Career Spotlight: Border Patrol Agent

Start a Career in Border Patrol with a Certificate in Homeland Security

Since 1924, U.S. border patrol agents have patrolled 6,000 miles of international land borders and 2,000 miles of coastal waters to prevent illegal persons, goods, and weapons from entering the country. Agents work in any kind of weather and for long hours to make sure the nation’s borders are protected.

Border Patrol Agent Job Description

Border patrol agents are employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to monitor and guard the borders of the United States, as well as to protect the nation from terrorists; enforce laws on immigration, customs, and trade; and prevent dangerous pests from entering the country.

Some of the common duties of border patrol agents include:

  • Monitor checkpoints along border areas
  • Detect and apprehend undocumented noncitizens, smugglers, and illegal goods
  • Check transportation for suspicious or illegal goods or passengers
  • Conduct anti-smuggling operations and smuggling investigations
  • Patrol cities and areas close to the borders
  • Maintain safety protocols
  • Perform line-watch duties, traffic checkpoint operations, transportation checks, and other duties
  • Enforce border procedures with fairness
  • Use technology such as infrared scopes during night operations
  • Maintain strong domestic and international partnerships
  • Record and report information
  • Promote compliance with border and trade laws

Types of Border Patrol Agent Roles

In addition to the many duties listed above, as your career as a border patrol agent advances, you may have the opportunity to participate in other types of assignments. Assignments for experienced border patrol agents include:

  • Marine Patrol: The marine patrol unit contains more than 100 vessels that patrol the coastal waterways of the United States, Puerto Rico, and the interior waterways separating the United States and Canada.
  • Horse Patrol: Horse patrol agents are dispatched to areas that are geographically sensitive and cannot be entered by any other means.
  • Emergency Medical Program (EMP): The EMP consists of emergency medical technicians who provide emergency services to fellow agents, illegal citizens, and people from various communities.
  • Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC): This highly trained unit responds to situations that require special tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary for defending the United States.
  • Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR): The specialized BORSTAR unit provides search, rescue, and medical response capabilities and assistance to local, county, state, tribal, and federal communities.
  • Peer Support Program (PSP): PSP helps border patrol agents and their family members with personal needs and traumatic incidents that may have occurred on the job or due to the job.
  • Off-Road Vehicle Unit: This off-road vehicle unit consists of agents who use various vehicles like ATVs, dirt bikes, and other modes of transportation to traverse areas of the border otherwise not accessible.
  • K-9 Unit: The K-9 unit uses dogs to locate illegal goods, narcotics, and people who are hidden in vehicles and other locations. They also work in search and rescue, human remains detection, and tracking.

Requirements to Become a Border Patrol Agent

If you are growing curious about becoming a border patrol agent, there are a few things to be aware of. First and foremost, there are some skills and qualities that you should possess to be a successful border patrol agent. These include:

  • Be physically fit
  • Be less than 40 years old (unless a veteran or previously employed by law enforcement)
  • Have no criminal record
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have lived in the United States for last three years
  • Have good critical thinking skills
  • Be ethically sound
  • Be empathetic
  • Have social awareness
  • Have good investigative skills
  • Have quick decision-making skills

How to Become a Border Patrol Agent

In addition to the above, to become a U.S. border patrol agent, you will need to pass an entrance exam, a background check, a medical exam, a physical fitness test, a polygraph test, and a drug test. You will also need to attend training at the Border Patrol Academy in New Mexico for 13 weeks.

The minimum educational requirement for a border patrol agent is a high school diploma, though a bachelor’s or master’s degree can help you advance in your career.

Education Necessary to Become a Border Patrol Agent

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is certainly preferred if you are looking to be hired as a border patrol agent. Excelsior University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice can help you develop your expertise in the administration of criminal justice, homeland security, and emergency management agencies in the United States. Course work and assignments will teach you how to address legal and ethical dilemmas in the workplace, analyze crime statistics, and develop effective crime-fighting strategies based on your findings. The Certificate in Homeland Security and Emergency Management will educate you about the threats posed by domestic and international terrorism and the best strategies for countering them. You will build your skills and develop emergency and disaster plans that can be employed in the face of both man-made and natural threats. Both the degree and the certificate program are good choices if you would like to pad your resume in preparation to apply for a job as a border patrol agent.

How Much Do Border Patrol Agents Make?

According to the USAJobs website, border patrol agent salaries range from $41,000 to $90,000 per year. This range is due to education, experience, and post areas. Border patrol agents have many opportunities to increase their pay by improving their education, applying for overtime, and working holidays and night shifts.

If you are interested in becoming a border patrol agent, speak to an Excelsior admissions counselor to start your educational journey.