What Is a Customs Agent?
Customs agents work along the borders of the United States, and at any port of entry, in order to ensure the safe and legal transport of people and materials into and out of the country. Customs agents are often responsible for investigations of crimes like narcotics smuggling, customs fraud, money laundering, and arms control. They carry out surveillance and monitor records of imports and exports.
Customs agents often work together with other branches of the government to investigate potential international criminals or international crime. They often have to obtain search warrants, interview individuals, and make arrests.
Candidates will need to be ready to place themselves in possibly dangerous or life threatening situations and must also be capable of the physical demands of the job. Customs agents undergo extensive training, however, so new agents will be very prepared to handle potentially dangerous people and situations.
How to Become a Customs Agent
In order to be a customs agent, an individual must be a United States citizen and at least 21 years old. One must also pass the CBP Border Patrol entrance examination. This examination covers logical reasoning skills, Spanish language, and an assessment of past work experience and work-related achievements. Individuals who cannot speak Spanish will receive a test in order to determine his or her ability to learn Spanish in a reasonable amount of time.
Individuals must have at least one year of experience with the same types of responsibilities required of a customs agent. Work experience must demonstrate an individual’s ability to make quick decisions, stay calm in stressful and dangerous situations, and a propensity to learn.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related discipline can be substituted for the work experience requirement. Candidates may also qualify with a combination of work and experience.
Customs Agent Career Outlook & Salary
The career outlook for agents within the federal government will be good, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment is estimated to increase by 10% over the decade from 2008 to 2018. This potential growth could be due to an increasing number of job openings within the field as large amounts of older employees retire.
Job opportunities will vary by occupation. New custom agents are hired at either GS-5 or GS-7 levels. To qualify for a GS-7 position, an agent must have at least one year of graduate level education.
Agents within the GS-5 level will make between $28,349 and $36,856 per year, and agents within the GS-7 level will earn from $35,116 and $45,648 annually. Customs agents with the highest degrees and who consistently provide excellent contributions to investigations will see the the best salaries and potential for advancement.