Customs Broker: Job Description and Education Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

A customs broker has many responsibilities related to importing and exporting and therefore must possess an up-to-date knowledge of topics such as government trade regulations, international tariffs, insurance requirements, and restrictions regarding shipments. These professionals also need strong communication skills in order to counsel their clients about such topics. A customs broker is often responsible for tracking shipments, calculating tariff and duty payments, and classifying shipments using the tariff coding system.

Essential Information

Customs brokers oversee import and export clients to help them meet government trade regulations. They handle an array of tasks, including filing paperwork, monitoring international shipments, and coding goods. While a specific postsecondary education is not required for this career, customs brokers must successfully pass the Customs Broker License examination and acquire a license before seeking employment.

Required Education High school diploma typically required; some employers prefer a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as business or transportation
Other Requirements Customs broker's license
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 5-7% for business operations specialists, all other*
Median Annual Salary (2020) $77,420 for business operations specialists, all other*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Customs brokers help importers and exporters understand and meet the rules and regulations put in place by the federal government with regard to the trade industry. They educate clients about customs regulations, international tariffs, shipping restrictions, and insurance requirements.

Other duties often include guiding goods through customs, preparing and submitting documents, determining tariff and duty payments, tracking shipments, and using the tariff coding system to classify shipments. Customs brokers might work as independent contractors and at airports, as well as within transportation, freight, and other companies that transport products internationally.

Education Requirements

A sampling of job listings for customs broker positions shows that some employers request job candidates who have completed some college coursework or hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related area like business, supply chain management, or transportation. Other jobs listings require no specific education beyond a high school diploma; however, all customs broker jobs required individuals to be licensed.

Customs Broker License

Individual interested in pursuing a customs broker's license must be over age 21 and not employed by the federal government. Prospective brokers must also pass the Customs Broker License examination. This open book test covers federal regulations, customs directives, and the harmonized tariff schedule. Test takers must score a 75% or higher to pass, and those failing the exam have the opportunity to retake it until a passable score is attained. Examinations are administered biannually, in April and October, on the first Monday of the month.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), customs broker are one type of business operations specialists. In May 2020, the BLS reported that the median annual salary earned by such specialists was $77,420 ( Employment opportunities for business operations specialists, including customs brokers, are likely to grow by about 5-7% from 2019 to 2029, predicts the BLS.

The education needed to become a customs broker does not require a bachelor's degree, however many employers prefer to hire candidates who do have a degree, or who have completed at least some postsecondary courses in a related field, such as supply chain management or business. Customs brokers must also have appropriate licensure, which qualifies them to handle tasks related to federal regulations, harmonized tariffs, and customs directives.

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