How to Become a Border Patrol Agent

In order to consider joining the Border Patrol, an applicant must possess the following qualifications:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • 39 years old or younger
  • Valid driver’s license
  • No prior criminal convictions
  • Possess minimum vision and hearing functionality
  • Ability to perform strenuous physical activity

Education and Degree Preferences for Border Patrol Agent Job Candidates

Preparation for serving as a Border Patrol agent begins long before the application process.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not require that applicants possess a college degree, but it may be necessary or advisable to have an associate’s or bachelor’s in criminal justice to be considered for some of the more challenging or demanding positions.  Even for these restricted jobs, there is no preferred college major, but jobseekers may be required to have a 3.0 GPA or higher.  Because these jobs may require work in intelligence, the US CBP are seeking applicants who have the intellectual capacity for complex tasks.  Among the majors most recommended for law enforcement in the Border Patrol are

  • Military science
  • Criminal justice
  • Forensic psychology
  • Political science
  • Foreign language

Spanish is a requirement to serve in the Border Patrol, so those applicants already proficient in Spanish have a competitive advantage, especially if they are assigned to the southern border.  Spanish does not have to be an applicant’s major, as interactions with a wide variety of foreign nationals is highly common; demonstrating proficiency in any foreign language should be sufficient to convince the US CBP that the applicant has the ability to readily learn to converse in Spanish.

If the applicant does not possess a college degree, they may also satisfy the requirements for some advanced positions in the Border Patrol by serving in law enforcement or the military.  In order to join the Border Patrol with a Grade Level 7 rather than the typical Grade Level 5, an applicant must have had at least one year of experience in law enforcement.

The GL-5 entry level position is also available to prospective Border Patrol agents without a college degree or law enforcement experience, but applicants may not be very competitive while in the running for these in-demand jobs.

Border Patrol Agent Application Process

The actual application, examination, interview and training process can take from six to eight months, so determination is highly advised.

The process begins with an online application that will ask questions about professional history, physical and mental qualifications, and prohibitive factors.  The Office of Personnel Management will review the responses to the questionnaire and determine if the applicant is sufficiently qualified to take the written exam.

The written exam possesses three portions:

  1. Logical reasoning
  2. Spanish language proficiency
  3. Artificial language test

The Artificial Language Test is primarily for applicants who do not speak Spanish; it tests the applicant’s ability to learn a foreign language.

Upon successful completion of the written test, the applicant will be placed on a waiting list.  If a position becomes available the applicant will be contacted, provided a tentative selection package, and required to interview with the Border Patrol panel.  The oral interview is conducted by a panel of three Border Patrol agents and will test the applicant’s decision-making, interpersonal skills, and emotional maturity.  Prior to the interview, the applicant will be required to submit to a medical examination that will include a physical fitness test and a drug test.  The applicant’s background will also be investigated.

Once approved for active duty, the recruit will attend the U.S. Border Patrol Academy for 19 weeks, the longest training program of any law enforcement agency. This includes instruction in physical combat skills, aggressive driving, marksmanship, and immigration and nationality law. For recruits without Spanish fluency, an additional 200 hours of Spanish language instruction is also required.

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