How to Become a DEA Agent

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice charged with enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to growing, manufacturing, and distribution of controlled substances, both legal and illegal. A DEA special agent plays an essential role in the nation’s war on drugs and terrorism. Agents work to dismantle drug trafficking organizations, apprehend violators, seize assets, and coordinate with other federal, state, local, and international agencies. If you want to become a DEA special agent, you must first meet the minimum qualifications.

Minimum Qualifications

The DEA provides a list of qualifications that you must meet before being considered for a position. This includes being a U.S. citizen between 21 and 36 years old with a valid driver’s license. You must also be in excellent physical condition, willing to relocate to another part of the country, have a clear background that will allow you to obtain top secret security clearance, pass a polygraph, as well as psychological and medical tests, and meet the hearing and vision requirements. You will also need to have specialized experience. If you don’t have sufficient professional experience, you must meet all educational requirements.

Education & Training

If you do not meet the work experience requirements, you can still be considered for a position if you meet the educational requirements. According to the DEA, you must possess at least a bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average of 2.95. A Bachelor of Laws, Juris Doctorate, or a master’s degree is also acceptable. Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice will qualify you for this position and familiarize you with the criminal justice system, laws and regulations, people’s rights, criminal behavior, and more. Once you meet the qualifications and are accepted, you must complete the DEA Training Academy, program, located in Quantico, Va., where you will reside and receive basic agent training, practical applications training, tactical training, firearms training, legal training, and intelligence training. Upon completion of the academy, you will be assigned a station and begin your career.

Career Statistics

Overall, the hiring process can last more than 12 months, followed by the academy training. Once you graduate from the academy, your pay grade will be based on your qualifications and performance. You will begin your career as either a GS-7, starting at $49,746, a GS-9, starting at $55,483, or a GS-13, starting at $92,592. However, DEA special agent salary will also be affected by location. You can use the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s salary calculator to enter a locality, pay grade, and step (determined by advancements you have received based on performance or length of service; step one is entry-level) to determine your potential salary.

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