How to Become a Border Services Officer


Becoming a border services officer can be an excellent career choice for you if have a strong desire to prevent inadmissible people, contraband and other illegal substances from coming into your country.


If you have such a desire, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details of this career, including an overview of what these officers do, how much they can earn, and what you’ll need to qualify. 



Education You Might Need

The minimal educational requirement for becoming a BSO (or a CBPO in the United States) is a high school diploma.


Although it may not be considered a formal requirement, having post-secondary education in a field related to law enforcement is considered a strong asset, especially when coupled with related work experience.





Experience Needed 

Having experience in certain areas will be considered an asset. In general, this includes experience in one or more of the following areas:


• Measuring compliance and imposing penalties or sanctions for violations

• Gathering information in an investigative setting or pressure situation

• Obtaining information through the use of interviewing and examination techniques

• Providing advice or service to the general public

• Processing and handling import or export documentation



General Job Description

So, what is a border services officer anyway? What do they do? Well, simply put, a border services officer (known as a Customs and Border Protection Officer in the United States) is responsible for administering and enforcing the customs related laws and regulations of a country.


Essentially, they control the movement of people, vehicles and goods into and out of that country; they are one of the first points of contact when travelers and goods arrive in the host country.


Since they are the contact for visitors, they are first line of defence in preventing inadmissible people, contraband and other illegal substances from coming into the country. When necessary, BSOs carry out enforcement activities, which may include detaining individuals and groups of people, or carrying out sanctions including issuing warnings and monetary penalties, and by seizing goods and assets. 



Typical Job Duties

As a border services officer you would be responsible for performing several key duties in order to do your job effectively. These key responsibilities include:


• Interviewing travelers and examining their travel and identification documents

• Detaining people that are deemed to pose a threat to the country

• Removing individuals who are not admissible to the country, such as those who have been convicted of crimes

• Safeguarding against the introduction of human, animal and plant diseases into the country

• Guarding against the flow of illegal goods, such as narcotics, firearms and child pornography

• Ensuring that proper duties and taxes are collected on imported goods

• Conducting customs-related investigations

• Protecting food safety and the environment by stopping prohibited or hazardous products arriving at air, land or seaports

• Maintaining information databases

• Working closely with other BSO’s, as well as local and federal law enforcement agencies 



Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a border service officer can vary, but not by a whole lot. In the beginning of your career, you would earn a trainee salary, and would likely see a higher salary once you successfully complete your training, and become a full-fledged officer. As you gain experience, and move into positions of greater responsibility, you would also move into a higher pay grade.


Your salary could also vary based on the region in which you will be working, the level of education you have. It’s also worth noting that since you would be employed by the federal government, you would also likely receive a great benefits package in addition to you salary. These benefits may include (but not limited to):


• Health benefits

• Dental benefits

• Pension package

• Disability insurance


CBSA Officer Salary (Canada): According to the Canada Border Services Agency, the salary range for a border services officer trainee is currently between $58,078 and $64,859 per year. The salary range for a non-trainee officer is currently between $62,697 and $70,120.


CBP Officer Salary (United States): According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Customs and Border Protection Officer position starts at a salary of $31,944 per year, with promotion potential to $70,192.



Key Requirements: Prerequisites

Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be doing as a BSO, or a CBPO. The first step to take if you still want to become one, is ensure that you meet (or can meet) certain basic requirements, which include:



• Must possess the Standard First Aid certification

• Must have and maintain a valid driver's license

• Must successfully complete the Agency's physical abilities evaluation

• Must be willing to work various shifts, including weekends, statutory holidays, and work overtime (as required)

• Must be willing to wear and maintain a uniform

• Must be willing to operate a government vehicle

• Must be bilingual in French and English (depending on the posting)

• Must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) and pass the tests, OR simply challenge and pass both tests


United States

• You must be a U.S. citizen

• You must have resided in the U.S. for the last 3 years

• Must be younger than 37th at the time of selection (may be waived in certain circumstances)

• You must be able to successfully pass a polygraph examination

• You must be able to successfully pass a background investigation

• Convictions of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are disqualifying

• You must be willing to carry a firearm

• You must have a valid driver's license

• You must be willing work regular and recurring shift work

• You must be able to meet job-related medical, fitness and drug-testing standards

• May be required to have working knowledge of Spanish





Characteristics of Successful Border Services Officers

Will you be able to meet the prerequisites of this career? If so, the next step is to determine if you will be personally compatible with this career.


Having the right personality for the job is not only something employers will look for, it is something that will ensure that you are happy in your work. There are a variety of characteristics that will help you succeed in this field, which apply to you?


• Good oral and written communication skills

• Good decision making skills

• Physical fitness

• An interest in law enforcement

• Able to deal effectively with the public

• Confidence

• Enjoy having clear rules and organized methods for your work

• Enjoy analyzing information

• An interest in having the opportunity to determine admissibility of goods and people into your country



Areas of Specialization in This Profession

Because border protection services have such a diverse mandate, an officer can choose to specialize in a wide variety of areas. For example, as a BSO or CBPO, you can choose to pursue career opportunities in specialty areas such as the following:


• Client services

• Compliance verification

• Detector dog services

• Intelligence

• International operations

• Investigations

• Management and administration

• Program services



Who Employs BSOs?

The federal government employs border services officers. In Canada, the branch of government that employs them is the Canada Border Services Agency.


In the United States, they are employed by the Customs and Border Protection Agency (a division of the Department of Homeland Security). It is also worth mentioning that in the U.S. a border services officer goes by a different title: Customs and Border Protection Officer.



Career Advancement in This Line of Work

To advance your career as a border services officer, you could either move into a position of greater responsibility, or you could become a specialist in a certain area.


For example, opportunities for advancement may include moving into customs supervision, management or administration, or moving into specialized areas such as investigations, intelligence, detector dog services, trade compliance verification, program services or international operations.


Promotion within this field is very competitive. So to be promoted, you will have to display a high degree of competence, initiative, and an excellent employment record. 



Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer



Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Border Services Officer, as they are in the same field, or they involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Airport Security Officer: Responsible for screening passengers who are preparing to board an airline. They must ensure that no dangerous passengers or items make it aboard the airline.



Citizenship and Immigration Officer: Responsible for examining applications for immigration, citizenship and visas, and conducting interviews with the applicants, in order to determine their eligibility to reside or travel in a host country.



Immigration Consultant: Provide assistance and guidance to individuals who are seeking to become permanent residents of a country. They aim to ensure that potential residents are given the tools they need to confidently navigate the complex administrative and legal waters of the immigration process.



Police Officer: Responsible for maintaining law and order within a municipality in order to protect the public. Police officers must detect and prevent crimes, detain criminals and enforce laws.





To find out more about what a border services officer does, what prerequisites you’ll need to qualify, how much you could earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:


Careers at the CBSA:Border Services Officer.” (n.d.). Canada Border Services website - Government of Canada. Retrieved October 29, 2019.

Careers:Border Patrol Agent.” (March 29, 2019). U.S. Customs & Border Patrol website - United States Government. Retrieved October 29, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Border Services Officer

Visit our Criminal Justice Scholarships and Criminology Scholarships pages, as the scholarships listed on them are all relevant to this career.



Relevant University Majors

The university majors below are applicable to a career as a border services officer, as they can teach you relevant skills and competencies. Click on the majors to find out what other careers are applicable to them!


Top Banner Image: 
Top Banner Image Title: 
Border Services Officer