U.S. Marshal

Marshals and deputies may trigger images of the Wild West, but the modern-day United States Marshals Service polices a new criminal “frontier” that includes cybercrime, espionage, and drug trafficking. Today, the agency performs a key role in our nation’s judicial and law enforcement systems. For more than 200 years, federal marshals and U.S. deputy marshals have issued arrest warrants, apprehended federal fugitives, maintained the custody of and transported federal prisoners, operated the federal Witness Security Program, managed and sold seized property forfeited by drug traffickers and other criminals, provided support and protection for the federal courts, responded to emergency situations, and restored order in riot and mob situations.

Created in 1789, the U.S. Marshals Service was the first federal law enforcement agency. Not only is the agency the oldest in the United States, but it’s the only one whose members are appointed by the president. In 2018, during an awards ceremony celebrating the Marshals Service, the Attorney General remarked that for most of the history of the U.S., “federal law enforcement… was represented by two people: the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Marshal.” The marshals, he stated, remain the “face of federal law enforcement” in the United States. U.S. marshals are law enforcement agents with the “broadest mandate and the broadest authority” of any federal law enforcement agency.

“Justice. Integrity. Service.” These three words summarize the abiding philosophy of the U.S. Marshals Service. Working in conjunction with the attorney general, marshals make more arrests than all the other agencies combined. In fact, in 2017 alone, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested more than 80,000 fugitives.

Duties & Responsibilities of a U.S. Marshal

The U.S. Marshals Service is considered the most versatile of all the federal law enforcement agencies. It serves as the enforcement arm of the federal courts, which means that marshals are involved in almost all federal law enforcement initiatives.

A look at some additional statistics is a testament to the effectiveness of the U.S. Marshals Service. As of 2018, nearly 4,000 deputy marshals, along with almost 1,500 administrative staff members, performed exemplary work in service to the country. In the last decade alone, U.S. marshals arrested more than 1 million violent fugitives and recovered hundreds of missing children. They safely transported over 2.5 million inmates and offenders, as well completing more than 400,000 checks on registered sex offenders. In the year 2017 alone, marshals arrested more than 80,000 fugitives from justice.

Judicial Security

US marshals are responsible for protecting federal judges, court officials, jurors, prisoners, witnesses, and threatened members of the public. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, marshals provided security to enforce federal law and order. In 1962, U.S. marshals protected James Meredith upon his enrollment at Ole Miss. In addition, marshals may be tasked as criminal investigators and intelligence analysts to investigate any threats to the federal judiciary. They also provide security for the 94 district courts and the 12 United States Court of Appeals. Marshals and deputy marshals help screen visitors at entrances to courthouses and partner with the Department of Homeland Security to maintain security.

Fugitive Apprehension

Marshals help local and state authorities locate and arrest violent fugitives. They create task forces that combine multiple agencies to locate and apprehend fugitives. As part of the task force, they cross jurisdictional lines to apprehend fugitives. Federal law enforcement officers sometimes work with international law enforcement departments and the Department of Homeland Security to locate and apprehend foreign fugitives living in the United States. In 1983, the U.S. Marshals Service established the “15 Most Wanted” program to capture serial offenders, including major drug bosses, sex offenders, murderers, and organized crime members. The Major Case Fugitive program focuses on the investigation and capture of high-profile criminals.

International Investigations

The US Marshals Service is designated to apprehend fugitives wanted by other nations who are thought to be in the United States. In addition, they track criminal fugitives in other countries and expedite them back to the U.S.

Asset Forfeiture

Upon their arrest, criminals must forfeit any illegal assets to the U.S. Marshals Service. Marshals attempt to restore stolen goods to victims. They manage seized assets such as real estate, businesses, cash, cars, jewelry, art, collectibles, and even aircraft. At the time of publication, the Marshals Service managed more than $2 billion worth of property. Once the property serves as evidence in a criminal trial, if it can’t be returned to its owner, it’s sold.

Prisoner Operations

Marshals provide safe, humane housing, transportation, and medical care for federal prisoners. Once arrested, criminals are brought before the court to determine whether they will be released on bond or taken into custody to await trial. Marshals partner with local and state governments to house the prisoners. 

Prisoner Transportation

Prisoners must be transported from the prison to the courthouse to stand trial according to the law. The US Marshals Service is responsible for the safe transportation to and from the courthouse and, if necessary, to and from permanent prisons.

Witness Security

Witnesses in federal trials often require additional security. The U.S. marshals provide either short- or long-term security while the witness waits to testify in court.

As a U.S. marshal or deputy US marshal, you will work for a federal law enforcement agency with a proud heritage. The marshals have a 200-year-old history of protecting the principles of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. Capturing dangerous fugitives both in the U.S. and abroad, managing criminal assets, protecting the judicial process as well as critical witnesses, and even recovering lost children – marshals have a rewarding career.

What Are the Requirements to Become a U.S. Marshal?

Are you interested in justice and law, or do you simply want to make a difference in your community? Are you looking for a career that provides meaning to your life that’s also financially beneficial, which, incidentally, allows you to retire as early as age 50? If so, you may want to consider a career as a U.S. marshal. You may be most familiar with marshals from Hollywood’s portrayals of famous lawmen such as Wyatt Earp or those in television programs like “The Fugitive” or “Tombstone.” But the job of a U.S. marshal is quite different from their representation in the media.

General Requirements

As of 2020, the U.S. Justice Department reports, 3,571 deputy U.S. marshals and criminal investigators, along with 1,565 administrative employees and detention officers, served in the U.S. Marshals Service. The requirements to become a U.S. deputy marshal comprise a variety of qualifications, from age to education and police officer experience to background. The hiring process can take from nine to 12 months. If you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or a college senior, you must be able to attend the training academy with 160 days of your application date.

