U.S. customs agents work for the Department of Homeland Security, serving at more than 300 points of entry across the country. Agents inspect goods entering the country, including weapons of mass destruction and the terrorists who seek to bring harm. Customs agents, also known as customs officers, oversee the timely flow of legal trade and travelers, ensuring that laws are enforced to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases, as well as the seizure of contraband. The salary of a U.S. customs agent is determined by the officer’s qualifications.
The starting salary of a Customs and Border Protection Agent depends on the assigned pay grade. For customs agents in the GS-5 grade, their annual salary was $31,315 or higher as of 2010, depending on the location of their assignment. For agents in the GS-7 grade, their annual salary was $38,790 or higher.
The CPB offers a base salary determined by scheduling and locality-based comparability payments. For example, an agent stationed in Raleigh-Durham-Cary, North Carolina, earns a 17.64 percent adjustment on her base salary. For the customs agent earning $31,315 per year, this adds $5,524 to her salary, giving her $36,839 per year. Rate adjustments vary across the United States, ranging from 4.72 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to 35.15 percent for San Francisco. Nationally, the average adjustment adds 14.16 percent in most locations.
For customs agents performing satisfactorily on the job, advancement to higher grades is routine after one year. The CPB allows such officers to advance from either entry level to GS-9, GS-11 or GS-12. The annual salary for GS-9 is $47,448 or higher, for GS-11 it is $57,408 or higher and for GS-12 it is $68,809 or higher.
Excellent benefits are offered to customs agents, including health insurance, life insurance, a retirement plan, vacation pay, time off for illness and a uniform allowance. At some locations, agents have access to a fitness center with related wellness and health programs. On-site child care may also be available.
An agent’s salary can be compared to police and sheriff’s patrol officers, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes such people as part of that occupational classification. Those in the 10th percentile earned $31,700 per year as of May 2010, and officers in the 25th percentile made $40,830 per year on average. Officers in the 50th percentile earned $53,540 per year, while those in the 75th and 90th percentiles earned an average annual salary of $69,070 and $83,510, respectively. The mean annual wage for all officers was $55,620 as of May 2010.
- O-Net Online; Summary Report for: 33-3021.05 - Immigration and Customs Inspectors; 2010
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11; Police and Detectives; December 2009
- Office of Personnel Management: Locality-Based Comparability Payments and Pay Increases in 2010 for General Schedule Employees
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics; 33-3051 Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
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