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How To Become An Air Marshal in The U.S.: Career & Salary Information

Despite it statistically being the safest form of transportation, air travel can be one of the scariest forms of travel. Whether it is the speed, the bumpy take-offs, landings, or the fact that for prolonged periods of time, your feet are not firmly on the ground, many people experience great fear of flying.

Aside from claustrophobia, a fear of heights, or a fear that the plane might crash, people also have a fear of terrorism and that the plane they are on may be hijacked. In an attempt to mitigate any hostile or criminal acts, the U.S. Government has employed the roles of air marshals to keep flights and other forms of travel as safe as possible.

Air marshals are members of the U.S. Federal Government. To pursue this career path, you would not only need to meet the minimum requirements of being a U.S. citizen, the appropriate age, and having relevant experience, but you also need to have appropriate training and qualifications.

While some people are terrified of flying, others absolutely enjoy it. If you are one of the people who enjoy flying and you are hoping to find a career where flying intersects with criminal justice and law enforcement, then let us look at this interesting career prospect.

What Is An Air Marshal?

In a partnership with homeland security, a U.S. air marshal is an individual who is present on an airplane, and their duty is to protect those on the plane from any actual or rumored harm. They are meant to identify and immediately stop any potential or actual hostile situations that are taking place in the aircraft.

It is known that being on an airplane at 30,000 ft in the air puts you in quite a vulnerable position. Without your feet on the ground and not many places to run, it is clear to see those extremely trained and specialized individuals would be needed to handle any threatening situation that may arise.

While air marshals may not constantly be showered with thanks and praise for keeping air travel safe, they are the unsung heroes. The role of air marshals was not as prominent in the past as they currently are, but with an increased risk in flight safety, the need grew, and this led to an increase in demand for those to fill this role.

Yes, the need for transport and aircraft security has always existed, but this need grew exponentially after the events of 9/11.

What Does An Air Marshal Do?

As part of the Transport Security Administration (TSA), an air marshal is required to fulfill one of many duties depending on the role they hold. The job of aircraft security begins on the ground, and it is on the ground where they would need to conduct the screening and clearance of all those getting on and getting off local and international flights.

In the air, they need to possess extremely specialized skills in which they would need to quickly identify and resolve any hostile situations that could arise.

From on-flight investigations to land-based investigations, air marshals need to be extremely skilled at not only maintaining subtlety to avoid threats arising because of their presence, but they also have a specific skill at hand-to-hand combat in extremely confined spaces.

What's more, is that air marshals must be impeccable marksmen, and they need to be extremely trained in the use of firearms. If the situation does escalate to such degrees and they need to use a firearm on the aircraft, their precision needs to be unmatched, making certain they do not cause any damage to the aircraft or cause any collateral injuries.

Additionally, once the aircraft is in the air, it is not always easy to come back down. This means that the air marshal is one person who will need to successfully disarm and defuse an incident without the prospect of calling in backup.

Air marshals, on average, would fly for about 180 days in the year, spending 900 hours in the air. As it is their day job, they will spend about five days a week among the clouds.

Steps To Become An Air Marshal

Step One: Meet The Minimum Requirements

To be eligible for consideration in the role of an air marshal would mean first being a U.S. citizen, being between the ages of 21 and 37, holding a valid driver's license, and having federal law experience.

Step Two: Obtain Qualifications

Whether you are gaining these qualifications in the form of a degree in criminal justice, law, and security or any related field, whether you have experience in a related role, or if you use a combination of knowledge and qualifications, you will be eligible to move onto the next step in becoming an air marshal.

Step Three: Applications And Assessments

By this point, you would be ready to submit an application for a role as an air marshal, and should your application be considered, you will be interviewed, and you will be required to complete a number of assessments.

These assessments include a criminal and credit check, a background check, and a physical, mental, and psychological evaluation, and you will be required to complete the extensive assessments that the Federal Air Marshal Training Program (FAMTP) is comprised.

Step Four: Assume The Position

Once successful, you will then begin executing your role as an air marshal, and you will receive continuous on-the-job training.

What Degree Do You Need To Be An Air Marshal?

Having a bachelor's degree in law enforcement, criminal justice, law, or security will be beneficial to your role as an air marshal. Additionally, any other field-related degree will be beneficial to you.

What Is The Average Salary For An Air Marshal?

Air marshals are classified under the roles of police and sheriffs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage is $64,610, and the mean annual wage is $70,750. This is in accordance with an update made on the BLS in March 2022.

What Makes A Good Air Marshal?

Aside from the expected skills and the combination of experience, expertise, and qualifications that air marshals are required to have, they need to have superior innate skills that will qualify them for their role.

Firstly, they need the ability to remain calm in situations that have the potential to turn into life-or-death situations.

They need to possess extremely acute investigative skills whereby they are able to intensively monitor a large number of passengers in a very confined space. Everything from body language, strange behaviors, or anything that feels remotely out of place needs to be promptly pinpointed and mitigated by the air marshal without trying to draw too much attention to the situation at hand.

Additionally, air marshals need to possess the unique skill of keeping situations calm, especially on an aircraft where hysteria is spread so easily.


How Many U.S. Air Marshals Are There?

With the expansion and demand for air marshals and their roles, there are currently between 3,000 and 5,000 air marshals in the U.S.

Do Air Marshals Carry Guns On Planes?

Air marshals are allowed to carry firearms and make arrests, and they are allowed to disclose their identity to cabin crew members but not to other passengers.

How Often Do Air Marshals Fly?

Air marshals spend as much time in the air as many people will spend at their day job. They spend between 900 hours per year in the air or 180 days per year, and they may work on flights for five days a week.

Is Being An Air Marshal A Good Job?

With multiple benefits from retirement, medical, dental and vision, and life insurance, air marshal roles are highly sought after. With an impressive annual compensation, it is thought to be an excellent job.

Do Other Countries Have Air Marshals?

While not all countries globally employ the use of air marshals, the countries that do are the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland, India, and Pakistan, to name a few.


Some people only have a dream of having their head in the clouds, while others do it for a living. With extensive experience and an admirable demeanor, U.S. air marshals not only protect those around them, but they also do it with calm anonymity that many would admire.

If you find flying to be calming and relaxing, but you seek the thrill of law enforcement, perhaps this role is for you.

find criminal justice degrees near you

find criminal justice degrees near you