What does working as an officer for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) entail? Working as a Border Services Officer (BSO) is a desirable career option for individuals who attain a criminology and policing degree.
Pursuing an occupation with the CBSA goes beyond basic day-to-day responsibilities; BSOs must be thoroughly committed to the Agency's charter and detailed code of conduct and dedicate themselves to respect, courtesy and fair application of the law.
If you think you have what it takes to become a BSO, learn more about how to become a CBSA officer, typical job responsibilities, estimated salaries, and opportunities available in CBSA occupations.
What is a CBSA Officer?
More than 14,000 public servants currently work across the nation to ensure Canada’s security by supporting the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). The CBSA is the agency that aids the flow of legitimate travel and trade through the Canadian borders to ensure the safety of the country and its residents.
A CBSA Officer is also known as a Border Services Officer (BSO). A BSO is a federal law enforcement officer employed by the CBSA who is responsible for controlling the movement of people and goods through Canadian borders, detaining and removing potential threats, and collecting duties and taxes. A BSO is alternatively referred to as a Border Patrol Officer (BPO), Customers Officer, and Customs Agent.
Kieran is a former volunteer firefighter and St. John Ambulance responder who works for the Canada Border Services Agency. He was drawn to the CBSA and models his career around CBSA values and ethics while championing visible minorities in the workplace. Kieran’s story encapsulates what it’s like to work with the CBSA in the following video.
Canadian border services officers work at 1,100 points of service across the country, including highway crossings, airports, marine terminals, rail ports, and postal facilities. BSOs impact almost every sector of Canadian society by enforcing laws and regulations that uphold public safety. BSOs are responsible for:
- Controlling the movement of people, animals, plants and other goods into and out of Canada;
- apprehending, detaining and removing people who are inadmissible and pose a threat to Canada, including terrorists and war criminals and;
- collecting applicable duties and taxes on imported goods.
How Hard is it to Become a CBSA Officer?
Motivated individuals who are dedicated, focussed, and passionate about security, law, or policing will be the most successful in becoming CBSA officers. The journey to becoming a CBSA officer involves a list of prerequisites, an intensive selection process, and an ongoing dedication to the role. The results are worthwhile; CBSA officers enjoy job security, competitive salaries, and benefits.
How to Become a CBSA Officer in Canada
The CBSA employs professionals for a variety of careers in border management, from investigations, big data analysis and border risk assessment.
If you want to learn more about how to become a CBSA officer, start by reviewing the necessary job requirements. To be considered for Canadian Border Enforcement Agency Training:
- Applicants must have Canadian citizenship or be permanent residents.
- Applicants must earn a high school diploma and a university degree or a two-year college diploma.
- Applicants are encouraged to complete courses in subjects like policing, psychology, criminology, security or law.
- Applicants must have valid driver’s licenses.
- Preference is given to Canadian citizens and veterans.
Once you obtain the necessary job requirements to become a border officer in Canada, you can enter the eight-step selection process, which involves:
- Officer trainee entrance exam (OTEE): Candidates must complete the OTEE exam, an online exam consisting of 132 multiple-choice questions.
- Interview: Based on the Agency’s needs, the candidate will undergo a rigorous interview assessing the candidate's values, integrity, judgment, communication abilities, and ability to deal with challenging situations.
- Firearms safety courses: Successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Courses and pass the applicable tests.
- Physical evaluation: In the BSO Induction Training Program, candidates must be able to perform physically demanding use-of-force training. Candidates must complete the Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE) test during the selection process.
- Second language evaluation: The BSO induction process continues with a second-language evaluation for qualified French speakers. Candidates proficient in just one language may be considered for a corresponding position.
- Psychological assessment: Candidates can expect psychological testing and evaluation, which evaluates suitability to carry a duty firearm. The goal is to identify potential judgment or behavioural issues that could affect the candidate's ability to exercise sound judgment in stressful situations.
- Medical exam: BSOs must pass a Category III pre-placement evaluation conducted by a physician designated by Health Canada. The exam includes confidential health questionnaires, a full clinical history, as well as vision and hearing testing.
- Secret security clearance: At some point during the BSO selection process, the CBSA will request that candidates undergo a security clearance screening process. The process begins via email and requires the candidate to respond with fingerprints and other documentation listing personal references. Obtaining a security clearance is an absolute condition of employment as a BSO.
Training and Development
The journey to becoming a border service officer continues after completing the selection process. If you have been selected to continue pursuing a career as a BSO, you will enroll in training courses to learn more about:
- Legislation, policies and procedures applied concerning people and goods to and from Canada;
- interview and communication skills;
- inspection techniques and;
- the use of force and physical training techniques.
The courses will take place online, in-residence, and on the job for the following duration:
- Four weeks of online facilitated training
- Four and a half months of in-residence training at the CBSA College in Rigaud, Quebec
- One to one and a half years of paid on-the-job development as a trainee at one of the Agency’s Ports of Entry
What is a CBSA Officer Salary?
The average CBSA officer salary changes based on your level of training, years of experience, and seniority. As a trainee, a CBSA will earn an annual salary between $64,234 to $71,525. After completing the designated development program at an assigned port of entry, applicants will become an official border services officer and their annual salary will increase from $69,486 to $82,411.
What is the Job Outlook for a CBSA Officer?
There are job opportunities for CBSA officers in every province. The Government of Canada expects the job outlook for BSOs in Québec will be good over the next three years as a result of new positions opening up, retirements, and general demand.
The Canada Border Services Agency carries out its responsibilities with a workforce of approximately 14,000 employees, including over 6,500 uniformed CBSA officers who provide services at nearly 1,200 points across Canada and at 39 international checkpoints. The CBSA will need uniformed and civilian employees to fill thousands of positions as the present workforce ages and retires.
Join the Future of Border Security With a Degree in Criminology and Policing
Whether you’re considering a career as a BSO or wish to advance your career in policing or criminology, continuing or completing your online education is a wise choice. Wilfrid Laurier University offers an Honours BA in Policing for working and retired police officers with at least one year of professional experience and a Combined Honours BA in Criminology and Policing for those without prior law enforcement experience.
By enrolling in a bachelor’s program with WLU, students can expect:
- Courses designed by professionals and academics with years of field experience
- Flexible and convenient 100% online format
- Asynchronous courses - focus on one subject
- The ability to earn credentials while working full-time, from anywhere in the country
- Personalized support from student success advisors
The Master of Public Safety degree allows you to pursue a leadership position and align your area of study with your goals by choosing from one of the following pathways:
- Border Strategies;
- Countering Crime;
- Emergency Management; or
- National Security