How Do You Become a Federal Air Marshal?

 Federal Air MarshalWith the focus on terrorism and enemy infiltration into the country, there is an increased interest in how to become a federal marshal, especially a federal air marshal. Because of the interest, there are some misconceptions about what the job entails. They are not traditional officers; their powers are limited. They are not on every flight and they don’t get involved with every law enforcement issue; they sometimes defer to local police.

What Kind of Officers are Air Marshals?

They are employed by the TSA in a branch formed in 1961 as a result of the increased number of air-hijacking incidents that occurred under the Fidel Castro regime. Originally, they were called U.S. Sky Marshals. These armed officers are authorized to travel on general aircraft. The division has four components: the business management office, security services and assessments, field operations and flight operations. According to Federal Law Enforcement, they work as airport security officers as well as in-flight law enforcement personnel. All flights do not have air marshals. In fact, though the agency is reluctant to release numbers, it is estimated there are only a few thousand of these officers.

What Kind of Training Do Air Marshals Have?

The air marshals are federal employees and, as such, adhere to the hiring guidelines for all federal law enforcement. They must be US citizens, between the ages of 21 and 36, with no history of felonies. The must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in any field, plus three years of work experience that involves problem solving and critical thinking. One of the three years should also be at the equivalent of the federal GS 4 level. If an applicant is chosen for the program, he or she will undergo a credit check, a criminal background history check, a FAMS assessment test involving several areas, a panel interview, a medical and psychological assessment and a psychological assessment. After the testing, they are sent to Artesia, New Mexico, for seven weeks of training. This is followed by an additional seven weeks at the tactical training facility at William J Hughes Technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Areas of instruction include aircraft-specific tactics like close-quarter self-defense, criminal and terrorist behavior recognition, and investigative techniques, among other courses. The marshals also become proficient in the use of firearms.

What is the Job Outlook?

The hiring of air marshals is in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security threat assessment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field of law enforcement as a whole will grow at only four percent by 2020. According to the Houston Chronicle, air marshals are hired at three federal pay grades. Pay grade “G” employees have a median salary between $39,358 and $60,982. Pay grade “H” salaries range between $48,700 and $74,390 and those hired at pay grade “I” make between $58,495 to $90,317. The pay grade is determined by education, experience and responsibility in the positions. It may differ by location as well, and benefits can raise the compensation to $172,550.

Related Resource: Intelligence Analyst

Although many people pursue careers in law enforcement, this is a highly specialized area which employs relatively few people. The profession involves unusual schedules, traveling and sometimes long hours. The training to become a federal marshal, especially an air marshal, pays off in an exciting and well-compensated career.