U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Since its formation in 2003, ICE was the nation’s response to the 9/11 attacks to ensure American safety by enforcing immigration and customs laws. In order to secure the American people and their homeland, ICE has implemented investigative techniques and new technology to provide important resources and information to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. ICE operations unit is broken down into four divisions: Office of Detention and Removal Operations, Office of Investigations, Office of Intelligence and Office of International Affairs. One of the key law enforcement careers within ICE is special agent. This criminal investigator is involved in challenging criminal and civil investigations concerning national security threats, terrorism, drug smuggling, child exploitation, human trafficking, as well as illegal arms exports and financial crimes. ICE special agents’ main focus is preventing terrorism and other criminal activities by identifying the people and resources that are involved in illegal organizations.
The educational requirements of ICE special agents vary by GL level and job responsibilities. According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement career site, most college-educated agents are eligible to work in the GL-5, GL-7 and GL-9 level of law enforcement. At the GL-5 level, students must have a bachelor’s degree or a full 4-year course of study in any field of study leading to a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. For the GL-7 level, applicants are required to have one full year of graduate level education or Superior Academic Achievement (S.A.A.), which is defined on the agency’s site. Lastly, students interested in the GL-9 level may substitute a master’s degree, 2 full years of graduate education, or a L.L.B. or J.D. degree in any field of study from an accredited college. Graduate education and specialized experience can also be combined to meet the experience requirements for the GL-9 level. Applicants can also use specialized work experience as a substitute to education, however, this may require a longer waiting period before you are eligible to enter the agency. In addition, all applicants, regardless of experience or education level, must meet age and citizenship requirements, as well as successfully complete a criminal background investigation and other mandatory screenings.
Career Outlook and Salary
The career outlook for ICE special agents is expected to remain stable, as the nation continues to need law enforcement and investigative work around America’s borders. While it is a growing field of law enforcement, the demand for special agents may fluctuate significantly. ICE is not currently recruiting entry-level special agents, according to the agency’s Web site. Recruiting will commence when positions become available or new positions need to be filled, due to retired agents and those who leave the field completely. The best way to learn more about becoming an ICE special agent is to contact your nearest special agent in charge office and request to speak with the "special agent recruiter." As for special agents’ earning potential, GL-5 officers, who are in their beginning stages of work, can make anywhere from $33,829 to $42,055, according to the Law Enforcement Officer Locality Pay Tables.