Career Guide: Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agents do much more than simply guard the U.S. borders. These law enforcement officers work to ensure illegal materials, terrorists, and other sources of harm stay out of the country. Border patrol agents also protect American citizens as they cross international borders and even perform search and rescue missions in these areas in an emergency.

Border patrol agents do much more than simply guard the U.S. borders.

Ideal for those interested in international law enforcement and customs, a career as a border patrol agent generally begins with completing the required education. Keep reading to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of border patrol agents, the steps required to enter this field, and the job outlook for these professionals.

What Does a Border Patrol Agent Do?

Border patrol agents perform a variety of crucial tasks. Although their primary goal is to protect the U.S. borders, these agents also participate in joint task forces with other law enforcement agencies to curb illegal activities at and around the borders. Border patrol agents work with advanced technology and equipment, responding to areas along the border with sensor alarms.

Some agents work on the northern and southern borders, while others work along the coast at ports of entry. They often work with animals, including K-9 units to detect drugs, and riding horses in the Horse Patrol Program. Many patrol agents drive off-road vehicles, bikes, and even patrol boats along the coastline in an effort to monitor border activities.

These serve as just a few examples of the duties border patrol agents carry out every day. To learn more about what border patrol agents do, check out the following career page.

Border Patrol Agent Job Description

How to Become a Border Patrol Agent

Steps For Becoming a Border Patrol Agent

Step 1:

Learn more about border patrol agents to see if this career suits you.

Step 2:

Earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field. Without the required experience, earning a degree becomes mandatory. Applicants may also qualify for a higher pay grade with a graduate degree.

Step 3:

Take and pass the Border Patrol Entrance Exam. This test covers topics in reasoning and Spanish language proficiency.

Step 4:

Undergo a background check and investigation. This also includes a drug test and a polygraph.

Step 5:

Pass a physical fitness test and undergo a medical exam.

Learn more about degree options for border patrol agents by reviewing the following pages:

Border Patrol Agent Salary and Job Growth

What you can earn as a border patrol agent varies based on a variety of factors. For instance, entry-level positions, contingent on experience and/or education, may offer a lower starting salary than upper-level positions, which require further training and sometimes a graduate degree.

Other factors like geographic location and Spanish language proficiency can also influence a border patrol agent's salary. According to data from PayScale, border patrol agents make an average annual salary of $59,622 with potential for growth through experience and time in the field. For more detailed information on what these law enforcement officers make, check out the Border Patrol Agent Salary page.

Border Patrol Agent Salary

Take the Next Steps

Now that you know what goes into becoming a border patrol agent, you can learn more about taking the first steps toward entering the field. The links below offer more detailed information about earning the various types of degrees that can give you an advantage in your career.

Criminal Justice Degree & Career Information

Learn more about earning a degree in criminal justice, including what kinds of careers graduates with these degrees go on to pursue.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

This page offers more detailed information about earning an associate degree in criminal justice and the different paths degree-holders take upon graduation.

Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

This link provides information on earning a bachelor's in criminal justice, including how to choose the right program and sample curriculum.

Bachelor's Degree in Law Enforcement

Learn more about earning a bachelor's in law enforcement, a degree some border patrol agents possess. This page also offers an in-depth look at the bachelor's degree in law enforcement.

Master's in Criminal Justice

Some border patrol agents go on to earn a master's degree in order to advance in the field. This page offers information on earning a master's in criminal justice.

Professional Organizations and Resources

As you learn more about becoming a border patrol agent or even begin your education or career, explore the professional organizations and resources gathered below for additional information and support. Many students and working professionals enjoy the benefits of membership in professional organizations, including special career boards, opportunities for networking and career advancement, professional development courses, and conferences.

The resources below provide information for both aspiring and working border patrol agents and other law enforcement officers. These pages offer more details on education requirements, pay and benefits for agents, and preparation for the border patrol agent exam.

  • National Border Patrol Council The National Border Patrol Council serves active border patrol officials through advocacy and advising against litigation. The council also promotes and endorses legislation for better working conditions for border agents.
  • Border Patrol Study Guides These study guides provide a great resource for those preparing to take the required Border Patrol Agent Exam. This website even features a sample test.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Frequently Asked Questions This page offers answers to frequently asked questions by those applying to become border patrol agents, providing further information about applying for work, job duties, and education requirements.