How many people have ever heard of a customs broker? I’m willing to take a bet that 9 out of 10 people reading our post here haven’t themselves. It’s amazing considering that customs brokers support one of the most important elements of our country’s economy.
In 2015 we imported over $2 trillion worth of goods. Every single one of those imports had to be cleared through US Customs by a broker. When we think of shipping, we think of UPS and Fedex. But there are hundreds of other freight forwarders in the United States that help transport these goods. When they arrive, a customs broker collects paperwork from the importers, and files documents with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to get approval for those goods to enter the commerce of the United States. These submissions to CBP in most cases must be done by a licensed customs broker.
Now, not everyone that works for a customs broker must be licensed, but they must be supervised by a licensed customs broker. Now, wrap your head around this. There are only 11,000 licensed brokers to support $2 trillion worth of imports. Think about that. What an extremely lopsided figure that is. Don’t you want to get a piece of that action?
The field is wide open for women. There are some glass ceilings and old stereotypes to break through. The freight forwarding industry is one of the oldest industries known to man. As such, for hundreds of years it has been dominated by men. The tides are shifting though. At the desk level it is now dominated by women. Management still is heavily tilted to men, but there is a noticeable shift. More and more women have experience and are beginning to be promoted. I recommend exploring becoming a customs broker if you are looking for a new career.
Obtaining one’s customs broker license is not easy. The test is one of the most difficult tests in the industry with less than 20% passing on average. Now, my opinion on the low pass rate is that most people simply aren’t prepared. It’s an open book test and most people that take it have been working as an entry writer for for several years and just assume they know enough to pass the exam. This logic leads to failure. The test can be passed, but not without proper preparation.
The first thing to understand is knowing how to clear imports through US Customs or simply working in the industry isn’t going to help you pass. There are 80 questions that need answered in 4.5 hours. You will need every bit of that time to finish and you will be exhausted. I’ve had people try to come to work after taking the exam and I sent them home. Your brain will be mush.
The next thing to realize is that is is open book, but that doesn’t make it easy. Your reference material needed will be about 4,000 pages. Not only will you need to develop some new muscles to lug these books around, but you will definitely need to log hours of study time to learn how to use them. Making an index, tabbing pages, and highlighting is absolutely necessary to being able to use these references effectively.
If you plan to pursue getting your license I highly recommend taking a course like the one at Customs Broker Geek. They will show you how to properly prepare your reference material, what to study, and answer any question you have. The pass rate for their students is far higher than the national average. Check them out.