Border Patrol Agent Careers in Criminology

Border patrol agents are the unsung heroes of criminology. They work in what is probably, of all criminology careers, the one that most people know least about and rarely think about. There have been all kinds of TV shows and movies about police officers, sheriffs, highway patrolmen, Texas Rangers, forensic scientists, forensic pathologists, and so on, but it's the exceedingly rare TV series or movie that features a border patrol agent.

However, the job they do has always been very important and took on even more significance after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

As a result of the attacks, the border patrol became an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and agents are now charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country in addition to their traditional task of apprehending illegal immigrants trying to sneak across our borders with Mexico and Canada.

Most agents work on the Mexican border, and some work on the Canadian border, while a few also patrol the waters around Puerto Rico and the Florida Peninsula. The job is becoming increasingly dangerous as drug-fueled violence in Mexico spirals out of control.

No college degree is required in order to be hired as a border patrol agent. Requirements include: being younger than age forty, possessing a valid driver's license, being a U.S. citizen who has lived in the U.S. for at least three years, and having no convictions for domestic violence.

Each applicant must pass a background check, a drug test, and a physical fitness test. In addition, an employment test is required, which tests for logical reasoning abilities and either knowledge of Spanish or the aptitude to learn a foreign language. It also assesses life experience for relevancy. Candidates don't have to speak Spanish to be hired, but those who don't will be required to learn it as part of the training process; they will spend eight weeks in language school.

Salaries for border patrol agents are above average. As of this writing, new agents receive starting salaries between $38,000 and $49,000, depending on education and experience. Promotions to higher pay grades are common, and there is usually a lot of overtime available.

Unfortunately, the border patrol is not always hiring, so it's difficult to say what the prospects are for these jobs in the near future. If there is public demand for a crackdown on illegal immigration, then jobs could become plentiful. If there isn't, then jobs will only be available through attrition.

Last Updated: 06/03/2014

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