Federal Air Marshal Careers

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

The Role of Federal Air Marshal in Criminal Justice and Law

An increasing number of hijacking and terrorists attacks led to the creation of The Federal Air Marshals Service in the year 1961. The Federal Air Marshalls were created under the U.S. Sky Marshal program.

English: U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service patch.
English: U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service patch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Federal Air Marshals are law enforcement officers who are armed but under cover. The air marshals are also called sky marshals or quiet professionals in the sky. They guard the country from hostile acts by travelling on passenger flights but being inconspicuous among passengers to evaluate the environment, determine any suspicious activity in the aircraft or at the airport, and investigate so as to protect the passengers and crew travelling by flight against any terror attack.

Numerous law enforcement agencies work with them to help them succeed in their mission. The Air Marshals work under the authority of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a part of the Department of Homeland security.

As stated by the TSA , the air marshals are required to fly 900 hours in a year (approximately 5 hours a day), which means in a year they fly in the air for at least 181 days. Federal Air Marshals are required to report to work in less than an hour’s notice. They work 24-7. So, aspirants must be prepared to spend long hours in airports and on aircraft.

The job of an air marshal comes with life risk and high level of work pressure. Therefore, Federal air marshals need to be constantly aware and attentive to the minutest details. They must be physically fit. The job requires them to dress as a civilian and behave as a passenger in the airports and on the aircrafts. They have to prevent criminal activities – suspicious individuals must be identified by them. They are authorized to arrest a suspect if the situation demands action.

Educational Requirements to Become a Federal Air Marshal

Candidates aspiring to become a Federal Air Marshal must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in criminal justice, police service, law or aviation management and crime justice. Having a master’s degree or a doctoral degree will certainly be an added advantage.

Badge design of the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Badge design of the Federal Air Marshal Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to the degree, the candidates must have 1-3 years of experience in a technical, legal, administrative, or investigative field. There is cut-throat competition in the job selection process for becoming an air marshal.

The maximum age limit of the applicants is restricted to 37 years and they are required to be United States citizen.  They are also required to be physically very fit and mentally alert; qualification includes a most stringent medical test.

Federal Air Marshalls are the best marksmen in law enforcement. The standard of firearm qualification for air marshal is the highest among all the law enforcement agencies. The Air Marshals need to get themselves recertified in firearms in every four months. This makes sense considering that if they must discharge their firearm, they must hit their target or risk striking the skin of the aircraft. This would create an immediate rupture and decompression; likely causing loss of life of passengers and possibly the entire jet.

Applicants for the Federal Air Marshalls service must go through a series of tests including:

  • a written test
  • physical screening
  • mental health screening
  • a personal interview (PI)
  • fingerprinting
  • drug test and
  • a detailed check of their background

Preparation for a Career as a Federal Air Marshal

Those aspiring to become Federal air marshals who meet the basic educational requirements may apply for the job. They must be well-prepared to sit for exams and face the series of interviews.

British Royal Air Force Air Marshal Barry Thornton
British Royal Air Force Air Marshal Barry Thornton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having qualified in the exams, the chosen candidates undergo a rigorous training program which is mandatory. The sessions of the specialized training include:

  • international law
  • aircraft safety
  • terroristic and criminal behavior
  • marksmanship
  • physical training
  • firearms training
  • critical situation handling, and
  • first-aid.

This training makes the candidates proficient in skills required for the job as air marshal.

How to Apply for a Position as a Federal Air Marshal

The U.S. Federal Air Marshal program is on expansion mode. If you are keen to be an air marshal and travelling is something which you can get used to, then apply online by filling the application form for the specific job on USAjobs.

Interested candidates may also search for “Federal Air Marshal” by visiting the USAJOBS website. The openings for different regions can easily be found and filled by the candidates online. The aspirants who sign up on this website get job alert notification.

If the application is properly completed, the candidate will then sit for an exam. The credit and criminal history of the qualified candidate is checked. If the candidate has a good background record, he faces the panel interviews. The chosen candidates then go through the medical check, fingerprinting, etc.

A special agent-in-charge interviews the candidates in the final round at a Federal Air Marshal Field office. The finally selected candidates are assigned to one of the twenty-one field offices nationwide.

Additional Information Related to a Career as a Federal Air Marshal

Aspiring Air marshals must possess good communication skills, leadership skills, and should have the ability to work independently.  They must be accurate shooters. Candidates having experience in law enforcement or military may be given preference in the selection process.

Average Salary of a Federal Air Marshal

English: Air Vice Marshal EPB Liyanage
English: Air Vice Marshal EPB Liyanage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Federal Air Marshal draws a salary of $58,630 under the police and detectives category according to the United Stated Bureau of Labor Statics. Salaries may widely differ based on location, experience, and field specialization. Education and experience determines the starting salary.

On promotion to higher levels, the salary increases. As stated by TSA, Federal air marshals drew an annual salary between $40,150 to $92,540 as of 2015.

The threat of international terrorism will always be the prime concern. Therefore, recruitment for Federal Air Marshals is continual. Currently, 3,200 – 4,000 air marshals are working as a part of TSA. They are protecting U.S. citizens by travelling as passengers on both domestic and international flights to prevent highjacking of the planes by terrorists or criminals.


The Federal Air Marshals not only fly as passengers on commercial aircraft, but are also employed by other departments as well. Some of these include:

Aside from the United States, nearly every other nation has some form of air marshall service. However, the term Air Marshall may apply to a different role entirely in other countries. For instance, in the RAF, Canadian Air Force, and Indian Air Forces, an Air Marshall is a highly ranked Air Force Officer, not the role described in this careers page.


  1. http://www.careerprofiles.info/federal-air-marshal.html
  2. http://www.federallawenforcement.org/air-marshal/
  3. https://www.geteducated.com/justice-law-legal-studies/324-use-your-criminal-justice-degree-to-become-a-federal-air-marshal
  4. http://criminaljusticeonlineblog.com/air-marshal-career/
  5. https://www.usajobs.gov