The term "Department of Homeland Security agent" might refer to an employee of various agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration and the Secret Service. Their salaries are determined by a federal government pay scale.
GS Pay Scale
Federal government jobs are put on a "general schedule" pay scale. This scale ranks jobs using the numerals 1 to 15. The determination is based on the qualifications needed to get the job and the job's requirements. A GS-1 job has the lowest pay and requires the least qualifications. A GS-15 job pays the most. The higher your level of education and the more work experience you have, the higher you'll start out on the GS scale.
Border Patrol Agents
Border patrol agents are employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, within the DHS, and focus on securing the borders of the United States. Border patrol agents make sure people don't enter the country unlawfully or bring anything illegal into the country. Their jobs include tracking illegal entrants, patrolling the borders and doing office work. According to the Office of Personnel Management, border patrol agents rank anywhere from GS-5 to GS-12. A GS-5 will have a bachelor's degree and make between $27,705 and $36,021 a year. A GS-7 has one year of graduate school, law school or superior grades as an undergraduate, and makes between $34,319 and $44,615 a year.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators might be considered DHS agents. ICE investigators generally start as GS-5 to GS-7 employees, with salaries ranging from $27,431 to $44,176 a year, as of 2012. A few limited positions may start at a higher GS rating. An ICE agent can progress to GS-14 level, which pays $84,697 to $110,104 a year. Longer hours and a hazardous job qualify agents for a 25 percent salary bonus, called Law Enforcement Availability Pay. This substitutes for overtime pay.
Secret Service Agents
Secret Service agents are part of another branch of Homeland Security. Agents work in field offices throughout the United States for six to eight years and then move on to a protective assignment. Agents are paid according to the GL scale, which is the same as the GS scale except it applies to law enforcement agents who receive an extra base rate when they reach levels 3 through 10. Agents with a bachelor's degree and who graduated the top one-third of their class with a 3.0 or higher GPA and those with one year of specialized experience can qualify for GL-7 pay, which ranged from $38,895 a year to $49,191 in 2014. An agent with a master's degree or a law degree can enter at GL-9 pay, which ranged from $43,378 a year to $55,969 a year as of 2014. If you speak a foreign language, you may qualify for a one-time bonus of 25 percent of your annual salary.
Transportation and Security Administration officers work in airports, providing security for air travelers and ensuring that dangerous people or supplies don't make it onto an aircraft. Their jobs range from screening passengers to overseeing staff and providing management expertise. The TSA doesn't pay within the GS scale. Instead, it uses an SV grading system that ranges from Grade A at $25,227 a year to Grade M at $157,100 a year. TSA officers typically start at a salary ranging from $29,795 to $44,692 a year.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Working for the Federal Government
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Careers in Homeland Security
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Home - Who We Are
- United States Secret Service: Special Agents
- Transportation Security Administration: Pay Bands
- United States Secret Service: Employment Opportunities -- Special Agent
- OPM.gov: Pay & Leave
- OPM.gov: Border Patrol Enforcement Series, 1896
- BorderPatrolEdu.org: Immigration Enforcement Agent (IEA) Careers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Northern Michigan University: What Does It Take to Become a TSA Agent?
- Photo Credit swilmor/iStock/Getty Images
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