How Do I Become A Border Patrol Agent?

Border patrol agents work to keep the borders of the United States safe and secure from terrorists, terrorist weapons, smuggled goods and undocumented aliens. They also apprehend those who violate the immigration laws of the United States. Their job is oftentimes demanding and dangerous, which explains why the journey towards becoming a border patrol agent is both a physically and mentally grueling process.

The first step involves looking at one’s educational and work experience to see if it qualifies one to apply. The US Customs and Border Protection generally accepts a four-year college degree in any field as qualifying for the GL-5 level. However, those who only have a high school diploma may still apply for as long as they have substantial work experience—not necessarily in or related to law enforcement—that shows that they can handle stressful situations, maintain interpersonal relationships and learn all about law enforcement in a formal setting. It is also possible to qualify through a combination of work experience and some college education.

In addition, potential border patrol agents must be United States citizens and hold valid driver’s licenses. They should also be less than 37 years old at the time of selection unless they have Veteran’s Preference eligibility or previous law enforcement experience at the Federal level. They should also take and pass the CBP Border Patrol entrance exam which is a three-part test. It assesses an applicant’s logical reasoning skill; Spanish language skill or if one doesn’t speak Spanish, predicts one’s ability to learn the language and evaluates one’s experiences and achievements related to the job.

Applicants should also pass a panel interview, medical exam, drug test, two pre-employment fitness tests, a polygraph test and a background investigation before being conditionally hired as a border patrol agent. It’s important to understand early on that a background which includes brushes with the law such as past or present arrests and convictions even of misdemeanor domestic violence charges could disqualify an applicant. Other factors that could put an end to one’s dream of becoming a border patrol agent are debts and financial issues, excessive drinking of alcohol and use and/or sale of illegal drugs.

The first pre-employment fitness test (PFT-1) and the medical exam are important steps in the hiring process that candidates must pass in order to proceed with their application. In the PFT-1, the candidates are expected to perform 20 proper form pushups in one minute, 25 sit ups in one minute and a 1.5 mile run that must be completed in no more than 15 minutes. The second pre-employment fitness test (PFT-2) is administered about 30 days before one enters duty. In this exam, applicants must finish a 220 yard run in 46 seconds, do 25 sit ups in one minute, perform 20 pushups in one minute and a 1.5 mile run in 15 minutes. Applicants can prepare for these exams by observing a regular fitness program and practicing the fitness requirements regularly as well. Failing the physical fitness requirements will mean not being able to proceed in the next step of the hiring process.

Prospective border patrol agents must not have any impairments and health problems that would interfere with their work, threaten national security or endanger the health and safety of other people. Thus, passing the medical exam is a must. Those with monocular vision are generally disqualified from the job. Without correction, an applicant’s distant vision acuity must be equal to or better than 20/100 in each eye. If eye glasses or contact lenses are worn, the distance vision must be 20/20. Applicants should also be able to hear in both ears without the need for a hearing aid. The agency will assess each applicant’s medical history and conditions and make the final determination to give them a medical clearance or not.

After an applicant successfully hurdles the hiring process and gets conditionally hired, the real challenge begins. All new border patrol agents must attend the “Basic Academy” training at the “US Border Patrol Academy” in Artesia, New Mexico. The training will last for 58 days and will teach neophyte agents topics on immigration and nationality laws, physical training and marksmanship. Those who don’t know Spanish will have to stay another 40 days to get Spanish language training.

Once they complete training, the new hires are sent to their duty locations where they are expected to do shift and overtime work in challenging conditions. The work may involve doing patrol in rough weather, tough terrain and moving trains. High speed chases and armed encounters are part and parcel of the job.

Career Spotlight: Border Patrol Agent

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