With 3,987 miles of border with Canada and another 1,933 miles of border with Mexico to cover, it is little surprise that the United States Customs and Border Protection service, or CBP, is the nation's largest uniformed law enforcement agency. Border patrol agents ensure that all goods, shipments and people who enter the United States are supposed to be here and that they are covered by the proper documents.
Entry-level border patrol recruits earn between $36,000 and $46,000 in their first year, depending on their professional background and education. Beginning border patrol agents generally are eligible to earn 10 to 25 percent more by working overtime, particularly if they work nights, Sundays and holidays. Starting agents also receive federal health, life insurance and disability insurance, and up to 13 days leave in the first year. These numbers, apart from the overtime, increase after three years.
Improving Your Starting Salary
With a college degree, new CBP agents are put on the federal pay grade GL-5, but with a master's degree, new agents may be placed as high as GL-7, meaning as much as $10,000 more per year in starting salary. The bump in starting pay depends on how relevant your degree is to your assignment. You can also attain higher pay by receiving high annual performance ratings in your first few years.
Other Pay and Pay Schedules
In addition to starting pay and overtime opportunities, new border patrol agents receive a uniform allowance of $1,500. Entry-level agents are paid at federal rates for law enforcement officers, but may in addition may be eligible for special pay based on where they are assigned. Recruits get paid their regular salaries every two weeks while at the Border Patrol Academy for basic training, plus free meals and a small daily allowance for incidental expenses.
Getting the Job
To become a federal border patrol agent, you must be a U.S. citizen with no criminal record, able to pass drug, medical and polygraph tests, and be no older than 40. The age limit may be waived for serving civilian law enforcement officers and some military veterans. Agents must also be able to speak Spanish, or be able to learn it during academy training. There also is a thorough background check into applicants' credit histories, families, and employment histories.