DEA Agent — Degree, Career & Average Salary
If you want to become a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent, you’ll work for the U.S. Department of Justice. This branch of government requires all DEA agent applicants to earn a bachelor’s degree, and special consideration is given to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, police science or a related field. Agents also must be U.S. citizens, in excellent physical condition, 21-years-old and no older than age 36.
DEA Agents and Special Agents come from a variety of backgrounds and enforce U.S. controlled substances laws and regulations. These agents bring organizations involved in terrorism, controlled substance growing, manufacturing and distribution to justice. Tasks include dismantling drug trafficking rings, prosecuting drug traffickers and destroying financial infrastructures that are attached to organizations involved in drug trafficking.
To qualify for a Special Agent position, you must successfully complete all phases of a rigorous and in-depth hiring process. This process may take up to twelve months or longer to complete. Some of the tasks include a qualifications review, written assessment and panel interview, a drug test and medical examination, a physical task test, polygraph assessment and a full-field background investigation. All applicants must successfully complete all phases of the hiring process, and remain among the “Most Competitive” candidates, to receive a final offer of employment.
Once hired, you will attend a training course. The DEA Agent training facility is located in Quantico, Virginia. A sixteen-week training program is required, where you are educated in report writing, law, drug recognition, leadership and ethics. You also will learn marksmanship, weapons safety, tactical shooting and deadly-force decision making.
New DEA agents are hired at the GS-7 level ($35,369 to $44,729) or GS-9 level ($39,448 to $50,905), depending upon experience and education (BLS.gov). Within three years it is very possible to reach the GS-12 pay level. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.