How to Become a US Air Marshal

Knowing how to become a US Air Marshal can widen career options for graduates of criminal justice degrees. Historically, air marshals are three-star air officers with the rank associated to the Royal Air Force. For use in the US context, air marshals would have an entirely different meaning.

What is a US Air Marshal?

US Air Marshals or Sky Marshals are federal law enforcement agents who travel undercover aboard commercial airlines. It is the primary responsibility of air marshals to recognize and prevent acts that will put airplanes and their passengers to harm. They perform their work usually in coordination with the National Counter Terrorism Center and other related agencies.

The nature of work of air marshals make it necessary for them to spend half the time of every year in flight with the remaining half spent on ground. They can be stationed on domestic as well as international flights. Although the job appears to have a very limited area scope which is a plane, the work of an air marshal has national and even international scope.

Air marshals work as part of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which falls under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Homeland Security. Air marshals are expected to possess the knowledge and skills of a highly trained federal law enforcement officer. Their main concerns are acts or terrorism, and criminality that might be perpetuated inside the airplane or using the airplane.

Education and Training

Individuals who wish to pursue careers as US Air Marshals must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, criminal investigation, or homeland security. A master’s degree or a doctoral degree allows applicants to compete for highly-desired positions in the agency. Forming an integral part of an air marshals‘training is handling of firearms.

Candidates who have no degree but have at least three (3) years of relevant work experience in an investigative or law enforcement capacity are likewise considered for the job. Applicants who are accepted into the air marshal program will be required to undergo intensive training regardless of educational background. The first part of the training will focus on law enforcement classes, behavior observation, and marksmanship. The second part of the training will focus on defense techniques and perfecting the skills learned during the first part. It should be noted that all candidates should have applied with the Transportation Security Administrations (TSA).

Becoming a US Air Marshal

Applicants must pass written exams and proficiency tests after undergoing training. It is the TSA Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service who provides training to candidates. All acting marshals are licensed through this office as well.

Before an applicant is accepted into the air marshal program, he should have passed the qualifying screening process consisting of interviews, mental health and psycho-social evaluation, drug test, background check, and fingerprinting. A medical and fitness exam will also be administered to each applicant. The results of all these will be evaluated by a Senior Air Marshal who shall recommend if an applicant is fit to join the training program proper.

Candidates who successfully complete the training program will await placement in one of the 21 field offices maintained by TSA nationwide. Once assigned, they will undergo further training on how to handle every possible in-flight scenario. Armed air marshals are required to complete the Law Enforcement Officers Flying Armed Training Program prior to assignment. That is how to become a US Air Marshal.