What Does a U.S. Marshal Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a U.S. marshal: Apprehend fugitives, protect federal witnesses, manage and sell assets, serve court documents, protect members of the federal judiciary, transport and manage prisoners

The Balance / Evan Polenghi

U.S. marshals occupy a uniquely central position in the federal justice system. Presidentially appointed marshals direct the activities of 94 districts—one for each federal judicial district. More than 3,500 deputy marshals and criminal investigators form the backbone of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

The USMS is the federal government's lead agency for conducting investigations involving escaped federal prisoners; probation, parole, and bond default violators; and fugitives based on warrants generated during investigations. U.S. marshals have the authority to carry firearms and make arrests on all federal warrants.

U.S. Marshal Duties & Responsibilities

U.S. marshals have the broadest jurisdiction of any federal agency. Their primary role is to protect and facilitate the successful operation of the federal judiciary system. To accomplish this task, U.S. marshals perform the following duties:

  • Apprehend fugitives: U.S. marshals work with federal, state, and local authorities to apprehend and arrest fugitives. According to the U.S. Marshals Service, they arrested more 84,000 federal, state, and local fugitives in 2017. Of that number, over 26,000 were federal fugitives, and more than 57,000 were state and local fugitives.
  • Transport and manage prisoners: Managed by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Justice Prisoner & Alien Transportation System (JPATS) is one of the largest transporters of prisoners in the world, handling more than 1,000 requests every day to move prisoners between judicial districts, correctional institutions, and foreign countries.
  • Protect members of the federal judiciary: U.S. marshals ensure the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings and protect federal judges, jurors, and other members of the federal judiciary by anticipating and deterring threats and employing a variety of innovative protective techniques.
  • Manage and sell assets: Under the​ Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Program, the U.S. Marshals Service manages and disposes of property seized and forfeited by federal law enforcement agencies and U.S. attorneys nationwide in federal criminal investigations.
  • Protect federal witnesses: The U.S. Marshals Service provides 24-hour protection to all witnesses while they're in high-threat environments, including pretrial conferences, trial testimonials, ​and other court appearances. U.S. marshals cooperate with local law enforcement and court authorities to bring protected witnesses to justice or have them fulfill their legal responsibilities in both criminal and civil matters.
  • Serve court documents: U.S. marshals and their deputies are authorized to execute federal court civil and criminal process through subpoenas, summonses, writs of habeas corpus, warrants, or other means.

U.S. Marshal Salary

All deputy U.S. marshals start at the GL-07 entry level. Salaries can vary according to the geographic location of employment, as well as the number of years in service, but they typically begin at the following thresholds, earning between $38,511 and $48,708 per year as of December 2018:

  • Median Annual Salary: $43,609 ($20.96/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $48,708 ($23.41/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $38,511 ($18.51/hour)

The benefits packages of U.S. marshals are generous, including access to pension and Thrift Savings Plans, as well as health benefits and annual leave. Deputy U.S. marshals can retire after 25 years of service, or after 20 years of service upon reaching the age of 50. Retirement is mandatory at age 57.

Education, Training, & Certification

U.S. marshals are subject to both educational and training requirements.

  • Education: U.S. marshals must possess a four-year bachelor's degree, three years of qualifying experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Qualifying Experience: This includes related experience in law enforcement, teaching, counseling, classroom instruction, or sales. It can include work involving treatment and supervision of criminal offenders in correctional institutions, interview experience in a public or private service agency, or work involving contacts with the public for the purpose of gathering information, such as credit rating investigator or claims adjuster. Experience should demonstrate the ability to take charge and make decisions.
  • Training: U.S. marshals must complete a rigorous 17.5-week basic training program at the U.S. Marshals Service Basic Training Academy in Glynco, Georgia.

You must also meet the following qualifications to become a deputy U.S. marshal:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be between the ages of 21 and 36.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license.
  • Complete a structured interview.
  • Meet certain medical qualifications.
  • Successfully pass a background investigation.

U.S. Marshal Skills & Competencies

Not everyone has what it takes to become a U.S. marshal. You'll need certain skills and traits:

  • A knack for planning: This career doesn't lend itself to flying by the seat of your pants. From conducting criminal investigations to protecting diplomats and providing security, an ability to formulate and stick to a prelaid plan is important.
  • Patience: U.S. marshals deal regularly with prisoners, criminals, and sometimes the public at large, not all of whom are always on their best behavior.
  • A background or understanding of law: This includes both civil and criminal proceedings.

Job Outlook

Government employment is considered to be secure and steady. The federal budget dedicated $1.31 billion to the U.S. Marshals Service in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Work Environment

U.S. marshals are employed in one of three specialties: fugitive operations, judicial security, or tactical operations. Each offers a different work environment and has its own inherent risks.

Work Schedule

Your schedule will likely change from time to time and from assignment to assignment, so flexibility can be important. Fugitive operations can frequently turn into around-the-clock assignments, but judicial security posts tend to be confined to normal business hours and offer weekends and holidays off when courts are closed.

How to Get the Job


The Physical Abilities Test (PAT) is a foot-race obstacle course that requires both endurance and dexterity.


You can do this online at USAJOBS.


You'll be required to attend the training academy within 160 days of submitting your application.


The entire hiring process can take up to a year.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Postretirement jobs can depend on whether you still want to be on the cutting edge of law enforcement or you prefer to slow down a little. They include:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017