In California, newly hired air marshals are routinely assigned to the Los Angeles Air Marshal Field Office or the El Toro headquarters immediately after completing their initial training. California’s defunct El Toro Marine Base was recently renovated to become the Southern California regional headquarters for air marshal operations, marking a major expansion of the agency’s presence in the state.

Federal air marshals are very active in California where a strong presence is needed to ensure security on thousands of flights that transit through some of the nation’s busiest airports everyday. This was never clearer than in September of 2006 when a federal air marshal subdued a man who tried to open the exit door on a flight from LAX to Washington. The United flight landed on schedule and the air marshal escorted the individual from the plane before turning him over to the FBI for questioning.

Steps for Becoming an Air Marshal
  1. Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for an air marshal job on the USAJOBS website.
  3. Be interviewed and perform other assessments.
  4. Submit to fingerprinting and a background investigation.
  5. Take and pass a drug screening.
  6. Take and pass a medical exam.

Inside Look: Federal Air Marshal Service

What does an air marshal do?

Air marshals are specially trained, armed law enforcement officers who work for the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and are tasked with protecting passengers and crews on domestic and international flights. Theyre responsible for identifying and apprehending dangerous people and preventing criminal activity during flights and in airports.

Some of their primary duties include detecting and defeating hostile acts against aviation, sitting on random flights and monitoring passengers to identify any potential threats and taking action when necessary to protect the passengers and crew.

They work closely with other local and federal law enforcement agencies to maximize security and also assist with security for other transportation methods, such as passenger trains. They may participate in multi-agency task forces and in land-based investigations to fight terrorism.

How to become an air marshal

Here are the basic steps you must take to pursue a career as an air marshal:

1. Obtain a bachelors degree

While you can qualify for air marshal jobs with three years of relevant experience, the government prefers candidates who have a college degree. They may also accept a combination of education and experience. The experience that the TSA wants to see includes progressively responsible general experience, where candidates have demonstrated an ability to analyze problems, plan and organize work and communicate effectively.

That said, a degree will be required if you have aspirations of earning a supervisory position in the future. Competition for these jobs is also intense and graduates who hold a four-year degree in a field that develops leadership skills can give them an edge over other candidates.

Some ideal degrees for aspiring air marshals include:

2. Obtain experience

The Federal Air Marshal Service prefers candidates who have experience that demonstrates their ability to gather data, analyze problems and identify solutions. They must also have proven written and verbal communication skills.

Aspiring air marshals can obtain experience by applying for internships or entry-level positions. They could also consider joining a local law enforcement agency or the military. This would give them the required fitness and marksmanship skills as well as a competitive edge over other candidates, especially as military veterans receive preferential treatment as candidates for open-air marshal positions.

3. Meet the TSA requirements

Candidates must meet several requirements to qualify for air marshal positions. They must be between the ages of 21 and 36 at the time of application. If you turn 37 before training is finished, you arent eligible unless you are a veteran. Candidates must undergo a drug test and a criminal and credit background check to ensure they have no disqualifying financial delinquencies or criminal convictions.

Applicants must also pass mental and physical health evaluations, a panel interview and an evaluation by a supervisory air marshal. They must also qualify for top-secret security clearance and pass a polygraph exam.

4. Complete air marshal training

After completing the application process, aspiring air marshals must complete a 16-week training program. The first part of their training program is conducted at the Federal Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, and consists of physical fitness, marksmanship and classroom instruction.

The second phase of their training is conducted at the Federal Air Marshal Service Training Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the aspiring air marshals undergo advanced weapons training. They also learn international law, aircraft safety protocols and defensive techniques.


Is it hard to become an air marshal?

You’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and one year of specialized work experience equivalent to the FV-G level. The experience can include: Conducting criminal investigations. Performing inspections to determine compliance with laws and regulations affecting aviation.

How much money does a US air marshal make?

Salary Ranges for Federal Air Marshals

The salaries of Federal Air Marshals in the US range from $12,656 to $339,013 , with a median salary of $61,150 . The middle 57% of Federal Air Marshals makes between $61,150 and $152,668, with the top 86% making $339,013.

How do you become a air force marshal?

Here are the basic steps you must take to pursue a career as an air marshal: Obtain a bachelor’s degree. Obtain experience.

Complete air marshal training.
  1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree. …
  2. Obtain experience. …
  3. Meet the TSA requirements. …
  4. Complete air marshal training.

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