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Customs Officer

Earnings Potential

Median annual earnings of cargo and freight agents in May 2004 were $34,250. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,720 and $43,250. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,480.

Facts at a glance

  • Customs officers have the power to search goods, premises, people, as well the power to seize goods, to patrol the coast, ask questions, and have the power to arrest.
  • Customs officers usually work in airports, sea ports, freight terminals, and postal customs locations.
  • To be a customs officer you should be able to work alone or on a team, be tactful, have good questioning skills, be detailed oriented, honest, and good numeracy skills.

Summary of what this career entails

Most customs officer 36-40 hours a week, five days a week, even though overtime may be included.  Evening and night ships are available as well as part-time work.

Examples and or details of work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, customs inspectors enforce laws governing imports and exports by inspecting cargo, baggage, and articles worn or carried by people, vessels, vehicles, trains, and aircraft entering or leaving the United States. These inspectors examine, count, weigh, gauge, measure, and sample commercial and noncommercial cargoes entering and leaving the United States. Customs inspectors seize prohibited or smuggled articles; intercept contraband; and apprehend, search, detain, and arrest violators of U.S. laws. Customs agents investigate violations, such as narcotics smuggling, money laundering, child pornography, and customs fraud, and they enforce the Arms Export Control Act. During domestic and foreign investigations, they develop and use informants; conduct physical and electronic surveillance; and examine records from importers and exporters, banks, couriers, and manufacturers. They conduct interviews, serve on joint task forces with other agencies, and get and execute search warrants.

Degrees that lead to this career

Some of the degrees individuals can attain include:

  • B.S. in Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Law
  • B.S. in Police Science
  • B.S. in Accounting
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Specific Career openings in this field

Some of the positions available for individuals who want a career customs can become a customs officer.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Police and Detectives, on the Internet at