How to Become a Customs Officer in Australia

How to Become a Customs Officer in Australia

As a Customs Officer (now known as a Border Force Officer) you follow your training and use critical thinking skills to help secure Australia’s borders. Physical fitness is an important requirement and while some roles are focused indoors (such as at airports and ports) some positions take you into the outdoors patrolling Australia’s waters.  

There are many roles within the organisation and Customs Officers will find lots of opportunities to progress and develop their career over the years. You will need a high level of integrity, dedication, and professionalism to carry out the role which may, at times, involve confronting people breaking the law with reasonable and necessary actions.  

Customs Officers work in a dynamic and fast-paced challenging work environment with a lot of responsibility on their shoulders as they check and monitor people and goods entering and leaving Australia. Good fitness is important, but the job also requires critical thinking, and sound knowledge of the laws you are expected to uphold.  

Are you keen to play an important role in safeguarding Australia? Do you want a professional career without having to go to University? Are you in good shape? Then, keep reading to find out the steps you need to take to become a Customs Officer.

Step 1: Check you Meet Minimum Requirements

You must be an Australian Citizen over 18 years of age and have completed a Year 12 education or Year 10 with a trade certificate or Year 10 with a Cert IV and/or equivalent. You also need to meet minimum fitness, aptitude and psychometric requirements. If you think you can meet these minimum requirements, you can take the online self-assessment form to get a more detailed picture of requirements and gauge your suitability for the role. 

Step 2: Apply to the Recruit Traineeship

Apply to the Border Force Recruit Traineeship (open once a year). This will require you to go through a number of online assessments. You gradually progress to a stage where you need to obtain certifications such as the ABF Medical Assessment and pass a Basic fitness level Assessment. There are seven stages to the intake process, and if you are successful they will give you a place on a training course. Well done you! 

Step 3: Study to Become a Customs Officer

Once you have been accepted onto a course (well-done you) they allocate you a campus. Then, you go on to complete your paid training which takes place over 12 months. Once you graduate you automatically get a pay rise as you start your first job as a Customs Office. You need to remain flexible while you study because you may need to travel outside of your preferred region to attend college. 

Step 4: Begin Work in an Entry-Level Role

Graduate from your Traineeship. Once you complete the training the Australian Border Agency will aim to place you in an entry-level role. Again, you need to remain open-minded because you may not necessarily get a placement in your chosen region. 

Step 5: Gain Experience and Consider a Specialisation

Gain experience, and consider a specialisation. Once you have built up experience then you can progress your career in the agency. As you gain experience, there are many career progression pathways within the Australian Border Force which will open for you.  

Immigration Officer

As an immigration officer, you focus on checking the documents of people entering Australian. Keeping a keen eye out for forged documents, or people trying to enter illegally. You evaluate VISA applications for workers, students, permanent residency applications and asylum claims.

Maritime Border Command (Marine Unit)

This agency uses a blend of Border Force Officers and Australian Defence Force members to patrol Australia's waters. They have ships to patrol Australia's extensive waters performing tactical surveillance, and enforcing Australia's laws when necessary. There are various roles for Border Force Officers within this taskforce and it will suit people who would like to work outdoors (rather than inside at the airports).

Customs Broker

Use your experience and specialist knowledge built up as a Customs Officer to work as a Customs Broker. You give advice and assistance to people in relation to import, export, quarantine and customs procedures. You may work for a company managing all their customs related activities or you may provide advice and assistance to various private clients.

What Does a Customs Officer Do?

Customs Officers are stationed at different places across the country such as at airports, ports, and even patrolling Australia’s waters. The tasks you do vary according to where you work. At airports you will carry out passenger processing, checking baggage and people for illegal substances or dangerous objects. While at ports, the focus is more on checking and monitoring cargo and crew entering and leaving Australia.

When you work you keep your sharp eyes and ears open for anything suspicious and this includes flagging people who may try to enter Australia illegally. You learn to carry and use a firearm and you should be prepared to use it if circumstances require.  

In addition, as a part of your work you may get involved with information gathering and intelligence-related work. It's important to study and learn all the details of Australia’s legislation in order to carry out your duties, this is ongoing as long as you are a Customs Officer. A certain amount of paperwork and administration tasks are a part of working as a Customs Officer too. 


  • Searching baggage, cargo, and people 
  • Processing people and items so they can enter or leave Australia 
  • Working as a team to conduct seizures 
  • Gathering intelligence and information 
  • Boarding aircraft and ships to check cargo and for illegal activities 
  • Engage with people, travellers, ship crew professionally 
  • Administrative work  
  • Intelligence gathering 
  • Monitoring activities offshore 

Skills for Success

Customs Officers have an important role to play in securing Australia’s borders and preventing harmful items, materials, and people from entering. Furthermore, the job holds a lot of responsibility and candidates need to handle themselves well when under pressure. In addition, you need to have a good fitness level, and to continue to maintain your fitness over your working life as a member of the Border Force. Developing your critical thinking skills and good judgement is of the utmost importance because of the nature of the work. Sometimes working as a Customs Officer will require you to work shifts and during holiday periods when everyone else is off on holiday. You may sometimes find yourself deployed with short-notice to different places in Australia as per the needs of the agency.  

Skills & Attributes 

  • Maintain a good level of fitness 
  • Committed to maintaining the values of the Australian Border Force 
  • High level of integrity and professionalism 
  • Authoritative and efficient  
  • Able to apply your training to respond with sound judgement under pressure 
  • Enjoy continuing to learn and developing your skills 
  • Want to protect the community and provide a good service to clients 
  • Ready to take training so you can to carry and use a firearm 
  • Willing to work shifts, often during holiday periods and peak travel times of the year 

Average Salaries

How much does a Customers Officer make?
A Customs Officer in Australia can earn an average annual salary of $61,562. The rate of pay can vary according to your experience and abilities, this is an indicator of the salary average based on Payscale 02/18.

min $60 K
max $66 K
av $62 K