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How Much Is the Average Pay for a Customs Broker?

by Will Charpentier

Customs brokers tend to the details associated with imports, including the import taxes commonly called duties and the mountains of paperwork for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, customs brokers, whom it classifies as business operations specialists, earned an average of $33.90 per hour, or $70,520 per year, as of May 2012.

Salary

According to the Social Security Administration, half of the people in the United States earned less than $26,965 per year, or $12.96 per hour, and half earned more than that, as of 2011. The average wage is $19.11 per hour, or $42,211 annually. A customs broker's salary, at $33.90 per hour, is 72 percent higher than the average wage and more than two and one-half times the U.S. median wage.Some customs brokers, either because of experience or time in the business, earn more -- the highest paid 10 percent earn $53.83 per hour, or $111,960 per year, and the lowest 10 percent scrape by on $16.90 per hour, or $35,160 per year.

Regional Comparisons

The U.S. government is the largest employer of customs brokers, with 170,240 of them on the payroll. In private employment, the highest concentrations of customs brokers are along the West and Gulf Coasts. California, with 126,280 customs brokers, comes closest to Uncle Sam in numbers, but Texas, where only 68,360 customs brokers work, pays better. In California, they average only $76,190, compared to $77,390 in Texas. Florida has 3,890 fewer brokers than Texas, and they average $61,630. Illinois has 6,510 fewer brokers than Florida, but Illinois customs brokers earn $68,140. Rounding out the top five is New Jersey, where 49,070 brokers average $70,370 per year.

Contributing Factors

Location is a contributing factor for a customs broker's income. California has the most active intermodal freight facilities on the West Coast at Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, headquartered in New York, has its facilities in New Jersey. The Port of Houston is the largest seaport on the Gulf Coast and the seventh largest in the United States. A seaport isn't a necessity, though. The highest concentration of customs brokers, after Washington, D.C., is in Colorado -- in part because of the foreign trade zones in Denver and Colorado Springs. Foreign trade zones allow goods to enter the country duty free, for final assembly in America. Not only does this bring jobs to the American economy; it means that a customs broker can ply his trade near any of the 275 foreign trade zones in the United States just as if working at a port.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor says that 1,064,000 customs brokers work in the U.S. The department projects that another 327,200 customs brokers will enter the field before the end of the second decade of the 21st century and that the need for customs brokers will grow 10 percent to 19 percent in the period ending in 2020. With the growth in other industries, imports -- both consumer and business related -- will also rise, providing more work for the customs broker. The department says that this projected growth is about as fast as the growth for other industries.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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