Job descriptions and industry overviews

Border force officer: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:43

Border force officers (sometimes called customs officers) are responsible for keeping UK borders secure, and for preventing people importing illegal goods such as firearms and endangered animals into the country.

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Border force officer : Salaries | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Border force officers are employed by the Home Office (part of the Civil Service) and work in UK ports and airports, monitoring these for threats to security.

Typical duties include:

  • checking travel documents of people arriving at and departing through UK borders.
  • questioning people arriving at and departing from ports and airports.
  • searching vehicles, baggage and individuals for smuggled items.
  • seizing smuggled goods.
  • checking documentation relating to imported goods.
  • reporting incidents to relevant organisations.
  • patrolling coastal waters.
  • keeping detailed records (these may be used in court as evidence).
  • liaising with members of the Home Office and with professionals from other UK security forces such as police officers.

You’re likely to need to work shifts involving unsociable hours due to the operating hours of ports and airports. However, you’ll be entitled to regular breaks during and between shifts.

The work of border force officers is different from that of immigration officers . Both are involved in checking arrivals at UK borders, but only immigration officers can make decisions about who is entitled to stay in the UK.

Graduate salaries

The UK government reports that starting salaries for border force officers are in the region of £21,000. There are opportunities for progression both within Border Force and the Civil Service.

Job vacancies are advertised directly at

Qualifications, training and requirements

You can join the Border Force as a school leaver, with A levels (or equivalent) or as a graduate — however, none of the entry routes require a degree.

To start your border force career without a degree, you could become a border force assistant officer and progress to the level of border force officer. For this, You typically need five GCSEs at grade 4 or above (A* to C) including English and maths. Alternatively, if you have two A levels at grade E or above (or equivalent), you could apply directly to train as a border force officer.

Although not a requirement, some choose to become border force officers after gaining a university-level qualification. The knowledge gained by studying a related subject at this level may stand you in good stead for grasping the theory side of the role. Good examples of qualifications include:

  • a HND in policing
  • a law degree
  • a psychology degree
  • a criminology degree.

Along with the educational requirements, you’ll also need to:

  • be a UK national
  • be least 18 years old
  • have lived in the UK for at least the last five years
  • have a full driving licence.

The recruitment process involves a security check and can also include a medical examination.

Key skills for border force officers

  • Attention to detail.
  • Assertiveness.
  • The ability to remain calm and impartial in tense situations.
  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to communicate with people in stressful situations and/or with limited English.
  • Teamworking skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.

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