How to Become a Border Patrol Agent

What Is the Border Patrol?

The US Border Patrol is part of the larger Customs and Border Protection (CBP) division within the Department of Homeland Security. It serves as the law enforcement arm of the CBP, detecting and capturing people conducting illegal activities along the US borders — primarily the Mexican and Canadian borders and the Florida and Puerto Rico coastlines.

Using a variety of tools and techniques, the Border Patrol’s main mission is targeting illegal immigration, although it also combats drug and weapons smuggling and terrorism.

Employment Outlook

With the heightened anti-terrorism efforts following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the demand for new Border Patrol agents remains high. As ordered by the President, the number of agents jumped by around 50% from 2006 to 2008 and now stands at around 18,000.


New Border Patrol agents earn between $35,000 and $45,000 in their first year, depending on their academic and law-enforcement backgrounds, and may earn up to $70,000 annually within three years of service. They may make an additional 10 to 25% in overtime pay.

Border Patrol Training

In order to become a Border Patrol agent, you must be a US citizen younger than 40 years old at the time of appointment. If you’re not already a member of a federal law enforcement agency, you must pass the Border Patrol exam that tests reasoning skills and the ability to learn a foreign language. All candidates are interviewed extensively and must pass a medical exam, a physical fitness test, a drug test and a language aptitude test. Recruits who pass this screening and are invited to the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico (only one in 30 applicants makes it to the Academy) must then complete a 55-day paid training schedule. Courses include:

  • Spanish Language
  • Border Patrol Operations
  • Immigration and Nationality Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law and Statutory Authority
  • Care and Use of Firearms
  • Physical Training
  • Operation of Motor Vehicles
  • Anti-Terrorism
  • Communications
  • Ethics and Conduct
  • Report Writing
  • Computers
  • Fingerprinting

Before graduating from the Academy, recruits must pass an exam demonstrating proficiency in the Spanish language. They will use this knowledge immediately upon graduation, as new Border Patrol agents are assigned to the Mexican border in either Arizona, New Mexico, California or Texas. After serving there, agents may request a transfer to one of the 20 Border Patrol sectors across the US.