are law enforcement officers who work with trained dogs that identify fire arms, bombs, and are employed at state, university and government levels. To become a bomb dog handler, one must have at least a high school diploma, graduate from the police academy, and be very comfortable working with animals. The handler's employer will also define the handler's duties, whether that's being deployed into combat zones or checking airport security.

Essential Information

Bomb dog handlers, also known as explosive detecting dog handlers, are law enforcement officers or security agents who work with trained bomb-detecting dogs to identify explosive materials or compounds. Entrance into this field, like with all police work, is dependent on graduation from a police academy.

Required Education High school diploma and graduation from police academy
Other Requirements Must be comfortable working with animals
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (police and sheriff's patrol officers)*
Average Salary (2015) $61,270 (police and sheriff's patrol officers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bomb Dog Handler Job Description

Bomb dog handlers partner with trained dogs to locate explosives, firearms or bomb-making materials. These professionals are employed by state, local or university law enforcement departments, as well as the military, government agencies and private security companies. Teams may be deployed to search anything from packages and vehicles to entire buildings, airports or crowded events.

Job Duties

In order to locate and identify commercial and improvised explosives or the chemical compounds used to make them, bomb dog handlers must be able to effectively understand their dogs' behavior and communicate with them. This may include both identifying canine responses and issuing commands. Additionally, these professionals may be under pressure to perform their duties quickly so they don't disrupt or endanger the surrounding area.

Duties vary widely and are dependent upon the handler's employer. For example, military bomb dog handlers may be deployed during combat situations and on special missions in the U.S. and abroad (www.lackland.af.mil). State and local police and federal agents may search the interior and exterior of buildings, infrastructure or vehicles. Transportation security bomb dog handlers may search luggage, vehicles or even people at airports and other transportation hubs (www.tsa.gov).

Bomb dog handlers and their dogs work as a team. Accordingly, bomb dog handlers must understand how to care for the canine, recognize when veterinary care is needed and maintain the animal's training to ensure complete obedience. Training generally covers first aid and safety measures to care for their animal partners.

Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't report specific job outlook information for bomb dog handlers, it anticipated that all police and sheriff's patrol officers were expected to increase by 4% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The number of job openings in a given location varied depending on government funding and population needs. The BLS also stated that greater competition existed for jobs on the state and federal levels, and that candidates with foreign language skills, military or law enforcement experience and a college degree should have better opportunities.

In May 2015, the BLS reported salary information for careers related to bomb dog handling. It found that police detectives and investigators earned median annual salaries of $77,210, while police and sheriff's patrol officers received median wages of $58,320.

Other opportunities for bomb dog handlers exist in the military, such as the Military Working Dog Program, which employs bomb dog handlers and has developed Specialized Search Dogs (SSD) for use in combat and as counter-terrorism measures. Additionally, campus police forces at colleges and universities increasingly employ bomb-sniffing dogs handlers to enhance safety for students.

Bomb dog handler are law enforcement officers who work alongside trained canines in detecting fire arms, explosives and any explosive material. These handlers will need to understand their dogs' behavior and communicate and know how to care for their canines.

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