Citizenship and Age

Citizenship is required to become a U.S. marshal. Additionally, you must be between the ages of 21 and 36 when you apply with enough time to complete training before your 37th birthday. However, waivers exist for those over 37, such as for current federal law enforcement agents and veterans.

Education, Experience, Salary

At the GL-05 level, federal law enforcement officers must have one of the following: Three years of general experience (that meets specific qualifications); a four-year course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree; or a combination of education and experience. To qualify at the GL-O7 level, you must have experience equal to that grade, which demonstrates you possess the necessary skills, abilities, and knowledge, such as basic law enforcement, a full year of graduate school in a field related to law enforcement or criminal justice, or proven superior academic achievement in addition to a bachelor’s degree, such as a high GPA or membership in an honor society.

At the GL-07 level, a deputy U.S. Marshal earns approximately $39,000 to $49,000. Salary depends on the location of the job. For example, in Dallas, Texas, a deputy may make between around $46,000 and $59,000, while in Los Angeles, the pay ranges from $49,000 to $62,000.

Other Qualifications

Deputy marshal candidates must have a valid driver’s license in good standing to apply for a position. Additionally, they must have 20/20 vision with glasses or contacts and normal hearing without hearing aids.

Excellent Physical Condition

Because the training process is so rigorous, applicants must be in excellent physical condition before they attend basic training. Trainees complete a test in which they must run 1.5 miles, perform as many push-ups as possible in 1 minute, as many sit-ups as possible in 1 minute, and successfully complete a sit-and-reach flexibility assessment. Deputy marshals are required to pass all four tests with a minimum score of 70 percent, and they must achieve those scores within 90 days of their training. This test is given bi-annually for the duration of a marshal’s career.

Attend the Basic Training Program

Finally, trainees must pass the physical and education portions of the 21.5-week basic training program at the US Marshals Service Basic Training Academy in Glynco, Georgia, which is between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida. Some of the topics covered include training in firearms, driving, first aid, prisoner search and restraint, surveillance, search and seizure, courtroom evidence and procedures, computer, building entry and search, as well as physical conditioning and defensive tactics.

Students are required to wear uniforms during training. Additionally, they run distances of 1.5 to 10 miles in length, do push-ups, sit-ups and participate in obstacle course training, sprints, and other activities. During the last week of basic training, students receive another physical fitness test, which they are required to pass before graduation. In addition, a total of seven exams are given, and again, students must make a minimum score of 70 percent to pass.


The U.S. Marshals Service assigns new marshals to any of its 94 duty stations in the U.S. on an as-needed basis. They must remain at their first station for a minimum of three years, and they are required to sign two documents, one of which confirms the agency’s right to change their assignment at any time.

Disqualifying Factors

Since federal marshals are required to maintain high levels of physical activity to care for federal prisoners and apprehend fugitives, several conditions disqualify candidates for this type of federal law enforcement job. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your District Recruiting Officer:

  • Diabetes mellitus (Type I diabetes)
  • Convulsive disorder, such as epilepsy or other seizure disorders
  • Hernia
  • Hearing loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical conditions that affect your balance, stability, strength, or flexibility
  • Heart disease
  • Color blindness
  • Eye surgery for certain conditions

How to Become a U.S. Marshal

The U.S. Marshals Service consists of 94 districts, each of which has a district recruiting officer. The first step toward becoming a marshal is to create a USAJobs account. Jobs are posted only during open periods. The Marshals Service can’t predict when they will hire, as jobs for the entry-level position, that of a US deputy marshal, depend on retirements, funding, and turnover. Candidates can find information on their website or contact their local district recruiting officers.

Application to Become a U.S. Marshal

On the application at USAJobs.gov, candidates are asked their age, education, and work experience (including any previous law enforcement experience, such as positions as police officers), and citizenship status. They then undergo a physical examination to ensure they’re healthy enough to complete the training course. The application process includes a detailed background investigation, psychological evaluations, and a physical fitness test.

Be Accepted as a Candidate

Once you have passed the physical examination, application process, psychological screening, and background check, you are notified of your acceptance as a deputy marshal candidate. You will be given a date to report to the 21.5-week basic training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia.

Attend Basic Training

Candidates who arrive at basic training must be prepared for a strenuous five-month training course that tests both their physical and mental abilities. They receive training in the law and legal issues, policies and procedures, defensive tactics, first aid, courtroom procedures, building search and entry, court security, prisoner search and restraint, and the use of firearms. Additionally, they participate in a physical conditioning program, survival training for law enforcement officers, surveillance, and classes in the search and seizure of prisoners and fugitives.

Important Qualities for a U.S. Marshal

Successful deputy US marshals have a number of qualities in common. As members of the oldest, most revered law enforcement agency in the nation, marshals are expected to complete a wide range of duties with somewhat limited resources. It’s a stressful job that often includes working in high-profile situations, such as protecting important witnesses, which have wide implications for national security.

According to the U.S. Marshals Service, the most important qualities for deputy marshal candidates include the ability to:

  • Solve problems
  • Express themselves well verbally and in writing
  • Make decisions quickly while under stress
  • Write clear, concise reports
  • Be tactful and deal with people from all walks of life

In addition, good marshals must be hard workers, knowing that at any time, they may be required to work around the clock. They must be comfortable with not knowing from day to day what their job will entail. Additionally, they must have the ability to think quickly and make plans “on the fly.” Since their job often involves working with offenders and the general public, marshals must be patient and have well-developed social skills. Finally, a sense of justice along with a thorough knowledge of the law and judicial systems are necessary to be effective in the job.

Additional Careers in Law Enforcement

Consider these additional careers in law enforcement.

Police Officer
Crime Scene Investigator
FBI Agent
Game Warden
Police Detective
Private Investigator
State Trooper