Customs Officials

Officers Scan Possessions at Border

Customs officials are federal workers who are employed by the United States Customs and Border Protection (an arm of the Department of Homeland Security) to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, enforce laws governing imports and exports, and to combat smuggling and revenue fraud. Customs and Border Protection generates revenue for the government by assessing and collecting duties and excise taxes on imported merchandise. Amid a whirl of international travel and commercial activity, customs officials process travelers, baggage, cargo, and mail, as well as administer certain navigation laws. Stationed in the United States and overseas at airports, seaports, and all crossings, as well as at points along the Canadian and Mexican borders, customs officials examine, count, weigh, gauge, measure, and sample commercial and noncommercial cargoes entering and leaving the United States. It is their job to determine whether or not goods are admissible and, if so, how much tax, or duty, should be assessed on them. To prevent smuggling, fraud, and cargo theft, customs officials also check the individual baggage declarations of international travelers and oversee the unloading of all types of commercial shipments. In fiscal year 2015, CBP employed 22,947 officers, 20,183 border patrol agents, 1,172 air and marine agents, and 2,413 agriculture specialists.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) CBP Officers
Duties Monitor and secure entry points of the United States; examine cargo, and weigh and measure imports; inspect agricultural and related goods; assess and collect duties; examine crew and passenger lists; conduct body searches; arrest violators; testify in court during legal proceedings
Salary Range $25,000 to $100,000
Work Environment Primarily Indoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Primarily at ports of entry in the United States or other countries, or CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Minimum Education Level
  • High School Diploma
School Subjects
  • English
  • Government
  • Social Studies
Experience Three years of general work experience or four years of college
Personality Traits
  • Helpful
  • Outgoing
  • Realistic
  • Business Management
  • Foreign Language
  • Interpersonal
Certification or Licensing None
Special Requirements Applicants must have no criminal record; be at least 21 years old and younger then age 37 (with exceptions); hearing in both ears; valid state driver's license; fluency in English and Spanish preferred
Employment Prospects Fair
Advancement Prospects Good
Outlook About as Fast as the Average
Career Ladder
  • CBP Manager
  • CBP Officer (Journeyman)
  • CBP Officer
  • CBP Officer Trainee