The federal government is the largest single employer of law enforcement personnel. Many years ago, it was possible to become an agent for a federal law agency without a college degree, particularly if you had some job experience. Over time, however, the government has gradually raised educational requirements. It’s now difficult to get a foot in the door at most of these agencies unless you have some specialized education in law enforcement or a criminal justice degree.
Here’s an overview of the key government agencies hiring law enforcement and criminal justice specialists, with a description of basic job responsibilities. Salaries for these positions run in a wide range from about $33,000 up to more than $72,000. Federal law enforcement specialists can also earn availability or “LEAP” pay for unscheduled extra work, which can push the total annual earnings of a special agent up 25% more over base salary (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Department of Homeland Security: Hires offers for a number of its agencies, including the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection (where agents patrol both international water and land boundaries), Customs Enforcement and Immigration. Every Homeland Security job requires you to be a U.S. citizen, pass a background investigation. Most also require a drug test.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Immigration: Agents interview and inspect passports of people seeking entrance into the United States to determine if they are eligible for entry.
Customs Inspection Agents: Do inspections of cargo and baggage, vehicles, boats and even aircraft leaving or entering the U.S., in order to enforce the laws covering imports and exports.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives: Their agents investigate violations of federal gun and explosives laws, and also enforce tobacco and tax rules.
U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Agents of the DEA are charged with enforcing laws regarding illegal. They pursue investigations of drug violations not just in the United States, but around the world.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Agents of the FBI are the federal government’s top investigators, who handle investigating violations of hundreds of federal laws, and also work on national security issues. Lawbreakers investigated by the FBI include bank robbers, financial criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime bosses, corrupt public officials, civil rights violators, air pirates and foreign spies. To be hired as a special agent at the FBI, you must have a 4-year college degree, be 23 to 36 years of age and be a citizen of the U.S.
Transportation Security Administration: TSA officers protect American transportation systems, primarily airports and aircraft.
Federal Air Marshals: Ride on commercial aircraft (usually unidentified) to prevent attacks on any passengers, crews or airports. Employed by The Transportation Security Administration, a part of Homeland Security.
U.S. Marshals and Deputy Marshals Work in the Federal courts to prevent any disruptions of the judicial system. They protect judges, protect Federal witnesses, transport Federal prisoners and oversee the assets seized from illegal enterprises. Employed by U.S. Justice Department.
U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security Special Agents: Focus primarily on the war on terror. They advise American ambassadors abroad on security issues and manage the programs that protect employees, buildings and sensitive information at U.S. embassies.
U.S. Secret Service Special Agents are an elite group assigned to protect the President, Vice President, and their families, as well as Presidential candidates, past Presidents and foreign leaders visiting the US. Secret Service agents also investigate counterfeiting violations at certain types of fraudulent credit card usage.
Other Federal Agencies that have officers or special agents who carry firearms and make arrests include the U.S. Postal Service, the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Enforcement.