If you feel strongly about protecting the borders of the United States, then a career as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent might be the right choice. ICE is a department under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s purview. Their job is to protect the country from illegal immigration and cross-border crime. ICE formed in 2003 after the September 11th attacks and today is the largest investigative arm of Homeland Security.
What does it take to become a member of this critical government agency? It starts with a college education.
ICE Job Requirements
ICE has a challenging application process. While each position may have different hiring rules, there are set requirements to be an ICE agent.
ICE agents work in one of four categories:
- Detention and Deportation Officer – Handles oversight and management of nationwide detention and removal programs, according to the ICE website. In addition, they create strategies to help identify public threats and ensure their safe removal.
- Criminal Investigator – A criminal investigator or special agent with ICE conducts civil and criminal investigations regarding national security threats, drug smuggling, terrorism, human trafficking, illegal arms, and other crimes that involve immigrants, documented or not. Special agents typically work with other federal law enforcement agencies to help manage crimes associated with the U.S. border and people crossing it.
- Technical Enforcement Officer – A technical enforcement officer manages or investigates electronic surveillance equipment such as phones, radio frequency technologies, and surveillance systems.
- Deportation Officer – As the name suggests, a deportation officer manages the deportation process. They identify and arrest those illegally in this country and remove them. That involves both deportation and transportation of these individuals.
All four categories of ICE agents provide an invaluable service to this country.
Duties and Common Tasks
There are some apparent similarities in the four categories of ICE agents. In a nutshell, they are all responsible for investigating crimes that have crossed the borders of the U.S. Of course, that could mean coming into the country illegally, but it also involves drug enforcement, smuggling, identifying human and child sex trafficking, illegal arms imports and export, and even financial crimes.
Their duties involve law enforcement at one of the hundreds of offices across the country. Although people tend to think about ICE agents working at the borders, there are jobs in every state. ICE agents not only enforce the laws but also do outreach and educate employers on how to identify those in the country illegally.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
The Department of Homeland Security often looks for those with a history in law enforcement or the military. They also need people with strong technical skills or who speak two or more languages. However, even without these skills, you could still qualify as an ICE agent with the right education.
ICE Education Requirements & Qualifications
To work in ICE, you must qualify at the GL-7 federal level. Essentially, you must show that you have the proper education or experience. For education, they are looking for people who graduate from a program such as Post University’s Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. They will also take degrees in:
- Criminal justice
- Foreign Languages
- Computer Science
There are no set limitations on the course of study, but they give priority to those with these specific degrees. They do require that candidates have a bachelor’s level degree, though.
Some other specific qualifications to work in ICE include:
- You must not be over 37 years old
- You must be a U.S. citizen through birth or naturalization
- You must live in the U.S. for three years before applying, unless you are in the military or have a federal job post overseas
Successful candidates must also pass a background security check, medical exam, and drug test. They must also agree to stay in service for at least three years and be willing to relocate.
Steps to Become an ICE Agent
If you are wondering how to become an ICE agent, it starts with finding the right education path.
1. Graduate with at Least a Bachelor’s-Level Degree
Look into programs like the one at Post University. The Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security focuses on emergency management, a course of study that Homeland Security looks for when hiring ICE agents. The Post University coursework includes the four emergency management phases and provides practical, hands-on experience via mock disaster scenarios. You will study how to:
- Assess threats
- Evaluate plans
- Create strategies to protect the country
It also instills critical skill sets such as effective communication, planning, and law enforcement techniques. In this program, you can choose to focus your studies on one of three specializations:
- Criminal Justice Leadership
- Cybersecurity & Information Assurance
All three are practical choices for a job at ICE.
2. Find the Right Job
The next step in answering the question, “How to become an immigration officer,” involves visiting the federal job website. You will find current ICE and Homeland Security job openings on the USAJOBS.com website. Click on the job that interests you and fill out the application. They will expect you to provide a resume, as well.
Also, if you have federal work experience or time in the military, there are forms you fill out to provide more information (SF-50 and DD-214, respectively). Filling out these forms could potentially bring your resume to the top in the application process.
Once you apply, if you qualify, they can invite you to continue with the application process. They will send a tentative selection letter to an applicant they wish to consider further.
3. Meet Pre-Employment Requirements
The agency will require you to pass certain tests to advance your application, including background, drug, and medical. For anything beyond an entry-level job or specializations, they may also require you to pass an entrance exam and a polygraph test. Most jobs also involve an oral board interview.
The security vetting takes anywhere from three months to several months to complete. Then, they will give you further information on what to do if hired.
ICE Career Outlook & Related Careers
If you are asking, “How much do border patrol agents make,” the answer varies based on a number of factors, including former experience and education. Any career in law enforcement could have a promising outlook, though.
As the need to further secure the country’s borders grows, so will the jobs available in ICE. Likewise, the demand for tech positions and cybersecurity experts will increase, as well, as cybercrime becomes a growing threat.
Similar career options include working for Homeland Security in another capacity, jobs at FEMA, customs enforcement, or law enforcement, at the federal, state, or local levels.
Find out more about what a degree in Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers you by visiting the Post University website today! Post University offers financial assistance and even provides college credits for work experience.
Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.