U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently employs apprixmately 45,000 men and women in Customs and border patrol jobs, including a national team of Border Patrol Agents more than 20,000 strong. CBP has seen unprecedented growth in resources and staffing, and in the past ten years has doubled the number of agents in active service. The agency will continue to hire more professionals as border protection continues to be a priority.

These four jobs are examples of the diversity of degrees applicable to jobs with the CBP. They draw candidates from a host of degree specialties and levels. Therefore, allowing you to use your criminal justice, biology or accounting degree, and others, in a law enforcement role committed to ensuring the safety of the United States.

CBP Officer

An Officer in the CBP fulfills a variety of roles and responsibilities critical to the safety and security of the United States. As law enforcement officials, CBP Officers inspect goods and individuals passing through the nation’s airports, seaports, and border crossings with the intent to deny entry to illegal materials, weapons of terrorism, suspected terrorists, and unauthorized foreign nationals. To accomplish these responsibilities, the agency hires only the most qualified and dedicated professionals.

The minimum educational requirement for applicants is a high school diploma or GED. In addition, there is a requirement for three years of professional experience involving meeting and dealing with people. A bachelor’s degree satisfies this requirement. There is no formal requirement for major of study, but coursework in ROTC, criminal justice, or law often provide a competitive advantage.

As with any job with CBP, you must pass two fitness tests. A medical exam and drug test are mandatory. A structured interview with a panel of CBP Officers will assess the candidate’s emotional maturity and personal character. Finally, all candidates undergo a polygraph and comprehensive background check. If approved, you begin a 15-week intensive training program.

Agriculture Specialist

Agriculture Specialists use their broad knowledge of plants, insects, and diseases to detect and neutralize biological threats to U.S. crops or resources. They inspect cargo aboard ships, airplanes, and land vehicles. These inspections ensure that infestations or illnesses brought by non-native, invasive species of plants and pests do not enter the U.S. Their work prevents harm to people, livestock, crops, or environmental assets.

Due to the broad technical expertise necessary to function as an Agriculture Specialist, only candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree qualify for these jobs. The degree must be one of the following majors: biological sciences, botany, entomology, agriculture, natural resource management, and chemistry. In addition to the academic requirements, all candidates must pass the same tests and security background check as border agents.

Contract Specialist

A Contract Specialist within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection provide a variety of support, procurement, and administrative functions. They are essential to the ongoing mission of the agency to protect the United States from foreign threats. These professionals field internal requests for weapons, vehicles, aircraft, and marine vessels. The procurement of these is critical in maintaining the country’s posture of readiness and response strategies to terrorists and criminals.

The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor’s degree or at least 24 semester hours of coursework in any combination of the following concentrations: accounting, contracts, law, finance, business, economics, quantitative methods, management, or organization. Those candidates who obtain a master’s degree may experience greater ease in acquiring a job, entering at a higher pay level, or advancing through pay grade levels.

Import Specialist

Import Specialists inspect the billions of dollars’ worth of consumer goods, raw materials, and shipping conveyances. This prevents biological and chemical agents, and nuclear materials from entering the country. They also carefully monitor all incoming shipments of narcotics, flora, or fauna that may harm Native American crops or ecosystems, and smuggled humans. They perform a range of search and interdiction responsibilities that shield the United States from significant threats to the country’s security, public safety, and the economy. Preventing the entry of these hazardous materials may save countless lives as well as the ongoing viability of major industries like agriculture, food production, and pharmaceuticals.

Degree holders in accounting, business management, and economics enjoy an advantage in the application process. Applicants with an MBA, master’s, or law degree (JD), are likely to receive more serious consideration during the application process, as well as a higher initial pay grade. For candidates seeking to distinguish themselves from their competitors, there are professional certifications available that can demonstrate skill and experience with customs protocols. The National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America ( NCBFAA) offers a Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) Certification program, which covers major areas in import regulations.


The careers of Agriculture Specialist, Contract Specialist, Import Specialist, and CBP Officer offer pay ratings from the minimum GS-5 up to the top tier of GS-15. The General Schedule Grade 5 (GS-5) is currently $27,431-$35,657. GS-11 at the mid-range is $50,287-$65,371.