Customs Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Officers working for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Border Agency's Border Force control imported and exported goods, prevent banned items from entering or leaving the country, and collect a range of taxes and duties.

As a detection officer or customs officer, you would work in airports and ports to collect customs duty and prevent smuggling and illegal trade. You might:

  • Search luggage, vehicles and travellers.
  • Check customs documents.
  • Question people who have been found with illegal items or excess goods.
  • Arrest and charge people.
  • Prepare reports and witness statements.
  • Take on specialist roles such as dog handling or undercover and surveillance work.

When necessary, you would attend court as a witness, and work closely with other agencies like the police and the Home Office.

As a full-time officer you would work 36 hours a week over five days. In a border protection role you would work shifts to cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Job sharing or part-time work may be available.

You would be based at airports and seaports. You would also travel to attend court when necessary.

Salaries at assistant officer grade start at £15,720 a year.
Officers earn between £20,175 and £25,710 a year.

Salaries after promotion to higher officer grades are between £25,248 and £38,861 a year.

You would also receive extra allowances for working unsocial hours. People working in London will receive a higher rate of pay.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Jobs are advertised on the HMRC, UK Border Agency and Civil Service Jobs websites, in the local and national press and in Jobcentre Plus.

You would normally join as an administrative assistant or assistant officer and earn promotion to customs officer or detection officer, although recruitment directly into officer grade sometimes takes place.

Education and Training

To join at officer grade you are likely to need five GCSE's (A-C) including English and maths, plus two A levels or equivalent qualifications. You will typically need two GCSE's (A-C) to join HMRC as an administrative assistant, and five GCSE's (A-C) including maths and English for assistant officer jobs.

However, if you do not have these qualifications, you could instead take a selection test to prove your skills and abilities in areas like teamwork and communication. Please check the entry requirements for each vacancy.

You must also meet the Civil Service nationality requirement. All jobs are open to British nationals and many are also open to Commonwealth citizens or European Union nationals.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You would be trained on the job through a mixture of classroom-based in-house training and learning from experienced staff. Training usually lasts around nine months, and may include some residential training courses.

You will also receive ongoing training throughout your career.

You would be encouraged to identify your own training needs, as part of the civil service's appraisal and staff development programme.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A customs officer needs:

  • Good judgement.
  • Confident decision making ability.
  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • The ability to work alone and also as part of a team.
  • Good listening and questioning skills.
  • A tactful but assertive manner.
  • Honesty and fairness in applying rules.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is a clear promotion and grade structure within the civil service, although you may need to relocate to progress to higher grades.

Get Further Information

UK Border Agency

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Civil Service Jobs Online
No central telephone number for information, see website for contacts for individual departments.

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources