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US Marshal: Career Guide

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The US Marshals Service was founded in 1789 to serve the federal court system. US marshals have the broadest arrest authority of all federal law enforcement agents and work in many federal law enforcement situations. Career opportunities within the US Marshals Service largely depend on the retirement of current marshals, although the agency does hire deputy marshals, detention enforcement agents, and support staff throughout the year. The US Marshals Service posts employment opportunities on its website.

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Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

US marshals provide many services. They safeguard federal witnesses and transport federal prisoners to and from court and prison. They also protect federal judges and oversee assets that are seized in criminal enterprises. US marshals are involved in the arrest of fugitives from federal charges and also assist other agencies in apprehending dangerous fugitives. US marshals arrest an average of 347 fugitives every day.1

US marshals may also be assigned to complete tactical missions within the US and abroad. Agents working for the US Marshals Service have the authority to cross jurisdictional lines, and unlike many other US law enforcement officers, they can receive arrest powers to apprehend fugitives located in other countries. The US Marshals Service also operates an Asset Forfeiture Program, which seizes, manages, and sells assets connected to criminal enterprises that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Note that federal air marshals are not agents of the US Marshals Service, but of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Steps for Becoming a US Marshal

To become a federal marshal, most candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in a field such as criminal justice, criminology, or law enforcement and one year of specialized experience. An acceptable combination of education and experience equal to the GL-07 level is also sufficient for applicants.

There are other requirements an applicant must meet to become a US marshal. US marshal candidates must be US citizens between 21 and 36 years of age. However, the upper age limit may be waived if the candidate is a US veteran or is currently employed in law enforcement. A strong applicant has at least four years of command-level law enforcement management experience. He or she should have experience coordinating the activities of law enforcement agents, preferably involving interactions between different agencies. Candidates must have excellent physical fitness. The applicant’s character and reputation are also carefully considered, so expect a background check and polygraph test.

All applicants must also meet medical qualifications, including possessing at least 20/200 uncorrected vision in both eyes, and 20/40 near vision (either corrected or not corrected). A hearing test will also be administered. Candidates can be disqualified if they have such medical conditions as hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes.

There is one US marshal for each of the 94 federal judicial districts in the US. The process to become a US marshal is unique, as marshals are actually appointed by the President. A candidate who meets the above qualifications must be recommended to the position of US marshal by the senior member of Congress from the state in which there is a vacancy. This recommendation is made to the President. If the President agrees with the nomination, the nomination is passed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approves or denies the nomination. If the Committee approves the nomination, it then goes to a vote of confirmation by the US Senate. If the confirmation is passed, the President must then formally appoint the candidate. At any stage in this process, the nomination can be voted against. In recent years, the recommendation and appointment process has typically taken from two to six months.2 The following are general steps it takes to become a US Marshal:

  1. Acquire an acceptable combination of education and experience to qualify you for a federal marshal position.
  2. Apply for an open position on the USAJOBS website.
  3. Pass a physical fitness test.
  4. Complete an extensive background investigation.
  5. Complete a structured interview and various assessments.
  6. Take and pass a medical examination.
  7. If you are selected, you will attend basic training at the United States Marshals Service Training Academy in Glynco, GA for 21 1/2 weeks.
  8. Be nominated by the President.
  9. Be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  10. Be confirmed by the US Senate.
  11. Be appointed by the President.
  12. Be sworn in as a US marshal.
  13. Continue training on the job.

US Marshal Job Training

Training for US marshals runs for approximately 18 weeks. Candidates are advised to arrive for training, which consists of both physical and education components, in top physical condition. Similar to training for the US Armed Forces, candidates will be expected to run distances of up to 10 miles at a time through challenging terrain and obstacle courses. Training also covers a wide range of knowledge and skills development, including court security, defense tactics, driver training, firearms training, high-threat trials, legal training, protective service training, and surveillance. All candidates must pass a total of seven exams – scoring a minimum of 70 percent on each test – to graduate.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

The US Marshal Service values candidates who have law enforcement or military experience. Other work that provides familiarity with US law and criminal procedures can also be beneficial. Prospective marshals should be able to work well under pressure, have strong critical thinking skills, and possess superior attention to detail.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Fugitive Investigator
  • Judicial Security
  • Witness Security

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US Marshal Salary and Job Outlook

In their first year of service, US marshals are paid at the federal GL-07 entry level, which as of 2016 was $45,371 with a locality pay differential.3 After the first year of service, marshals are eligible for promotion to the next pay level. Additional benefits include paid leave, pensions, and a thrift savings plan. US Marshals may retire at the age of 50 after having been in their position for a minimum of 20 years. Marshals have a mandatory retirement age of 57.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does the hiring process take?

    The US Marshals Service employs deputy marshals when there are openings. The hiring process, which encompasses an extensive interview and background investigation, may take anywhere from nine months to a year.

  • Where will I work if I am hired as a US Marshal?

    Newly hired US marshals are assigned to a post based on the needs of the US Marshals Service and may serve in any one of 94 federal districts in the US. All marshals must stay at their initial post for at least three years unless otherwise ordered.

  • How long and where is training located?

    Training lasts for about 18 weeks. All candidates report to the US Marshals Service Training Academy in Georgia, where they must wear uniforms during the day.

Additional Resources


1. US Marshals Service Facts and Figures 2019: https://www.usmarshals.gov/duties/factsheets/facts.pdf
2. Committee on the Judiciary, Executive Nominations: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/nominations/executive
3. US Marshals Service Compensation and Benefits: https://www.usmarshals.gov/careers/compensation.html

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