What Are Air Marshal Job Requirements? (With Helpful Skills)
Updated July 17, 2023
Air marshals work for the Federal Air Marshal Service and play a significant role in keeping passengers safe aboard airplanes. These armed federal law enforcement officers complete special training to work on passenger flights and protect passengers and crew against terrorist and criminal activity. Understanding this role's standard requirements and tasks may help you determine if this is the right career path for you.
In this article, we discuss what air marshals do, the steps and required training to earn this role, helpful skills and give you some air marshal job search tips.
What is an air marshal?
Air marshals, also known as federal air marshals, sky marshals or United States air marshals, are federal law enforcement officers who keep passengers and crew aboard passenger flights safe. The government deploys these trained aviation security specialists on passenger flights that travel throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Additionally, air marshals can work long hours and may participate in land-based investigative work related to preventing terrorism and may play a role in multi-agency task forces. Common duties of an air marshal include:
Fly on planes to monitor passengers for potential threats during national and international flights
Deter and prevent criminal and terrorist acts concerning aviation
Protect crew members and passengers aboard commercial flights
Take part in multi-agency task forces to fight against terrorism
Conduct investigations to protect travelers and crew on flights
Arrest individuals who commit crimes concerning aviation or aboard a flight
Protect themselves and travelers using firearms
Work with other law enforcement agencies and officers
Help secure airports when there are potential risks
Testifying in court proceedings
Conducting interviews and interrogations
They may also be asked to relocate, depending on where they're needed. They are typically on call at all hours of the day and must be prepared to fly with little notice.
How to become an air marshal
Here are some steps for candidates seeking to become an air marshal:
Complete either a college degree from an accredited university or college, three years of relevant work experience, such as technical, investigative or administrative work, or a combination of the two. There's no specific degree to become an air marshal, but some examples include a bachelor's degree in business administration, criminal justice, law and homeland security.
Apply for a position as an air marshal.
Attend an interview and other assessments related to your potential role as an air marshal.
Get fingerprinted and submit a background check to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Take and pass a drug test, medical exam, physical abilities test, polygraph exam and psychological assessment.
Complete the federal training.
Begin working in your role as an air marshal.
Additional requirements for becoming an air marshal include being a United States citizen, being between the ages of 21 and 37 at the time of application and having a valid U.S. driver's license.
Required training for air marshal jobs
If you successfully pass the interview and various tests and checks, you can then be required to participate in a rigorous training program before being able to work as an air marshal. The federal air marshal training program is 16 weeks long in Artesia, New Mexico and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
During air marshal job training, recruits receive specialized training on:
Proficient firearm use
Recognition of terroristic and criminal behaviors
Quick and lawful arrests
Students in an air marshal training program also participate in daily physical training. The physical fitness aspect of air marshal training may include strength, cardiovascular, agility, flexibility and defensive measures training.
Related: Learn About Being a Security Guard
Skills needed for air marshal jobs
Air marshals require a particular set of skills for success in their position, including:
Physical skills: These specialists are in a fit physical condition and have sufficient strength and flexibility. This skill is vital because circumstances might require the air marshal to restrain a suspect or act in self-defense in the tight quarters of an aircraft.
Discretion: Some air marshals work undercover, which makes remaining discreet and going undetected a key component of being a successful air marshal.
Social perceptiveness: Air marshals observe passengers on an aircraft to protect against and prevent criminal and terrorist activity. This means that an air marshal can actively and successfully discern suspicious activity and individuals at all times.
Flexibility: An air marshal may fly at a moment's notice or relocate several times based on where they're needed, so being flexible is vital.
Critical-thinking skills: Air marshals may think carefully, logically and independently in response to security threats. They may also make quick decisions that have significant consequences during high-pressure situations.
Communication skills: Air marshals work with many individuals and several organizations. Whether an air marshal is communicating with others in danger on a flight or relaying their investigation findings, being able to communicate is crucial.
Search tips for air marshal jobs
If you have a strong interest in this career path with first-hand knowledge working in law enforcement or having military experience, then a career as an air marshal might be fulfilling.
Before you pursue a position as an air marshal, it's good practice to follow some job search guidelines:
Research the job: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) hires federal air marshals. Research the TSA and read through reviews to ensure you're ready to take on the associated responsibilities.
Ensure you meet the requirements: Air marshal jobs require rigorous testing and background checks, but law enforcement experience isn't necessarily required. Include examples of your work ethic and ability to learn new skills in your resume and emphasize how your goals align with the TSA's mission.
Set up job alerts: Use job search tools and engines to find air marshal job openings with the TSA. Sign up for daily or weekly job alert emails to see new job postings as soon as they're posted.
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