How can I Prepare for a Career As a Border Patrol Agent?

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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2019
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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.

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Post 20

Is it true that if you smoked weed at some point in your life, you cannot work as a border patrol or US customs officer?

Post 19

I took the polygraph and failed too. I did not lie about anything and the machine said I was lying. I am so disappointed. I really wanted this job and I worked really hard for it. I also work in corrections and can't comprehend that because a machine said I lied when I clearly told the truth, I am being kept out of a good job.

Post 18

I wish not to be in that 10 percent. I don't understand why they keep using the poly test if it is known to be inaccurate.

Post 17

It's a federal law signed by Congress now that as of 2013, all CBPO new hires must take a polygraph. There are really good candidates being turned down for "failing" the polygraph test. It's a shame because this lie detector test is flawed science and has never been proven to detect a lie. Good luck to everyone going through the process!

Post 16

This career is my dream career and I'm currently enrolled in college studying for it. I know I will make it because all it takes is a set mind.

Post 14

I applied for border patrol in 2008 and completed the hiring process with no polygraph test. I was offered the job but i turned down all three location offers. BP went on a hiring freeze for a year. I reapplied in 2010 and completed the hiring process again.

This time I had to take a polygraph and i got a letter saying i failed when I was as honest as can be and the fact that I've been a police officer for 10 years. I even took a polygraph for my current employer in which I passed and the same kind of questions were asked as BP's. Where I go from here, I have no idea. Does anyone know?

Post 13

I took the poly and I failed and I received a letter declaring that I was unsuitable. That's crap. I was accused of criminal activity and the examiner kept insisting that I was involved somehow and I explained how that could not be, I'm currently a detention officer under ICE and have government clearance. I'm very upset. I've stayed straight my whole life and for some dumb machine, I get the boot. Polys are thrown out in the court system. What does it prove? Nothing. Anyone can fool or be fooled by the machine. It's a damn machine.

Post 12

I took my polygraph in December and will be taking my pft2 in the next week or so.

Post 11

I heard that the Border Patrol is requiring every applicant to pass a polygraph. Is that true or do they still pick the random 10 percent?

Post 10

is it true that if you have ever smoked weed they will not let you join cbp?

Post 9

I Have the oral interview this morning. I've only had two hours of sleep. Seriously, get some sleep the night before. I got a 90 on the written exam, for whatever it is worth.

Post 8

I'm going to take the written test and I'm ready to give it my all! I'm confident that god has something to do with this and that he's a strong force in my life! I just want to go and pass it and move on with whatever's next! God bless.

Post 7

I never took a poly but I am going to the academy. perhaps it is just random. as far as the pft2 test, everyone will have to take that before the academy.

It's a 220 yard run in less than 46 seconds; 1.5 miles in less than 15 minutes, 20 proper push ups and 25 proper sit ups. Everyone passed in my group.

These are very mediocre times to pass in as far as I am concerned. if you can't pass the pft2 test before the academy, it's probably best you find another career or increase your PT abilities to meet the requirements.

Post 6

going to run for the pft2 test shortly. I think I am ready. I never had the polygraph test though. been going at this process since april of last year.

Post 5

The new PFT2 is scheduled before you enter on duty. Sit-ups, push-ups, 220 run and 1-1/2 mile run. Fail and you don't go to the academy. Had my poly done back in July.

Post 4

The new standards for PFT2: a second pre PT test before entering are sit-ups,push-ups,220 yard run and a 1.5 mile run. I was also called today to take a polygraph!

Post 3

they are given to 10 percent of applicants at random

Post 1

Where do you get that Border Patrol Agents take polygraph tests? It says nothing about a polygraph in my hiring packet. Also in the fitness test you just have to do sit-ups, push-ups, and a 5 minute step test. The 1.5 mile run is at the end of the academy.

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