Border Patrol Agents


Employment Prospects


U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the sole employer of border patrol agents.

Starting Out

Border patrol applicants must be U.S. citizens and under the age of 40 (although those in law enforcement or military veterans may be able to have this age limit waived). They must pass a physical examination, a polygraph examination, a security check, a drug test, a face-to-face structured interview, and an entrance exam consisting of the Border Patrol Experience Record assessment and Logical Reasoning Skills assessment. Once hired, agents are given Spanish language training and are tested on their language abilities.

After training and completion of the one-year probation period, a border patrol officer may be appointed to various ports of entry throughout the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Southwest border states—California, Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico—require the most officers. While employment at these sites tends to fluctuate, depending on the employer's perception of need for a given area each year, the larger sites employ anywhere from 100 to 1,000 officers, and recent improvements in funding have guaranteed a steady increase for both officers and support staff nationwide.

An agent's placement is determined at the time of graduation. Not all states are equipped with border patrol stations, but all are required to have at least two immigration stations. Upon promotion, supervisory or investigative positions with the CBP may be available in these areas.

Advancement Prospects

CBP agents begin at the GS-5, GS-7, or GS-9 levels. Pre-academy training is provided at an agent's duty station, along with basic training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). From there, agents may progress to the journeyman levels, where they "typically gain responsibilities, learn new duties, and are held accountable to higher performance standards." Advancement through the GS-12 level is non-competitive.

With experience and training, border patrol agents can advance to other positions. They may become immigration inspectors or examiners, deportation officers, or special agents. Some border patrol officers concentrate on the prevention of drug smuggling. They may advance to become plainclothes investigators who spend months or even years cracking a smuggling ring. They may lead criminal investigations into an alien's background, especially if there is suspicion of drug involvement. Others may prefer the immigration area and work checking passports and visas at border crossings. Border patrol agents may also advance to supervisory positions.

With experience, some border patrol agents leave the front lines and work in the service areas of the CBP. They may interview people who wish to become naturalized citizens or administer examinations or interviews. Many of the higher echelon jobs for border patrol agents require fluency in Spanish. Advancement within the border patrol comes with satisfactory work. To rise to supervisory positions, however, border patrol agents must be able to work competitively. These positions are earned based on the agency's needs as well as on the individual's merit.

Tips for Entry

Visit for a list of border patrol recruiters in your state.

Visit to learn about the application process to become a border patrol officer. Additionally, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Web site,, provides job listings.

Conduct information interviews with border patrol officers and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.