The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the security and protection of U.S. borders from terrorism, drug smuggling and illegal immigration. It requires all individuals interested and qualified to become border patrol agents to attend and complete its standard 2-month Border Patrol Training Academy in Artesia, NM.
Aspiring border patrol officers must meet a set of minimum physical, background and citizenship requirements, and must also pass an entrance examination to be accepted. If the student does not meet minimum Spanish language requirements, the academy's Task-Based Language Training program must be completed. This program lasts eight weeks and is completed after the standard academy training.
All trainees must pass a final timed physical techniques test to prove their abilities at running, dashing and completing a confidence course.
Border Patrol Training Program
Applicants must be U.S. citizens who are under 40 years of age. They must have a state driver's license and be able to meet CBP residency requirements either by having resided in the U.S. for more than three years or by having worked for the U.S. government overseas during that time. All applicants must pass the written U.S. Border Patrol Test and be orally interviewed by a group of active agents. Additional requirements include a criminal background check, medical screening, drug testing and a polygraph examination.
A college degree or completion of college courses are not required to become a border patrol agent, but may be substituted for work experience. This allows new agents to start at a higher pay grade. The academy has specific curricula designed to give students theoretical background in their law enforcement responsibilities. Additional coursework trains students in field practices. Topics include:
- Carbines and rifles
- Field operations
- Immigration law
- Pursuit driving
- Utility vehicle operation
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists border patrol agents as a subset of police and detectives (www.bls.gov). From 2014 to 2024, police and detectives are expected to see four percent growth in total employment, which is slower than the average for all professions.
According to payscale.com, border patrol agents are hired at federal government pay grades. As of June 2015, annual salaries ranged from $32,624-$95,762, depending on pay grade. Initial pay grades are determined by experience or education level and supporting documentation. Individuals may substitute each year of college courses for three months of work experience.
Border patrol agents are eligible for rapid promotion during their first three years of employment, according to the CBP. Promotion to supervisory positions is available to experienced and high-performing officers.
People who are interested in becoming border patrol agents must complete an 8-week long training on topics such as pursuit driving and field operations. Students undergo training in the form of classroom instruction in law, firearms, physical techniques and motor vehicle driving.