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So you want to work in Customs?

The customs industry in Australia mainly revolves around the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Most customs officers work in airports, ports or regional centres on the coast around Australia. The main role of a customs officer is to check people and goods entering Australia, looking for prohibited or illegal items or substances. They often examine passengers, mail, luggage, cargo and the crews of planes and ships to prevent the illegal entry into Australia of dutiable, quarantined or prohibited goods.

They also patrol waters around Australia to intercept and deter people smuggling operations. If illegal goods are detected, customs officers have the power to make arrests and they may be required to give evidence in court.

Working in customs often involves transferring between different departments and offices over the span of a career and may require moving interstate or to regional locations. The role often includes shift work. Customs officers have a high level of contact with the public and regularly have to deal with people who are angry, upset or confrontational. Equipment such as x-ray machines and ion scanners are used to check parcels, luggage and passengers for weapons, drugs or other illegal substances. Specially trained detector dogs are also used to locate certain prohibited goods. Some customs officers may carry firearms and the Customs Marine Unit uses speed boats and large patrol vessels for boarding operations.

Types of jobs in the Customs industry include:

  • Traveler inspectors
  • Customs officers
  • Commercial inspectors
  • Postal inspectors
  • Customs administrator
  • Customs controllers

Personal Skills

Five key skills that will help you score a job in the Customs industry:

  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • The ability to be flexible and resourceful
  • The ability to remain calm and patient in high pressure situations
  • High ethical standards

Interview and Job Hunting tips

  • Be prepared to answer how you can successfully explain complex rules and regulations to the public. Think of a time you have done this before.
  • You will probably be asked how you deal with stress. Prepare an answer that clearly demonstrates the steps you take to constructively and positively deal with stress.
  • Learn as much as you can about the laws and regulations that will apply to your specific role. Also be prepared to talk about any experience you have in applying laws and regulations.
  • Research under what circumstances force is justified (if appropriate for your role), as this will likely be discussed in the interview.