- Must be between the ages of 21 and 36 at the time of application (if you will turn 37 before training is finished, you aren't eligible—unless you are a veteran; veterans receive preferential hiring)
- Must complete a rigorous, 16-week training session and be capable of arduous physical exertion
- Must pass a top security clearance and intensive drug and alcohol screening
- Cannot have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense
- Must be able to carry a firearm and maintain proficiency in its use
The TSA also requires either three years of experience, a bachelor's degree in any field from an accredited college, or a combination of related experience and education. The experience that the TSA asks for includes "progressively responsible general experience," demonstrating the ability to analyze problems, plan and organize work, and communicate effectively.
Federal Air Marshal Training
Dave, an air marshal for the past eight years, says having a college degree helps "if you have goals of management—the government favors it, and having a degree can make it faster to accomplish your goals."
Many types of criminal justice degrees can prepare you for an air marshal career. The same majors that help when applying for other government or civilian law enforcement jobs are relevant in the air marshal service.
Popular degree majors for an air marshal or other security forces career include homeland security and military history.
According to the experts, public administration degrees help if your goal is to advance beyond armed service to help manage and develop the U.S. marshal forces. Public administration is the study of management and business development within public or governmental agencies as opposed to the private sector.
Becoming an Air Marshal — Salary, Pros & Cons
Salaries for air marshal positions range from $46,950 to $82,417 annually. That's not bad. In fact, considering some ex-military or private security officers may qualify for an air marshal job with only a high school diploma or associate's degree, the pay range is great.
Dave, the air marshal we interviewed, says he likes the travel, the "outstanding" training, and the independence the job provides.
"You're on your own—you are your own boss—to accomplish your mission," says Dave.
On the other hand, he says: "If you want to be a regular street police officer, this is not it. There is a lot of down time."
Air marshals are expected to be on call 24/7, according to the TSA hiring directive. "Your schedule can change in a second," says Dave.
Air marshals also may be reassigned to different geographic locations and must sign a "mobility agreement" as a condition of their employment.
Air Marshal Training
Air marshals do receive a lot of on-the-job training—a big plus in the security field where more and more threats are coming from terrorism and homeland security threats that involve bio-terrorism and cybersecurity threats.
Jobs for Air Marshals
Lorna Collier has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with specialties in education, technology, business and health.