How to Become a Federal Air Marshal

How to Become a Federal Air Marshal

Airline security in the United States has become a critical service area, particularly in the years since September 11, 2001. Over 80,000 flights are in United States airspace on any given day, which has increased demands on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This federal agency is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, with the primary purpose of ensuring the safety of all airline travelers in the U.S. Air Marshals are a vital part of the TSA, and career opportunities for Air Marshals are currently at an all-time high.

What does a Federal Air Marshal do?

Federal Air Marshals generally serve as undercover agents in the sky. Flying with passengers aboard commercial aircraft, Air Marshals are the first line of defense against the threat of violence, including potential acts of terrorism. Air Marshals also work to prevent other types of criminal misconduct, such as smuggling.

Air Marshals help conduct investigations in cooperation with other government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), and the National Counterterrorism Center, which help lead to the identification of criminals and criminal threats. Blending in with passengers, Air Marshals are in a unique position to spot and deter potential problems while flights are underway.

According to the TSA, Air Marshals are required to fly an average of 181 days a year, at a baseline of five hours a day. They carry weapons and are able to make arrests without warrants, if necessary. Click here to learn how to become a Federal Air Marshal.

What kind of training does an Air Marshal need?

Air Marshals undergo extensive training in law enforcement. Although not explicitly required, job prospects increase significantly for candidates who have already earned a Bachelor degree in Law or Criminal Justice.

In addition to this academic foundation, Air Marshals must complete some of the most rigorous training of any federal agents. Specific aspects of the Air Marshal training program include close-proximity self-defense techniques, the ability to identify all types of criminal and terrorist behavior, tactics that are specific to the different aircraft they will travel aboard, and the ability to blend in with passengers while engaging in investigative practices.

Air Marshals undergo comprehensive psychological tests to ensure that they are ready to operate independently, often without backup. They are also held to the highest standards of handgun marksmanship. (1) Click here for a list of online criminal justice degree programs.

What are the prospects for a career as a Federal Air Marshal?

Prospects are strong for Federal Air Marshal jobs, and other federal detective and criminal investigators. Employment rates are expected to grow by over 13.3% (over 5,200 jobs), between 2006 and 2016. (2)

How much do Federal Air Marshals make?

Entry-level Federal Air Marshal salary is around $47,500. Advancement in this career to senior management positions, potential Air Marshal salaries increase to more than $88,000. (3)

An Air Marshal career is very challenging, but also very rewarding. The critical nature of this position, as well as the strong outlook for future hiring needs, makes it an attractive choice for Law and Criminal Justice program graduates. Click here to find your path to a career as a Federal Air Marshal.

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