Border Patrol Agent Career, Salary and Training Information

U.S. Border Patrol agents are charged with preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States. They are responsible for preventing the unlawful entry of undocumented aliens and apprehending those in violation of the immigration laws.

The Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling 6,000 miles of Canadian and Mexican international borders and 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding the Florida Peninsula and Puerto Rico.

Border Patrol Agent Requirements

Applicants must be under 40 years of age, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the United States. Fluency in Spanish or the ability to learn Spanish is often required. You must possess a valid driver’s license and pass a background investigation, medical examination, fitness test, and pass a drug test.

You may also be asked to take a polygraph examination.

Border Patrol Education and Training

New agents must complete a 55 day basic training at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. Training may include immigration and nationality laws, Spanish, physical training and marksmanship.

Border Patrol Agent CareerThose new hires that need Spanish language instruction will be required to complete an additional 40 days of training.

Border Patrol Agents agree to random drug testing, overtime and shift work and to remain proficient in the use of firearms. Relocation to short term temporary assignments or permanent reassignments may be required on short notice.

Border Patrol Agent Salary

New agents are paid a special salary rate for Federal law enforcement personnel with starting salaries of $36,658 to $46,542 with excellent potential for overtime pay. The excellent Federal government benefits package is available as well as a uniform allowance of $1500 per year.

During training, you will earn your regular salary and have free lodging and meals provided at the Academy.

Overtime pay can be lucrative as agents may earn from 10% to 25% additional pay for extra duty time and also receive night deferential pay, Sunday and Holiday pay.

U.S. Border Patrol Career Opportunities

The U.S. Border Patrol has gone through a phase of unprecedented growth since 9/11. For those with skill and ambition, the opportunities for advancement in the Border Patrol are excellent.

The emphasis on drug interdiction has increased the number of positions available as K-9 handlers. Not every duty station has dogs and most of the dogs used by the Border Patrol are not trained for attack but for the detection of human and narcotic scents. Agents who become canine handlers are responsible for the care and kenneling of the dog assigned as his partner.

The work week consists of 40 hours of a regular schedule plus up to 10 more hours referred to as Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime. The AUO time is time spent completing paperwork processing, overlap of shift changes and other tasks that can’t be scheduled and is the reason Border Patrol Agents earn up to 25% above their base salary.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

27 comments… add one
  • Chris Mercer

    I just wondered if having a bachelors degree in criminal justice would help with getting the job as border patrol and also would be cause for a greater staring salary? Also is it possible to have specialized training in the basic training of border patrol? For instance I want to specialize in weapons and i would like to be horse back or ATV so that I’m really in the action. Any answers or comments are appreciated. I’m 18 and graduated high school in 3 years. I’m getting my bachelors and think working for the government a smart move. Im also looking for an exciting career and border patrol just sticks out to me. Thanks!!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I don’t think the degree would hurt you, but it’s not necessarily going to get you a higher salary. It’s good to contact the recruitment office, or at the very least, visit the Border Patrol website for current position openings and salary information.

      Specialized training is given to those that have had some experience on the job, but there are exceptions.

      Horseback and ATV patrol is for the most part offered to those with on-the-job experience. It’s an added responsibility that requires you to be an Agent first.

      Border patrol careers tend to stick out lately, especially due to enormous media attention. From what I hear from my contacts, it’s a very interesting and rewarding career. Check out “Border Wars” on National Geographic channel to get a glimpse of the job. No cable or satellite, try searching YouTube.

  • Angel Fonseca

    Can I choose were I can work? For example in Riverside County?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      straight from the website:

      Your geographic Sector preference will be taken into consideration when you receive a firm offer of employment but ultimately the location that you are offered will be based on the needs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

  • Chris mercer

    I just recently decided to join the army reserves, they will help with my experiences when I apply to be a border patrol and pay for college.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Congrats. Experience is always good : )

  • Tim Day

    I am interested in the US Border Patrol but I’ve heard relocation is terrible. I mean at my last company, they paid for the movers, they offered help with closing costs and in some rare events, if you had a house to sell, in some cases they would buy your house from you. In this economy, that is a huge plus. I’m just worried that my family would be stuck at home trying to sell our house while I’m off somewhere else and what if our house didn’t sell???? Any info would be great.


