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Hot Government Career Tracks Include Customs and Border Patrol Jobs

Sep 12, 2008
Although hiring is lagging in most organizations, Customs and Border Patrol Jobs are widely available. The Department of Homeland Security is aggressively ramping up its force of Border Patrol agents.

Border Patrol Background

The United States Border Patrol is the uniformed part CBP, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to CBP.gov, CBP was founded in 1924. That first year, Border Patrol started operations with 450 officers, and set to work regulating traffic across the country's borders. Most of the patrol's work was focused on stopping illegal immigration and alien smuggling.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed that mission. Now, Border Patrol's focus has shifted toward prevention of terrorism through working to stop the flow of terrorists and terrorist weapons into the country. Border Patrol works to secure the 6,000 miles of international border with Canada and Mexico, and the 2,000 miles of coastal waters around Florida and Puerto Rico.

Border Patrol Jobs

In 2006, President George W. Bush announced his commitment to add 6,000 additional Border Patrol agents by the end of 2008.

With respect to Border Patrol staffing, Tara Dunlop (CBP Public Affairs Officer) said the agency has seen a dramatic increase since the President took office in fiscal year 2002. At the end of fiscal year 2001, CBP started with approximately 9,800 Border Patrol agents. Today, their numbers are more than 16,690. "Our goal for the end of 2008 is 18,000 Border Patrol agents on duty ('boots on the ground,') and we are on track to meet that goal," Dunlop said.

Border Patrol has had to find creative new ways to recruit. Innovations include national recruiting in non-traditional regions of the country, sector-based recruiting, NASCAR sponsorship (now in its second year) the Minority Recruitment Strike Team, a Professional Bull Riders sponsorship and recruiting at U.S. military installations in the continental U.S. and abroad.

Additionally, a branding campaign has just launched, which includes television ads and an updated website that can be found at BorderPatrol.gov.

Agent Personality Traits

Dunlop said that the agency's ideal recruit is someone "who prefers working outdoors and can successfully complete an oral interview, medical and fitness exams, drug testing, and background investigation."

Dunlop also said that military veterans are strong candidates because "we offer an opportunity to protect America, in America. In fact, veterans make up more than 20 percent of the Border Patrol."

While prior law enforcement experience is helpful, Dunlop said, it is not required because the Academy will provide agents with the knowledge and skills they will need to do the job.

Dunlop said that Spanish language proficiency is highly desirable.

Qualifications for Border Patrol Jobs

The CBP trains students from a variety of backgrounds, and Dunlop said the agency welcomes those with college degrees, and those with a military background have proven to be highly successful; approximately 25% of CBP are military veterans.

A law enforcement background may be helpful but is not required. Dunlop said CBP training standards remain at a high level to ensure new agents are adequately trained to meet the law enforcement standard.

Fluency in Spanish or the aptitude to learn Spanish is necessary. Spanish language immersion is provided at the Academy for those who need it.

Agent Training

Agents attend a rigorous training academy, currently located in Artesia, New Mexico, where they learn immigration, nationality and criminal law, and receive defensive techniques training, firearms training, and task-based Spanish language immersion training. All training is conducted at the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. Candidates receive full pay and benefits during training.

The basic training program is further supplemented by a 12-week National Field Training Officer Program, and a minimum of two months on-the-job training with a journeyman-level agent during which the interns' performance will be evaluated.

Where will I work?

Initial assignments for Border Patrol agents coming out of the Academy will be in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.

What's the Downside?

One disadvantage to Border Patrol work is that it can be emotionally draining to turn people away from the U.S. country, particularly when young children are involved and you realize parents are only trying to give their families a better life. For this reason, people who understand the Border Patrol mission and believe in its importance are better-equipped to handle the job.
About the Author
Successfully applying for and landing government jobs is not easy. It helps to know application deadlines and generally how government hiring is done. Lisa Jenkins is a career writer whose material appears on JobMonkey, a free website featuring a job board and detailed information about border patrol jobs and how to get them.
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