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Border Patrol Agent

Border Patrol Agent

When we talk about the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of the Border Patrol Agent. Assigned to keep our international land borders secure, Border Patrol Agents are the front-liners in the quest of the Department of Homeland Security to keep our country safe from terrorists and their weapons. They are also tasked with detecting and preventing the illegal entry of aliens and smuggled goods into the United States while facilitating the flow of legal trade and travel.

Their job is not an easy one. It can even be dangerous at times. They perform line-watch, farm and ranch checks, traffic checks, traffic observation, city patrol, and transportation checks. They also conduct administrative duties, intelligence gathering, and anti-smuggling activities. To detect, prevent, and apprehend undocumented aliens and smugglers of aliens, they maintain surveillance from covert positions and follow up leads. They also respond to electronic sensor alarms and infrared scopes during night operations, low light level television systems, aircraft sightings, as well as interpret and follow tracks, marks, and other physical evidence. It is also strenuous as some agents who are assigned in remote places that are inaccessible to all-terrain vehicles and even horses will have to do their patrols on foot.

If this sounds like the job for you, then you can qualify to become an agent. In fact, the CBP is currently hiring Border Patrol Agents from February 20, 2013 to May 20, 2013. To qualify, you need to be a U.S. Citizen and have resided in the U.S. or its territories for the last 3 years, possess a valid state drivers license at the time of appointment, and must be referred for selection before you reach your 40th birthday. You also need to pass physical fitness tests, background investigation, polygraph test, medical assessment, and drug test before you can be hired.

At the entry level (GS-5), you need to hold a bachelors degree if you are using your education to qualify. A one year work experience which demonstrates your ability to stay calm and composed in stressful situations, learn law enforcement regulations, and gather information will also be qualifying. A combination of both experience and education is also acceptable.

If you want to qualify at a higher grade level (GS-7), you need to have one full year of graduate education in law or in fields related to law enforcement (e.g. criminal justice, police science, etc.) if using education to qualify. For applicants using experience to qualify, the one year work experience must be in the field of law enforcement which fully demonstrates your ability to make arrests and exercise sound judgment in the use of firearms; deal effectively with individuals or groups of persons in a courteous, tactful manner in connection with law enforcement matters; analyze information rapidly and make prompt decisions or take prompt and appropriate law enforcement action in light of applicable laws, court decisions and sound law enforcement matters; and develop and maintain contact with a network of informants.

All applicants must take the Border Patrol Entrance Examination which will cover general abilities, logical reasoning, and language ability testing. Since Spanish is mandatory for this position, applicants who do not yet speak the language will take an artificial language test which will predict their ability to learn a foreign language. If you already know Spanish and are confident of your ability to speak, read, and write in it, you will take a Spanish proficiency test which will test your Spanish language ability. You need to score at least 70 to be placed on the Border Patrol Agent inventory.

The CBP has also developed fitness tests to screen those who have the physical capability to meet the demands of Border Patrol work. The first pre-employment fitness test is taken early in the selection process. You will undergo a push up test, a sit-up test, and a 5 minute step test or a 1.5 mile run. About a month before you are set to go on duty, you will take a second pre-employment fitness exam which will consist of a 220-yard run, a sit-up test, a push-up test, and a 1.5 mile run.

Another crucial part of selection is passing the oral hiring board (OHB) interview. You will be fired questions by an OHB panel to assess your decision-making skills, emotional maturity, interpersonal skills, and sensitivity to the needs of others. You must get a pass to stay in the game.

The background investigation will reveal if you have been convicted of a felony or the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Having either of these will automatically disqualify you from being considered as a Border Patrol Agent. Dismissals from previous jobs, debts and other financial issues, excessive use of alcohol, and involvement with drugs could potentially make you unsuitable for this position as well.

If you pass all the requirements, you will be given an offer of employment subject to your attending and passing the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. You will undergo about 11 weeks of instruction on immigration and nationality laws, law enforcement and Border Patrol-specific operations, drivers training, physical techniques, firearms, and other courses.  Your Spanish language abilities will also be tested. If you score below an established benchmark, you will be assigned to an additional 8-week Spanish class at the Border Patrol Academy which will extend their stay to 19 weeks.

When you complete Border Patrol Academy training, you will also start the Field Training Program (FTP) with an experienced agent who will teach the ins-and-outs of the job. The Post Academy Training Program (PATP) at your duty station is composed of web-based training and instructor-led training. You must pass seven unit exams and ten web-based scenario exams in the PATP.

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