How to Become an Air Marshal

how to become an air marshal

If you are curious about what it takes to keep people safe and can remain calm in times of danger, then maybe becoming part of the federal air marshal service is for you. Below, we describe what an air marshal is, the career in general, the steps on how to become an air marshal, and the outlook for an air marshal.

What is an Air Marshal?

In general terms, the air marshal is an individual trained in law enforcement specializing in commercial aircraft security. The air marshal ensures that all aircraft passengers and crew are always safe and deters any threat involving security. The air marshal boards a flight that has both domestic and international destinations.

When The Federal Air Marshal Service Was Formed

The individual air marshal is a federal agent of the Federal Air Marshal Service. The Air Marshal Service is a federal agency under the TSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 1961, the Federal Air Marshal Service was formed to prevent airplane hijacking. Following the 9/11 terrorist attack, the amount of airplane security was increased, and the Department of Homeland Security acquired the Air Marshal Service.

Steps To Become a Federal Air Marshal

For you to become a Federal Air Marshal, there are some basic requirements that must be met by the applicant such as:

  • Being at least 21 years of age but no older than 37
  • Must have U.S. citizenship
  • Have a driver’s license that is valid
  • Have a bachelor’s degree and/or relevant work experience*


*check the job requirements to be sure of everything needed.

1. Application for Employment

Once these basic requirements have been met, then you will be able to obtain and submit the job application. Obtaining and filling out the application for air marshal is done through the career page of the TSA. The applicant can also visit USAJOBS to apply.

2. Take and Pass the Assessment Battery Test for Air Marshals

Once you qualify and advance through the selection process, you will be invited to take the assessment battery test. This exam is taken on a computer and will assess your situational judgment, writing, and logical reasoning abilities.

3. Have An Interview in Front Of A Panel

Once you have successfully passed the assessment battery, you will take part in an interview in front of a panel at an air marshal field office. The purpose of the interview is to meet the managers face-to-face. By having an in-person meeting, the decision on suitability can be determined based on how a candidate composes themself and the way answers are given.

4. Take the Physical Training Assessment Test

After a successful interview, the candidate will need to complete a satisfactory physical training assessment test. This test will measure the amount of physical activity you can handle. The PTA will involve the completion of a run, sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups.

5. Have Your Background Checked

Now that you are physically qualified for the job, you will be invited to a second field office interview where you will be subjected to a full background check of your personal and professional life.

You may also be subjected to a polygraph and submit your fingerprints. These requirements will be to determine if your application is fully accurate.

6. Have a Physical Exam

Once your background is good to go, you will have a thorough physical examination by medical staff. You will also need to supply a urine sample for drug testing. Once your drug screen comes back clean, an offer of conditional employment will be presented.

7. Participate in the Required Federal Air Marshal Training Program

Now that you have accepted the job offer as an air marshal, you will be sent to attend a 3 ½ month training course to prepare air marshals for their position. This program covers three different areas such as firearms, a pistol course, and practical exercise performance.

There are two stages that the training course can be conducted in. The first is conducted at the Atlantic City training center and lasts for 43 days. The second is in New Mexico’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and lasts 35 days.

Air Marshal Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

The duties and work that an air marshal conducts is in an anonymous manner so that aircraft passengers enjoy a flight that is comfortable and not to allow potential threats to realize that an air marshal is onboard.

The tasks and duties that an air marshal completes on a daily level involve the following:

  • Investigating potential flight threats
  • Monitoring and supervising airports
  • Obtaining warrants for arrest
  • Working alongside other federal agencies

As the TSA’s primary law enforcement agent, the air marshal is responsible for the security of all aircraft and all other related air transportation services that relate to the infrastructure of the country.

The air marshal’s role continues to evolve and has been known to involve working along other federal law enforcement agencies such as:

  • The Joint Terrorism Task Force
  • The National Targeting Center
  • The National Counterterrorism Center

As far as qualifying for firearms is concerned, the air marshal is considered to have the highest standard out of all the federal agencies and many of them are excellent marksmen too. With many air marshals flying at least two weeks a month, the air marshal is up in the air for at least 900 hours throughout the year.

Education and Experience for Air Marshals

The air marshal service requires the candidate to have at least a bachelor’s degree and have some prior experience in a related field. Some of the related experience can include performing investigations, risk assessment, and aviation security. There are degrees in Criminal Justice, Security Management and Homeland Security that prepare you for this career.

A career as a federal air marshal is not an easy one to get into, but when you have enough education and experience, it can make things a lot easier as you go through the application process.

Important Skills to Have as an Air Marshal

Communication – An air marshal needs to be able to talk in a calm manner under pressure. This calm demeanor will help passengers remain calm if a threat is sensed. When subpoenaed to court, the air marshal must speak clearly and concisely.

Be empathetic – The air marshal needs to put themselves in other people’s shoes and thoroughly understand the complexity of passenger safety.

Show leadership – Being an air marshal means that you are a leader, and you can take charge when a situation arises.

Be observant – Being an air marshal means that you are constantly watching out for threats and watching for suspicious activity. It also means being able to resolve any activity that appears suspicious in nature.

Make judgment calls – Because you are constantly observing others, you must be able to make judgment calls by analyzing various circumstances and deciding if you should intervene.

Federal Air Marshal Salary and Job Outlook

The beginning salary for a newly appointed air marshal is an average of $46,065 and can be close to $95,000, depending on experience and years of service.

Besides the good pay, there are several benefits that the air marshal enjoys. These benefits include paid time off, health, dental, and vision, and retirement savings, along with federal life insurance

It is believed that the federal air marshal service will grow and produce an additional 38,000 jobs up to 2028, which is good to know once you know how to become an air marshal.

Next Steps 

If you are looking for an exciting career that combines law enforcement and aviation, then becoming an air marshal is a great choice. Get information from a few air marshal programs today.