How to Become a Federal Air Marshal
Being a federal air marshal means long hours in airports—and even longer hours sitting idly in airplanes.
An estimated 3,200 to 4,000 air marshals currently work to protect passengers on overseas and domestic flights. These positions are part of the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Not just anyone can become a federal marshal. If you have a service record, you'll get preferential hiring points. Civilians will need more education and experience to shoulder their way into the TSA.
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Federal Air Marshal Qualifications
- 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
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.
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Lorna Collier has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with specialties in education, technology, business and health.
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