customs-broker
How to Become a

Customs Broker

The complete career guide to be a Customs Broker: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $73,480
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 4.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Deal Making
    Career Attribute

Customs brokers are experts in import and export laws and regulations. They work with companies to simplify the process of importing goods into the U.S. and exporting goods from the U.S. to other countries. They help companies create the correct paperwork and pay the appropriate taxes and fees.


What is a Customs Broker?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in customs broker roles:

  • Utilize knowledge of import and export laws and regulations, and apply those to shipments made by private companies
  • Estimate the cost of taxes for incoming and outgoing cargo shipments by conducting appraisals of goods
  • Prepare the necessary paperwork for receiving international shipments
  • Serve as point of contact for international companies that import goods into the U.S.

A Day in the Life

You may not hear much about the profession of customs broker, but people with this job title are the ones responsible for making sure goods make it safely into the United States. Being knowledgeable about international, state, and federal laws, a customs broker is hired to smooth the import process and take care of the complicated regulatory and tariff paperwork that may make importing goods as an individual—or even as a company—extremely difficult.

When hired, a customs broker will work directly with the client in dealing with both the production country’s legislation as well as U.S. policies and procedures. In addition to all necessary paperwork, part of the custom broker’s responsibility is also to calculate the taxes owed on the imports and to arrange payment. The process of determining this amount includes a number of factors, such as existing trade treaties, U.S. Harmonized Tariff Classification for goods, anti-dumping duties, and much more.

Those who choose to brave the waters and try to import products without the help of a customs broker often find that the process is subject to lengthy delays. The other major benefit that a customs broker provides is the assurance that all paperwork and taxes will be handled correctly to avoid any large fines or other complications. Customs brokers are licensed through individual ports and should be able to provide proof of their license at any time.

Typical Work Schedule

Most customs brokers work full-time, but they commonly work irregular schedules. Because customs brokers work with international companies, they may be required to work variable shifts in order to be available to work with importers whose normal business hours are during a variety of time zones or across the international date line.

Projected Job Growth

The importing process is continuously being refined and regulated, and increased regulations over imports and exports is expected to increase demand for customs brokers over the coming decade.

Typical Employers

Any company whose business model depends on exporting or importing goods internationally depends on a customs broker to arrange paperwork, advise on laws and regulations, and handle tax calculations and payments, so customs brokers may be employed by a variety of different employers across multiple industries. Many work for companies in the transportation and shipping industries.


How To Become a Customs Broker

To become a customs broker, you’ll need to start by simply making sure that you’re eligible. While there are no formal education requirements, you must be an American citizen, you must be at least 21 years old, and you cannot currently be employed by the federal government. If you meet all these requirements, then you can legally apply to take the appropriate exam and go through the background screening process.

The exam that all customs brokers must pass consists of 80 questions that concern a wide range of importing knowledge, such as entry requirements, penalties, tax rates, valuation protocols, and more. While it’s possible to self-study and achieve a passing grade on the exam, many aspiring customs brokers choose instead to enroll in a customs broker preparation program offered by a community, trade, or vocational college.

The test is only administered twice a year, and 60 questions must be answered correctly to achieve a passing grade. Most experts advise that the entire process of application, exam, and licensing can easily take up to a year. To best prepare for a future as a customs broker, deep study and staying up-to-date with the ever-changing world of import regulations is a must. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to get licensed and provide a quality service for clients wishing to import goods from other countries.


Customs Broker Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$50,670

Average

$73,480

High Range

$115,990

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$24/hr

Average

$35/hr

High Range

$56/hr

How do Customs Broker salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Customs Broker's can make an average annual salary of $73,480, or $35 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $50,670 or $24 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #174 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Highest Education Among Customs Brokers

  • 4%   Doctorate
  • 17.3%   Masters
  • 39%   Bachelors
  • 9.8%   Associates
  • 18.1%   College
  • 10.1%   High School
  • 1.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

998,000

2024 Est. Jobs

1,046,000

Job Growth Rate

4.8%

Est. New Jobs

48,000

How does Customs Broker job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 48,000 jobs for a total of 1,046,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 4.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #444 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Customs Brokers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 172,900 -16,600 -17%
Management of companies and enterprises 62,200 3,100 3%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 55,500 900 1%

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