Learn About Air Marshal Requirements

Read about Federal Air Marshal requirements and careers below. One important thing to consider before becoming an Air Marshal is how gaining education can waive many of the requirements—such as three years of work experience—that are required before becoming an Air Marshal. Online schools are now offering bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice (a great degree that can prepare you for law enforcement-related positions like Air Marshal).

Find bachelor's degrees designed to help prepare students for Air Marshal careers.

The TSA and its Agencies

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and directs all TSA law enforcement agencies including, the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Program and the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.

Air Marshal Job Description: What You'll Do

Federal Air Marshals are responsible not only for the security of aircraft but for national security as it pertains to all aspects of transportation and the country's critical infrastructure. Federal Air Marshals are the primary law enforcement entity within the TSA. The primary Air Marshal job duty is to protect passengers and crew on international and domestic flights from crime and acts of terrorism. The job has evolved in recent years to include staffing several positions at different agencies like the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Targeting Center, and on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces. These liaison positions are critical to coordinating and protecting against acts of terrorism.

Air Marshals have the highest firearm qualification standards of all law enforcement agencies and are considered some of the best marksmen in law enforcement. According to the TSA, Federal Air Marshals fly 15 days a month and 181 days a year, and spend five hours a day and 900 hours a year in aircrafts.

Federal Air Marshal Requirements

As is the case with all highly skilled and good-paying federal government positions, it's very competitive to become a Federal Air Marshal so anything you can do to set yourself apart from the competition will help. One thing to consider is to get a good education. Earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, although that may not guarantee employment. Some of the Air Marshal requirements are waived if the applicant has an advanced education.

According to the TSA, Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) applicants must be U.S. citizens and can be up to 37 years of age upon appointment (previous federal law enforcement experience may exempt applicants from the age restriction). They must also meet stringent physical, health and medical requirements and have three years of work experience. Pertinent experience may be in administrative, professional, technical or investigative work, or in other progressively more responsible career fields.

You'll also need to have at least a bachelor's degree, and one year of specialized work experience equivalent to the FV-G level. Examples of this include law enforcement experience (e.g., conducting criminal investigations; performing inspections or evaluations to determine compliance with laws and regulations affecting aviation; developing or implementing policies or procedures affecting aviation security; and providing security risk, threat or vulnerability assessments related to aviation security). Completion of a doctoral degree or three full academic years of graduate education in criminal justice, public administration, police science, law or aviation management is also helpful.

Employment begins with Air Marshals attending two seven-week courses at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center site in Artesia, N.M. or at the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) academy in Atlantic City, N.J. The instruction includes marksmanship, physical training and critical scenarios air marshals may encounter on the job. After successful completion of the courses, an air marshal may be assigned to one of the 21 national field offices or one of the airport-based offices.

Federal Air Marshal Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for security guards is $24,020, and for federal marshals, who are categorized under police and detectives, $56,980 annually. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

If you think you'd like a career as an air marshal, check the TSA website for additional requirements, then get the information you need from the schools below.

Ontario Criminal Justice Schools

Campuses: Barrie, Kitchener, Hamilton, Sudbury, Scarborough, Nepean, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Windsor

Degrees Offered:

  • Diploma - Law Enforcement Foundations

Campuses: Kingston, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Burlington, Oshawa

Degrees Offered:

  • Diploma in Police Foundations

Iowa Criminal Justice Schools

Campuses: Cedar Falls, IA, Cedar Rapids, IA

Degrees Offered:

  • Private Security Certificate

Online Criminal Justice Schools

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor's - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement (Online)

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts - Law Enforcement Administration (Online)

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Science - Public Administration: Law Enforcement

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Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.
Earning a degree may not qualify you for specialized careers that require more education or experience in the field.