How To Become an Air Marshal in 4 Steps (With FAQS)
Updated February 3, 2023
If you love to travel and have a strong interest in law enforcement, a career as an air marshal may be a great fit for you. Air marshals have a variety of duties focused on upholding the law and maintaining safety on aircraft to protect passengers and deter crime. Understanding the training and education they pursue can help you start your career journey.
In this article, we explain how to become an air marshal, list their primary duties and answer some FAQs about this career.
How to become an air marshal
Here's how to become an air marshal in a few easy steps:
1. Obtain a bachelor's degree
While you can qualify for air marshal jobs with three years of relevant experience, the government may prefer candidates who have a college degree. They may also accept a combination of education and experience. The experience that the TSA wants to see includes progressively responsible general experience, where candidates demonstrate an ability to analyze problems, plan and organize work and communicate effectively. If you intend to become a supervisor or obtain a higher rank, a bachelor's degree is typically a requirement. Some ideal degrees for aspiring air marshals include:
Aviation business administration
2. Obtain experience
The Federal Air Marshal Service typically wants candidates with experience that demonstrates their ability to gather data, analyze problems and identify solutions. They must also have proven written and verbal communication skills.
Aspiring air marshals can obtain experience by applying for internships or entry-level positions. They can also consider joining a local law enforcement agency or the military. Such experience can also help candidates meet the required fitness and marksmanship skills, and military personnel often gain preferential consideration for their experience.
Related: 30 Jobs for Homeland Security Majors
3. Meet the TSA requirements
Candidates for an air marshal position are subject to TSA requirements. The TSA, or Transportation Security Administration, is a government body that oversees security and law enforcement for transportation services, like air travel. The TAS requires air marshal candidates to be between the ages of 21 and 36 at the time of application. Candidates must undergo a drug test and a criminal and credit background check to ensure they have no disqualifying financial delinquencies or criminal convictions.
Candidates must also pass mental and physical health evaluations, a panel interview and an evaluation by a supervisory air marshal. They must also qualify for top-secret security clearance and pass a polygraph exam. Due to the sensitive nature of the position and the potential hazards of the position, the TSA chooses candidates carefully, considering those with law enforcement and military training before other candidates.
4. Complete air marshal training
After completing the application process, aspiring air marshals complete a 16-week training program. The first part of their training program begins at the Federal Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, and consists of physical fitness, marksmanship and classroom instruction.
The second phase of their training is conducted at the Federal Air Marshal Service Training Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the aspiring air marshals undergo advanced weapons training. They also learn international law, aircraft safety protocols and defensive techniques. Handling a firearm is a crucial part of the job, and candidates must achieve high scores in marksmanship during training.
What does an air marshal do?
Air marshals are specially trained, armed law enforcement officers who work for the TSA and help protect passengers and crews on domestic and international flights. They're responsible for identifying and apprehending dangerous people and preventing criminal activity during flights and in airports.
Some of their primary duties include detecting and defeating hostile acts against aviation, sitting on random flights and monitoring passengers to identify any potential threats and taking action when necessary to protect the passengers and crew.
They work closely with other local and federal law enforcement agencies to maximize security and also assist with security for other transportation methods, such as passenger trains. They may participate in multi-agency task forces and in land-based investigations to fight terrorism. Here are some common skills for air marshals:
Law enforcement knowledge
Physical fitness and stamina
Analytical and problem-solving skills
Strong observation skills
Ability to identify potentially dangerous situations or people
Strong moral compass
Familiarity with airplane layouts and security requirements
Frequently asked questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about becoming an air marshal:
Frequently asked questions
How many hours do air marshals work?
The TSA has reported that most air marshals average five hours per day, 15 days per month, with a total of 181 days in the air each year. This adds up to approximately 900 hours annually. The schedule for individual marshals can vary based on the needs of the different airlines or the TSA. For example, in the event of a terrorist attack or other major event, there may be a greater number of air marshals actively working full-time to prevent further attacks.
How can I earn more as an air marshal?
As air marshals develop experience and a strong record of success in their careers, they may be promoted to senior management or supervisory positions and earn more money. Additionally, having a bachelor's degree can help candidates advance to these positions without delay, as most of the supervisory positions in the field require a college education. Acquiring a bachelor's degree prior to applying for an air marshal position can ensure you already have the necessary credentials.
Is an air marshal considered an in-demand career?
The size and scope of the Federal Air Marshals program has varied widely over the course of its history. Since the number of air marshals currently in service is not information that's available to the public, it can be challenging to assess the demand for this career. As commercial flights increase in number and frequency, it's likely that the TSA may employ more federal air marshals over time to keep flights and airports safe.
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