Federal Air Marshal Qualifications

Federal air marshals “detect, deter and defeat hostile acts against U.S. air carriers, passengers and crews,” according to the Transportation Security Administration.
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If the idea of making air travel safe for passengers and crew members appeals to you, then you may wish to pursue a career as a federal air marshal. The Federal Air Marshal Service falls under the country’s Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal air marshals spend about 15 days a month or about 180 days a year on airplanes. At other times, they work on security assignments, sometimes in tandem with other law enforcement agencies. Before you apply to the TSA, you’ll want to determine whether you meet the qualifications.

    Step 1

    Set yourself apart from other applicants by finishing a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree may enable you to bypass certain criteria, such as three years of work experience. You also may be hired at a higher salary with an advanced degree. Federal air marshals make between $40,000 and $90,000 a year.

    Step 2

    Prove that you are a U.S. citizen who is no more than 37 years old. If you have previous experience in law enforcement, criminal justice or a related field, you may be able to sidestep the age restriction.

    Step 3

    Complete a written application and undergo an interview, sometimes with a group of interviewers.

    Step 4

    Meet health and physical fitness standards and pass medical and psychological tests. A background investigation also is conducted on all federal air marshal applicants.

    Step 5

    Promote any related work experience, as this distinction also may help separate you from other applicants. Otherwise, applicants should have three years of professional experience "in administrative, professional, technical or investigative work, or in other progressively more responsible jobs," according to Legal-Criminal-Justice-Schools.com.

    Step 6

    Attend two seven-week training programs, either in New Mexico or New Jersey. There, trainees learn how to fire a weapon and respond to dangerous and threatening scenarios aboard airplanes. They also undergo a physical training regimen.


    • Investigate vacancies at usajobs.gov or contact the TSA directly at 877-872-7990 or at HelpDesk@TSA-HRAccess.com.

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