The changing face of… customs and imports

With the full post-Brexit customs controls coming into force at the start of the year, it meant everything changed for the men and women dealing with goods travelling across the UK border. Now that upheaval has put these roles right at the top of LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise for 2022.

Getting the new import regulations right is a make-or-break factor for many firms. So, whether it’s Border Force and HMRC making sure businesses stick to the rules, or companies looking to ensure their stock arrives bang on time, people working in customs and imports are hugely in demand.

What is the job like?

As a customs official you could be patrolling the UK coastline, checking travel documents, searching cargo or alerting the security services to a person of interest. It can involve some high-pressure situations, so the Home Office says: “You’ve got to be calm and professional under trying circumstances, and enjoy being part of a team.”

Working in a warehouse or an office, an import-export specialist checks that tax and customs documents are correct, manages freight bookings and arranges deliveries and collections between ports, airports, and warehouses. The National Careers Service says you need to be patient in stressful situations, have great admin skills and pay attention to detail.

Freight-forwarding companies are estimated to have added an extra 50,000 jobs to cope with the Brexit changes, says logistics company Freightline. They’re changing methods of transportation and streamlining their processes. But working with countries for which there is yet to be a trade agreement has got harder, and some companies are even relocating abroad.

What qualifications do you need? 

You need two A-levels at grade E or above – or an equivalent level 3 qualification like a Diploma in Public Services – to be a Border Force officer. If you have a degree, you can join through the Civil Service Fast Stream, which aims to cultivate future leaders.

You could start as an import-export clerk with a degree in a subject like business and management. There are also advanced apprenticeships in international freight forwarding if you’d like to learn on the job. Professional bodies like The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and the Institute of Export and International Trade also offer specialist courses.

What is the career path like?

Border Force officers get regular training and there’s a progression route to senior officer, team leader or a management role. You may also be able to move into other roles in the Home Office or Civil Service, says the National Careers Service.

Starting as an import-export clerk, you can progress into senior roles or management jobs such as export office manager or shipping manager, according to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.

How much can you get paid?

Border Force officer salaries range from £24,883 to £31,519.

Pay for import-export clerks ranges from about £18,000 to £30,000, but the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport says senior professionals can earn over £40,000 a year.