Qualifications of a Customs Officer


U.S. customs and border patrol officers are federal employees. The Customs and Border Protection or CBP is the largest law enforcement agency that is operated under the, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security has more than 58,000 domestic and international employees, according to its website. Customs officers are assigned to man U.S. borders or screen passengers and cargo at airports and shipping ports around the country.

General Requirements

  • To qualify for a customs officer position with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, applicants must be U.S. citizens with a valid driver's license. Applicants must also pass a Customs and Border Patrol entrance examination as well as a background investigation. The examination is a three part test, which is designed to evaluate a candidate's logical reasoning skills and language abilities. Applicants who speak fluent Spanish are encouraged to apply. Non-Spanish speakers must take a test to evaluate their ability to learn Spanish.

Medical Qualifications

  • Customs officers work in adverse environmental settings and must exert themselves physically. Therefore, applicants have to be in excellent physical condition. Applicants must meet specific vision and hearing guidelines. They must also be free of any diseases or conditions that interfere with their speech or breathing. Prospective candidates with respiratory disorders are automatically disqualified. Applicants must also pass central and nervous system, cardiovascular, psychiatric and musculoskeletal screenings. Applicants who take prescription drugs have to be evaluated to ensure that their medications do not interfere with the responsibilities of a customs officer.

Additional Requirements

  • To qualify for advanced customs officer or G-L7 positions, applicants must demonstrate substantial work experience, which can be voluntary, full- or part-time, indicating extensive leadership skills. Applicants seeking advanced customs officer positions with no prior work experience can include their four year bachelor's degree training in any field instead of their employment history. Applicants with at least one year of law enforcement experience with a demonstrated ability to perform tasks such as arrests and use of firearms, qualify for GL-7 customs officer positions.


  • Prospective candidates seeking customs officer positions with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can find employment opportunities to work as air and marine agents or agriculture and revenue officers. Customs officers must pass a thorough medical evaluation as a part of the application process. Individuals with any excess or deficiency in hormonal production such as Addison's Disease or Cushing's Syndrome will be disqualified. Other medical disqualifiers include diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders and conditions like hemophilia. In 2011, the average annual salary for customs officers was $66,000, according to Simply Hired.

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