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Customs Inspector

Career Overview

Customs agents or inspectors are one of many categories of law enforcement personnel employed by the Federal Government. They work for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Men and women working in this position are known as Customs and Border Protection Officers.

Generally customs inspectors work at border stations or transportation hubs inspecting cargo, baggage, and articles worn or carried by people, vessels, vehicles, trains, and aircraft entering or leaving the United States. They are looking for both illegal contraband such as drugs or weapons, and materials that may violate tariff laws or quarantines. They screen passengers and cargo at three hundred points of entry into the country.


Applicants for the position of Customs and Border Protection Officer are expected to have three years experience in inspection work of some sort; a bachelors degree in criminal justice may be substituted for experience. Veterans receive special consideration.

Current Employment

There are currently about 20,000 CBP officers working as customs agents and inspectors.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for customs inspectors remains healthy; the agency is constantly recruiting agents to replace retirees or individuals who move on to another division of the agency. There are a lot of investigative positions in the agency that monitor import duties, intellectual property theft and international trade regulations.

Salary Range

Salaries differ slightly based on geographic location.

CBP Officers start at the GS 5 level average at $30,000 per year

After three years CBP Officers are eligible for G11, average $55,000 per year

There is $35,000 in overtime pay generally available for the position as well.

Source: Customs and Border Protection

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