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Federal Protective Service Officer: Career Guide

The US Federal Protective Service (FPS) is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. FPS officers provide security and law enforcement services to buildings that are used by the federal General Services Administration (GSA), including federal courthouses. Federal Protective Service officers may work as law enforcement security officers or criminal investigators. Officers who excel in their positions may advance to such posts as protective security program manager or mission support specialist.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

FPS officers provide protection for more than 9,000 federal buildings. Most FPS officers are uniformed law enforcement agents who question criminal suspects, prevent crimes if possible, arrest offenders, and assist police. In addition to the uniformed officers, there is a small group of plainclothes special agents, a physical security force, and a support services division, which contracts with private security firms to support the FPS mission. FPS officers:

  • Conduct physical security surveys
  • Monitor security devices and systems
  • Develop and implement protective countermeasures
  • Present formal crime prevention and security awareness programs
  • Install alarm systems and x-ray equipment for entry control
  • Provide a visible law enforcement presence in federal buildings
  • Manage K-9 explosive detection operations

Steps for Becoming a Federal Protective Service Officer

Prospective FPS officers must be a minimum of 21 years of age, possess a valid driver’s license, and be a US citizen to apply. The general steps to become an FPS officer are as follows:

  1. Attend a degree program or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for an open position on the USAJobs website.
  3. Attend an interview with the Department of Homeland Security.
  4. Successfully complete a physical examination, drug test, polygraph exam, and background investigation.
  5. Get hired as an FPS officer.
  6. Pass mandatory training at the Federal Law Enforcement Center.

*While a degree is not listed as a mandatory requirement, employment with the FPS is very competitive. Most FPS employees have at least a bachelor’s degree, and some have master’s degrees or above.

FPS Officer Job Training

Candidates with preliminary offers of employment must complete training at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Glynco, Georgia. Training covers such areas as handling K-9 officers, responding to hazardous materials, and working with weapons of mass destruction.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prospective FPS officers should have strong communication skills, excellent physical fitness, and a broad law enforcement skill set. Candidates with previous law enforcement, military, or security experience may have a hiring advantage.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • FPS Officer
  • Law Enforcement Security Officer
  • Physical Security Investigator

Federal Protective Service Salary and Job Outlook

FPS officers are paid according to the United States Government’s General Schedule (GS) salary structure, which sets salary levels based on experience and education. View current General Schedule rates at the US Office of Personnel Management website. The salary and outlook data offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that is most similar to that of an FPS officer is the data for police and detectives. The BLS reports that police and detectives earned a median annual salary of $60,270 as of May 2015.2 Police and detective jobs are expected to grow by 4% between 2014-2024, which is slower than the national rate for all jobs.2

Since a career with the FPS interests you, you may also want to take a look at these other related jobs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is previous law enforcement experience necessary?

Answer: No, although it can provide an advantage in the hiring process. All FPS officers must successfully complete training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia.

Question: How many federal sites is the Federal Protective Service responsible for protecting?

Answer: FPS officers provide protective services to an estimated 9,000 federal sites throughout the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Question: How many FPS officers work for the Federal Protective Service?

Answer: The FPS has officers reporting directly to the division as well as protective officers who are contracted through private security firms. According to the FPS, over 1,300 officers and specialists work directly for the agency, which oversees a further 13,000 contract officers.1

Question: Where does the Federal Protective Service have field offices?

Answer: For the purposes of the FPS, the country has been divided into 11 regions, including: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City (Missouri), Grand Prairie (Texas), Denver, San Francisco, Federal Way (Washington State), and the National Capital Region (Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia). Each field office is responsible for protecting the facilities in its jurisdiction.

Additional Resources

  • Department of Homeland Security – The Federal Protective Service: An overview of the protective services offered by The Federal Protective Service.
  • The Federal Protective Service Reform Act – An official government statement outlining the changes to the Federal Protective Service Reform Act, including training information for prospective FPS officers.
  • The Federal Protective Service – Careers with the Federal Protective Service: An explanation of the FPS’s role and responsibilities and career options with the organization.

Contact Information

Federal Protective Service
301 7th St SW Ste G217
Washington, DC 20407
(212) 264-4255

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FederalProtectiveService/
Twitter (Homeland Security): @DHSgov

References:
1. US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service Operations: https://www.dhs.gov/fps-operations
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm