Federal Air Marshal Career

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 increase number of hijacking and terrorists attacks led to the creation of The Federal Air Marshals Service in the year 1961. It was created under the U.S. Sky Marshal program. 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. The law enforcement agencies work with them to help them succeed in their mission. The Air Marshals work under Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a part of the Department of Homeland security.

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

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, the aspirants must be prepared to spend long hours in the airports and airplanes.

The job of an air marshal comes with life risk and high level of work pressure therefore the air marshals need to be constantly aware and attentive to the minutest details also. 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 that is why suspicious individuals must be identified by them. They are authorized to arrest the suspect.


Educational Requirements to Become a Federal Air Marshal

The 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.

In addition to the degree, the candidates must have 1-3 years of experience in technical, legal, administrative or investigative field. There is a 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 so as to qualify the stringent medical test. They 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.

The applicants have to go through a series of test including a written test, physical and mental health screening, personal interview (PI), fingerprinting, drug test and a detailed check of their background.

Preparation for a Career as a Federal Air Marshal

The aspiring air marshals who meet the basic educational requirements must apply for the job. They must be well-prepared to sit for exams and face the series of interviews. Having qualified the exams, the chosen candidates undergo a rigorous training program which is mandatory. The sessions of the training is on international law, aircraft safety, terroristic and criminal behavior, marksmanship, physical training, firearms training, critical situation handling, and first-aid. The 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 the expansion mode. If you are keen to be an air marshal and travelling is something which you can get used to then go ahead and apply online by filling the application form for the specific job on USAjobs. The interested candidates may 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 filled. The candidate is made to 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 go through 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 not   hesitate 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

Federal Air Marshal draws a salary of $58,630 under the police and detectives category according to the United Stated Bureau of Labor Statics. The salaries differ greatly based on location, experience and field specialization. Education and experience determines the starting salary. On promotion to higher level the salary increases. As stated by TSA, the 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 the requirement of continuous recruitment for Air Marshals will always continue. Currently 3,200 – 4,000 air marshals are working as a part of TSA. They are protecting the country by travelling as passenger on both domestic and international flights so as to prevent highjacking of the planes by terrorists or criminals.

Notes Related to Careers as a Federal Air Marshal

The air marshals not only fly as passengers on aircrafts but are also employed by other departments as well like the National Counter Terrorism Center, the National Targeting Center and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of FBI.


  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