How to Become a Customs Officer

Customs officers are participating in a training for drugs detection shutterstock

A customs officer is a law enforcement agent who enforces customs laws and regulations at a nation’s port of entry on behalf of their respective government, the rules of which were put together by public officials. Customs officers prevent prohibited contraband from entering or exiting the country as well as collecting duties and taxes.

What does a Customs Officer do?

Customs officers perform important work that ensures the safety of the citizens and travelers. From searching passengers to arresting people, from working at airports to attending court cases, there are a wide variety of responsibilities that a customs officer faces on a daily basis throughout the entire year.

Their responsibilities include but are not limited to:

-                Preventing smuggling of illegal goods and items

-                Fighting illicit alcohol and tobacco by searching luggage, cars and passengers

-                Detecting drug crimes and stopping global trafficking of endangered animals

-                Reading through passports and quizzing visitors about their journey

-                Preparing statements and reports and detaining accused individuals

-                Boarding ships, aircrafts and other vehicles at ports or aerodomes

-                Maintaining physical endurance becomes the work environment can be stressful

-                Having good judgment, communication skills and multi-tasking ability

-                Being astute when it comes to interface and query software and databases

-                Handling each situation with professionalism because it may require full-body searches

Salary & Hours


Median Hourly

Median Salary

United States






Great Britain



Industry professionals say that the average customs officer works five days a week and 36 hours. Customs officers work in shifts, which means the hours can vary throughout a 24-hour period (morning, afternoon, evening and graveyard). The industry offers part-time jobs seasonal work and employment shares.


The position of a customs officer will require these professionals to have the following skills:

-                Every customs officer needs to be assertive, calm and resilient

-                A customs officer must be interpersonal and know how to work in a team

-                Understand how to handle a firearm, handcuffs and X-ray equipment

-                Knowledge of detecting, whether it’s by the personal eye or machinery

-                The physical ability to pass a fitness test; mental capacity to pass exams


Most governments require their customs officers to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. In addition, customs officers will take part in on-the-job training courses that are classroom-based, which typically lasts about nine months. Also, each job applicant must not have any criminal record whatsoever.

Career Prospects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of a customs officer (the government department places this in the category of police work) is projected to grow about five percent until 2022, a slower than average figure because of cash-strapped governments. However, with renewed terrorist threats, governments may heighten their need for customs officers to apply the laws of the land.

TotalJobs describes a customs officer as someone who gets “to feel like a gallant superhero, protecting Queen and country from any pesky baddies!” Although it is serious business to protect the general public, it is also rather exciting to be at the forefront of facing terrorist risks, drug criminals and other kinds of suspects.