Deputy U.S. Marshals Jobs / Careers


School Subjects:

  • Computer Science
  • Foreign Language (esp. Spanish)
  • Govt.

Personal Skills:

  • Leadership/management
  • Helping/teaching

Work Environment:

  • Indoors and outdoors
  • Primarily multiple locations

Min. Education Level:

  • High school diploma


  • $23,588 to $39,744 to $47,236

Certification or Licensing:

  • None available


  • Faster than the average



The United States Marshals Service forms a central part of the federal government’s law enforcement efforts. As a bureau within the Department of Justice, the Marshals Service reports to the U.S. attorney general. Among the responsibilities of deputy U.S. marshals are providing court security which includes personal protection of judges, judicial officials, and jurors; serving warrants and process documents; locating and apprehending fugitives; trans porting prisoners; managing the federal Witness Security Program; seizing assets used in or resulting from criminal activity; and handling special assignments and operations. There are approximately 2,500 deputy U.S. marshals employed throughout the United States.


The U.S. Marshals Service has its roots in the judiciary Act, passed by Congress in 1789, which established not only the post of U.S. marshal but also the country original federal court system. The act delegated two duties to the marshals: to enforce all precepts issued by the federal government and to protect and attend to the federal courts. Marshals were also authorized to hire one or more deputies.

The first 13 U.S. marshals, appointed by President George Washington, were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 26, 1789. Over the next year two more marshals were chosen. The 13 original states, as well as the districts of Kentucky and Maine, were each assigned a marshal. The number of marshals and deputies increased as the United States expanded westward, and with a rise in the country population, some states were assigned more than one marshal. By the 1990s there were close to 2,500 deputy U.S. marshals assigned to more than 95 districts across the United States and Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas.

The duties of the Marshals Service expanded soon after the appointment of the first marshals. Marshals and deputies were required, for example, to play a major role in taking the national census (a responsibility that lasted until 1870), to supervise federal penitentiaries in the western territories, to enforce precepts from the French consuls, to take custody of goods seized by customs officers, and to sell seized lands. Along with the increase in responsibilities came a corresponding growth in the number of superiors to whom the Marshals Service was accountable. By the mid-l9th century the federal courts, the Secretary of the Treasury the Solicitor of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Interior all had supervisory powers over some aspects of the work of the marshals and deputies. In 1861, however, the Marshals Service came under the exclusive power of the attorney general, and in 1870 the ser vice became a part of the newly created Department of Justice.

U.S. marshals and their deputies have frequently faced potentially dangerous situations. The level of danger was especially great in the 19th century for those who were charged with keeping order in newly established western territories. During the Oklahoma land rush, for example, more than 60 marshals were killed in a span of just five years. It is the Marshals Service of the late 19th century—the time of legendary marshals Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, of posses and quick draws—with which many people are most familiar, as the role of marshals and deputies in the Old West has been dramatized in numerous books and films. Some might also remember that marshals and deputies were charged with quelling civil disturbances such as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, the Pullman Strike of 1894, and the antiwar protests of the late 1960s; enforcing school integration beginning in the 1960s; and confronting militant Native Americans at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973. Today the men and women of the Marshals Service, trained in the latest techniques and equipment, continue to perform a wide variety of law enforcement duties under the attorney general and the U.S. Department of justice.

The Job

One of the oldest duties of the U.S. Marshals Service is court security. Originally this entailed the presence of a marshal or deputy in the courtroom to maintain order and to ensure the safety of the judge. In time, however, the job of protecting the courts has become much more complex. Now, depending on the trial, prosecutors, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, family members, and any other trial participant potentially in danger might be provided with security Marshals have been assisted in carrying out these responsibilities by using advanced equipment—high-tech alarm systems, for example—as well as by improved law enforcement techniques. The Marshals Service is some times alerted to dangers by threats mentioned in letters or phone calls or by informants, but deputies cannot rely on these explicit means of warning. Constant vigilance is required.

A special area related to court security is the federal Witness Security Program. Witnesses who risk their lives to testify against organized crime figures or others involved in major criminal activity are given around-the-clock protection. After the trial, the witnesses are relocated to another part of the country and given a new identity The Marshals Service provides support pro grams to help these witnesses adjust to their new identities and environments.

