The mission of the U.S. Border Patrol is to prevent illegal entry into the United States. It's an immense job, as the agency has responsibility for watching long land borders along Canada and Mexico, territorial waters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Gulf of Mexico shoreline and the waters surrounding Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and other U.S. territories. Agents earn salaries according to the federal General Schedule, with a special rate applied to law enforcement employees.
General Schedule and Law Enforcement Pay
The federal government pays employees according to a General Schedule. The GS table rates civilian positions on a scale from G-1 through G-15; each stage is paid in a series of 1 to 10 steps. Border Patrol agents, however, earn salaries according to a special GL scale applied to law enforcement positions. The longer you are in a certain position, the higher you climb and the higher your pay. Depending on your background and qualifications, you enter the Border Patrol as a GL-5, 7 or 9. As of 2010, the base pay for a GL-5 was $33,829; for a GL-7, $38,511; for a GL-9, $42,948. Pay rates for federal employees were frozen at the 2010 levels through 2012.
Benefits and Application Process
The Border Patrol also offers a $1,500 uniform allowance as well as benefits offered to all federal employees, including health insurance, a 401(k) retirement savings plan, life insurance and a pension. Applicants must apply online and pass an entrance examination. Before receiving an offer of employment, they then go through an oral interview before a panel of agents, a medical exam, two physical fitness tests, a drug test, a background check and a polygraph test.
Probation and Promotion
During the initial training period, prospective Border Patrol agents earn full pay, as well as housing and meals. After training, there is a probation period of six and a half months; Border Patrol agents may then earn a first promotion, from GL-5 to GL-7, or from GL-7 to GL-9. A further two-step promotion from these levels is possible after a year. The agency may also offer supplemental special locality pay in areas of high-risk or hazardous duty.
Leave, Sick Pay and Retirement
The Border Patrol offers 13 days of leave every year, if you have less than three years of service. From 3 to 15 years of service, the leave increases to 20 days per year. With more than 15 years of service, leave reaches 26 days per year. Sick leave is available for 13 days every year, and can be accrued from one year to the next. If you have 20 years of service, you are eligible to retire with a full pension at the age of 50, while there is mandatory retirement at age 57.