  • Amanda MacDowell

    I am currently working on my Bachelors in Criminal Justice, and I have an Associates degree in Animal Management. My goal is to become a K-9 Handler for the the CBP. Where do I start? I live in Northern NY, five minutes from the Canada/U.S. Border. I saw the website for career listings, but none that specified the needs of Canine Handlers. Is there still a demand for that area in CBP? Thanks.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      K9 Handlers are an integral part of Border Patrol, however these are positions which are usually given to veteran CBP Agents. The unofficial motto is: you have to know your stuff before you take on an extra responsibility – although the official one sounds probably similar. I would inquire with your local Border Patrol Office, however don’t be surprised if they ask you if you’re available to relocate… like South.

  • Greg

    I have a question about the border patrol exam. I took the exam on october 4,2010 and i fail. if there any exception to retake the exam again because the time they gave it is only 2.5 minutes a question. English is my second launguage i know the questions on the exam but i did’t have time to finish can i retake the exam in three months or i have to wait 12 months to retake. Thank you. Greg

  • vince

    I’m really interested in doing border patrol. I’m currently in the Air Force and my job is Security Forces. I deal with a lot of law enforcement and a lot of experience that’s associated with border patrol.

  • Celeste

    I’m about to be 18, and I was wondering if I could be in college AND work as a Border Patrol? My goal is FBI agent, but having some kind of Law Enforcement experience is good.

    • Kevin

      You either need work experience or a 4 yr degree to get into the BP. They do not hire straight out of high school. My advice, apply yourself to your studies, if you have a 3.0 GPA you can get in at GS-7 instead of GS-5. Look to take the BP test 6 months- a year before you graduate.

  • Ivan Alvarado

    what else can you do with a border patrol degree

  • garcia

    I’m about to finish my 4 year military service. Would that start me off as a GS-5 or GS-7? Also, how often do CBP officers get relocated? Is it the same if you have a family?

    • Matt

      Unlesss you have military service directly related to law enforcement duties and/or arrest authority, you will be hired at the GS-5 level. A great source of information is

      While at the academy, if not already used, you are eligible to receive funds through your GI Bill for training. I am not positive how it all works as I was never in the military, however; that provides an added bonus because no OT is received at the academy.

  • Greg

    Hello to everyone. I have a question about the border patrol process application. I took the test on November of 2011 since then I received the results I get a 75 on the exam. How long it will take to receive a Tentative selection letter. My concern is that when I took the exam I was a 38 years old now I am 39 I turn 40 on January 2013 I hope to hear from Minneapolis any time soon.If anyone has any suggestions what i can do at this time. I called the Minneapolis hiring center and they said to me to check my e-mail ones a week. I do check but nothing is going on. I hope I get an answer before 2013 because I graduated with a bachelors degree in criminal justice included a course of Homeland Security.

  • eliel

    im planing on joining border patrol but im from puerto rico. when i get assigned to a duty station or at the academy do i get time to like look at apartments and get a car?

  • Victor

    Do you really really have to go to college to become a border patrol agent and if yes is it a specific degree in criminal justice that you have to take?

  • Tony

    Hi everyone. I am currently on the BP Hiring Process. However, I need to work and I got a contract job offered out of the state for 3 to 4 weeks with an awesome pay. Does anyone know if you can be exempt from the hiring process for a short period of time to work, and then continue without running the risk of being withdrawn from it?

  • SPC Garcia, Cruz

    Hi, i have always been interested in working for border patrol. I am a scout sniper and will in the US Army and was wondering if being a sniper a good skill to have in boarder patrol and how much does military experience helps to get in.

  • Irvin A.

    I’m currently in the navy, I’ve been in the service for about 6 years now. By the time I’m done I’ll be at 8 years, I would like to continue my service as a BP agent. What are the requirements for an ex military person to get hired for BP as well as the procedures? will I start from the bottom? how would that work? thank you

  • Cpl Gonzalez, Hugo


    I am about to complete my 4 year active duty contract in the Marine Corps. I was thinking of re-enlisting in the reserves. Can I still apply for the border patrol while I’m still in the military?

  • Leigh Garza

    Who is the contact person responsible for their housing allowance when they have to relocate?

  • Jovan

    So im joining as a military police for the national guard and i want to know if that would help me join the border patrol. Or would it be a back draw?

  • Tabitha Schoenberg

    I am working on my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, however, by the time I am done I will be just over 40 years. Do I need to look else where to apply that degree? I wouldn’t mind helping to protect my country. I also have 4.5 years unarmed security experience will that too help? I would prefer to work at the border but have no Spanish skills. Any recommendations?

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