A significant part of the workload involves serving process documents and executing court orders. Private process-serving companies work for the courts to serve papers for civil cases, but the Marshals Service handles almost all of the criminal process-serving needs of the court. There are many kinds of process documents, including subpoenas, restraining orders, notices of condemnations, and summonses. In the days of the Old West, serving process documents used to be one of the most dangerous duties, sometimes entailing traveling on horseback for long distances, as well as face-to-face shootouts. Sophisticated equipment, allowing for better means of surveillance and coordination, has made this task less threatening. About one mil lion process documents are now handled each year by the Marshals Service.

Even more dangerous are the execution of arrest warrants and the apprehension of fugitives. Along with other federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Marshals Service continues to perform these tasks, handling about 30,000 arrest warrants each year and apprehending more fugitives than all other federal law enl agencies combined. The Marshals Service is responsible br locating and apprehending many types of fugitives, including parole and probation violators and prisoners who have escaped from federal prisons.

For most of its history, the Marshals Service has been charged with the responsibility of seizing, managing, and disposing property involved in criminal cases. Many of these cases now involve drug trafficking. Planes, cars, boats, houses and condominiums, ranches, businesses, and restaurants, as well as personal assets such as jewelry and cash, are some examples of the type of property seized. Property seized in this manner is forfeited under the law and then sold off at public auctions or by other means. Seized property may also be transferred to law enforcement agencies for official use.

The Marshals Service is also in charge of transporting federal prisoners. Using automobiles, buses, vans, and aircraft—some of them obtained by the asset seizure program— U.S. Marshals supervise the movements of more than 130,000 prisoners each year. After a trial, convicts awaiting a sentence are also the responsibility of the Marshals Service. The average number of prisoners held in custody each day by the Marshals Service exceeds 20,000.

Protecting the shipment of weapons systems is a more recent responsibility. Under an agreement with the United States Air Force, deputies direct traffic and help escort vehicles transporting weapons systems, deterring or arresting anyone who attempts to disrupt the shipment.

Within the Marshals Service is a rapid-deployment force called the Special Operations Group (SOG). The unit was formed in 1971 in order to handle national emergencies, such as civil disturbances, hostage cases, or terrorist attacks. Members of SOG are regular deputies, located in all parts of the country, who are given specialized training and who must always be on call for emergencies.


High School

If you are interested in becoming a deputy U.S. marshal, you must complete high school and obtain an undergraduate degree or equivalent experience. In high school, you should pursue a general course of study that includes courses in government, one or more foreign languages, English, history and computer science.

Postsecondary Training

The Marshals Service requires that candidates have a minimum level of education or experience. A four-year bachelor’s degree in any major is sufficient. Without an undergraduate degree, however, an applicant needs at least three years’ experience in a job demonstrating poise and self-confidence under stress, as well as the ability to reason soundly make decisions quickly, find practical solutions, accept responsibility interact tactfully with a wide range of people, and prepare reports. Although any number of occupations may fulfill these requirements, the following are examples of acceptable experience: (1) law enforcement; (2) correctional treatment and supervision of inmates; (3) classroom teaching; (4) volunteer work or counseling for a com munity action program; (5) sales work (but not over-the-counter sales positions); (6) interviewing; or (7) jobs, such as a credit rating investigator, claims adjuster, or journalist, that require public contact for the purpose of collecting information. For candidates who have been to college but do not have a degree, every year of study is accepted as nine months of experience.

All candidates are required to take a written test of 125 questions. A score of 78 or better is passing. The questions are intended to evaluate clerical skills, the ability to reason verbally and the level of proficiency in abstract reasoning (that is, using symbols and numbers). Candidates are also given a personal interview and, as for all government jobs, must be willing to undergo an extensive background check.

Once hired, new deputy marshals are sent to a basic training program, lasting 16 weeks, that includes courses in law enforcement, criminal investigation, forensics, and areas particular to the Marshals Service. There are also a rigorous physical fitness program and 18 months of on-the-job training.

Other Requirements

Like those in other law enforcement positions, deputy U.S. marshals must be in excellent physical shape. Moreover, their vision must be no worse than 20/200 uncorrected in both eyes (corrected to at least 20/20); they must have good hearing (equivalent to being able to hear a whispered voice at 15 feet); and they may not have insulin-dependent diabetes or any other health condition that might interfere with job performance or endanger the health and safety of others.


For any law enforcement job, it is difficult to obtain practical experience prior to entering the field. If you are interested in more information about working as a deputy U.S. marshal, you should write directly to the Marshals Service. Many police departments, however, hire student trainees and interns, and this may provide good exposure to general law enforcement. In addition, the FBI operates an Honors Internship Program for undergraduate and graduate students selected by the FBI. A school guidance counselor, a college or university placement office, or a public library may also have additional information. For more background, you can find an in-depth historical survey in Frederick S. Calhoun’s book The Lawmen: United States Marshals and Their Deputies, 1789-1989 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990).


