While being a Customs and Border Protection (CPB) border patrol agent can be one of the most thankless and grueling of jobs, it is also one of the most crucial to the safety of the United States. Its mission may have evolved since its inception in 1924, but today, its primary mission continues to be to prevent people from entering the country illegally. Since terrorism has become more of a threat, the CBP’s priority is to keep terrorists or weapons that can be used by terrorists from crossing the border. Border patrol agents also try to prevent people from smuggling illegal contraband, such as drugs, over the border.
Border patrol agents have a daunting job: to patrol and guard approximately 6,000 miles (9,656 kilometers) of land borders and 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) of borders on the coast. Today, there are approximately 11,000 border patrol agents who patrol the canyons, mountains, deserts and beaches of the US, in the southern heat and the northern cold. They patrol by helicopter, boat, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), foot, horseback, motorcycle, bike and snowmobile.
For those interested in pursing a career as a border patrol agent, the process can also be daunting. As with any law enforcement career, the interview process is quite involved in order to weed out unqualified applicants. From start to finish, the process usually takes from six to eight months. Potential border patrol agents must be physically fit, exhibit intelligence and courage and display some proficiency either in speaking Spanish or in the ability to learn another language.
Border patrol applicants must be US citizens under 40 years of age and possess a valid driver’s license. A bachelor’s degree is preferred, but a combination of education and experience may be considered. Vision must be 20/100 uncorrected, and the applicant cannot require the use of a hearing aid. The process to apply for a job as a border patrol agent begins online. There are five steps one must complete in order to apply for a posting.
- Online Application: After you submit the initial application, you will be screened to see whether you meet the basic criteria to move on to the next level.
- Written Test: The four and a half hour written test consists of three sections. The first tests the applicant’s logical reasoning skills. The second assesses proficiency in Spanish or in the applicant’s ability to learn a second language. The final section assesses the applicant’s job experience.
- Selection Process: After the test is scored, applicants are placed on a national inventory of applicants and ranked according to test scores.
- Oral Interview: This portion is much like any typical job interview. The applicant is asked about related job history and given hypothetical questions about potential situations.
- Pre-employment Process: This consists of a drug test, medical exam, physical training test, background check and polygraph test. The physical training portion assesses how many pushups, sit ups and steps the applicant can complete in a specific amount of time. Also, the applicant must be able to run 1.5 miles (2.41 kilometers) in less than 13 minutes and complete a confidence course in 2.5 minutes or less.