How Do I Become a Customs Officer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Customs officers work at ports, airports and border crossings.
Customs officers work at ports, airports and border crossings.
Customs officers work at ports, airports and border crossings.

To become a customs officer it will be necessary to apply to the government agency that supervises hiring and training of customs officials. There are no specific educational requirements, but applicants must pass a background check and undergo a thorough interview. People with incidents on their record, potential conflicts of interest, or problematic personality traits may not be invited to join the customs service. After hiring, a prospective customers officer will attend and complete a training course before starting work.

Customs officers who have a large amount of outstanding debt could be vulnerable to bribery.
Customs officers who have a large amount of outstanding debt could be vulnerable to bribery.
Customs officers who have a large amount of outstanding debt could be vulnerable to bribery.

While education is not required, it can be helpful in some nations. An associate's or bachelor's degree can be useful on a resume and may provide an opportunity to pick up a foreign language or learn more about political science. A person who wants to become a customs officer could also look into internships with law enforcement agencies while in college to get practical experience in this field.

Customs agencies routinely list job openings and often have positions available. A person who wants to become a customs officer will need to fill out an application and provide supporting materials. Often, the application process involves taking the civil service examination, and the agency may be required to interview all applicants who pass this examination. The interview helps representatives determine if a person would be a good fit to become a customs officer.

Customs officers are fingerprinted during the backround check process.
Customs officers are fingerprinted during the backround check process.
Customs officers are fingerprinted during the backround check process.

In the event the agency likes a candidate, it can request a background check. This usually includes fingerprinting, interviews, and inspection of personal records like bank accounts. Customs agencies do not want representatives with criminal records or issues like large outstanding debt that could make them vulnerable to bribery. It is also necessary to be physically fit to become a customs officer, and the agency may require a mental health screening.

Goods that cross international borders are typically subject to customs inspections.
Goods that cross international borders are typically subject to customs inspections.
Goods that cross international borders are typically subject to customs inspections.

Applicants who successfully pass this process can attend the training academy. At the academy they need to perform well in the classroom and on the field to receive passing marks. Graduates can start working as agents, while people who fail will wash out of the customs program. They may be eligible to reapply in the future.

Some people come to careers in customs from backgrounds in military or law enforcement activities. These applicants may have a slight edge, especially if they speak foreign languages. Lack of such a background does not make a candidate inherently unappealing, however, and should not be a barrier to success in a customs career.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Customs officers work at ports, airports and border crossings.
      Customs officers work at ports, airports and border crossings.
    • Customs officers who have a large amount of outstanding debt could be vulnerable to bribery.
      Customs officers who have a large amount of outstanding debt could be vulnerable to bribery.
    • Customs officers are fingerprinted during the backround check process.
      Customs officers are fingerprinted during the backround check process.
    • Goods that cross international borders are typically subject to customs inspections.
      Goods that cross international borders are typically subject to customs inspections.