The U.S. Marshal Service is the sole employer of deputy U.S. marshals.

Starting Out

The Marshals Service accepts only candidates who have fulfilled the necessary physical, educational, and experiential requirements listed above. Those interested in pursuing the field should contact the Marshals Service to find out when and where the written examination will take place.

Candidates with postsecondary education, particularly undergraduate and graduate degrees. In fields related to law, law enforcement, criminology, or political science, will have the strongest chance of joining the U.S. Marshals Service. Knowledge of foreign languages, and specialized skills, including computer and electronics skills, are also in high demand by the U.S. Marshals office.


Advancement is made on the basis of merit and experience. Within a district office, the top position is that of U.S. marshal. Appointed by the president of the United States, U.S. marshals must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Directly under the U.S. marshal is the chief deputy U.S. marshal, who oversees the district’s staff of supervisors, the deputy U.S. marshals, and the support staff. Each district also employs specialists in witness security, court security, and seized property


As with other federal positions, salaries for deputy U.S. marshals are fixed at government service rating levels. Beginning deputy U.S. marshals are generally hired at the GS-5 level, which was $20,588 per year in 1999. Deputy U.S. marshals with bachelor’s and especially advanced degrees in law enforcement, criminology law, and other related disciplines may be hired at the GS-7 level, which was $25,501 per year in 1999.

Top salaries for deputy U.S. marshals is at the GS-1 1 level, which paid $37,744 per year in 1999, but deputy U.S. marshals certified in a specialty area may earn the GS-12 level, which was $45,236 in 1999. Chief deputy marshals earn $55,000 per year and more. The top rating, GS-15, paid $74,773 per year in 1999.

In addition, deputies assigned to certain cities—including New York; Los Angeles; Boston; Miami; San Francisco; Washington, DC; Alexandria, Virginia; and others—receive added locality pay as an adjustment for the higher cost of living in these areas. Locality pay generally adds an extra 5.6 to 12 percent to the base salary Deputy U.S. marshals are also entitled to receive Law Enforcement Availability Pay, which adds another 25 percent to their salaries. All federal workers receive annual cost-of-living salary increases.

Benefits include health and life insurance, paid vacations and holidays, and a pension program, Most federal law enforcement officials are eligible for early retirement.

Work Environment

In general, deputy U.S. marshals work 40 hours a week. These hours are usually during the daytime, Monday through Friday but overtime and other shifts are sometimes required. Travel may be necessary, for example, to transport a prisoner from one state to another.

Deputies generally work out of well-maintained, clean offices, but their duties can take them to a wide variety of environments, such as a courtroom; an automobile, helicopter, or airplane; the streets of a major U.S. city; or, when trying to locate a fugitive, a foreign country. Like all law enforcement jobs, personal safety is a concern. Those interested in working for the U.S. Marshals Service should be well aware of the potential for physical harm or even death. Because of the danger, deputies carry firearms and are well trained in self-defense and other paramilitary techniques. Strenuous physical exertion, emotional stress, and exposure to harsh conditions (such as poor weather) are often a part of the job.

For some deputies, an advantage of the job is the diversity of cases. Others find personal satisfaction in knowing that they are serving their country Deputy U.S. marshals enjoy great respect and confidence from the public.

There are close to 2,500 deputy U.S. marshals assigned to more than 95 districts across the United States and Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas. Employment opportunities are expected to increase at an average rate through 2008. Changes in the service’s budget, as well as increases or decreases in the responsibilities assigned the service, could affect employment opportunities. Careers in law enforcement and security-related fields in general are expected to grow rapidly in some cases, as federal and state governments pass new “tough-on-crime” legislation and the number of criminals continues to grow Great increases in the crime rate will most likely prompt public pressures to increase hiring of law enforcement officials, including deputy U.S. marshals. Nonetheless, because of the prestige offered by this career and the generous benefits available to many careers in federal service, competition for available positions will remain high.

For More Information

For information on career opportunities, contact:

U.S. Marshals Service

Employment and Compensation Division

Field Staffing Branch

600 Army Navy Drive

Arlington, VA 22202-42 10

Tel: 202-307-9600


Web: http://www.usdoj gov/marshals

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