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How to Become a Federal Air Marshal

Become a Federal Air Marshal if You Like FlyingBeing a federal air marshal means long hours in airports—and even longer hours sitting idly in airplanes.

But it also means travel—often overseas. And it means serving your country.
A career as a federal marshal means living in the center eye of terrorism.
Still sold on the idea of a career as a U.S. air marshal? Read on to find out how to become an air marshal by earning a criminal justice degree and your federal crime fighting wings.
Applications for new air marshals are being accepted on a continuous schedule. The threat of international terrorism will never fade away. Get educated now on how to become a marshal and you’ll be ready to apply in no time.
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.
Several degrees that are notable for helping to meet the required bachelors degree requirement are listed below.  They also happen to be geared towards a solid criminal justice curriculum which is helpful in understanding the law and legal processes associated with this type of work.

#TRENDING: Capella University.


  • 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.

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.

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 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.

The U.S. Federal Air Marshal program is expanding. President Obama voted to put more air marshals on flights after the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet. No one expects jobs in this area to dwindle away in the next few years. 
The government is accepting applications for federal air marshal jobs continuously in various metropolitan areas around the U.S. To find openings in your region, visit the USAJOBS website and search for “federal air marshal.”
If positions are not available, you can sign up on the website to be notified through e-alert of future openings.

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 has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with specialties in education, technology, business and health.