Border Patrol Officer: Salary Info, Duties and Requirements

Sep 18, 2019

Border patrol agents work for the Department of Homeland Security monitoring the borders for illegal activities including illegal entry into the country as well as drug trafficking. There are a number of requirements to apply for these positions including taking an exam. Agents usually carry guns, and must either speak or learn Spanish.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in a career in law enforcement may want to consider border patrol as an option. Border patrol officers maintain the safety and security of the United States' borders. These professionals monitor activity ranging from customs and immigration to drug and human trafficking. They must pass extensive background checks, as well as physical and mental exams. Some Spanish-language proficiency is also needed.

Required Education Border Patrol Academy training
Other Requirements Typically under 40 years old, fluency in Spanish or ability to learn, ability to handle a firearm, Border Patrol Exam
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for police and sheriff's patrol officers
Median Salary (2018)* $61,380 for police and sheriff's patrol officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't track statistics for border patrol officers, but these professionals could be considered in the same class as police and sheriff's patrol officers. According to the BLS, police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual salary of $61,380, as of May 2018.

Job Duties

Border patrol officers work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. They are responsible for monitoring and protecting 8,000 miles of international borders to make sure illegal immigrants, drugs, and goods do not come into the country. They identify and prevent trafficking of humans and contraband while working alongside other law enforcement agencies to facilitate legal trade.

Specific duties may include screening those entering and leaving the country, seizing illegal shipments, preventing entry of terrorist weapons, traffic control, and covert surveillance. Border patrol officers should expect arduous and sometimes dangerous shift work that includes nighttime hours. They carry firearms and must be trained in marksmanship.

Career Outlook

Border protection is a rapidly growing industry, according to the CBP. The role of border patrol agents expanded after 9/11, when counter-terrorism efforts became a national priority. More recently, the immigration debate has led to an increase in hiring, and in 2010 Congress approved a $600 million bill that stipulated employing 1,000 additional border patrol agents nationwide.


Border patrol agents must be under 40 years old, although exceptions may be made for people with federal law enforcement experience or qualified military veterans. U.S. citizenship and residency is required, as is a valid state driver's license. If not already fluent in formal Spanish, border patrol agents are expected to learn the language.

Additionally, they must pass a background check, medical evaluation, fitness exam, and drug test and must be legally allowed to possess a firearm. Some applicants are required to take a lie-detector test. Those who meet all requirements will be asked to take the Border Patrol Exam before spending 12 weeks of intense training at the Border Patrol Academy in New Mexico. For non-Spanish speakers, an additional eight weeks is required for language immersion training.

There are many requirements for a border patrol agent, including extensive background checks, learning or already speaking Spanish and passing an exam. Officers who pass the requirements and are offered positions are given extensive training. These positions have a median annual salary of about $61,380, and the job growth outlook is about average.

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