With their diverse backgrounds, DEA Special Agents are the most highly regarded federal drug law enforcement agents in the world. The professional respect accorded DEA Special Agents is a direct result of the experience, commitment, and training associated with this career.
A large percentage of new trainees begin with prior law enforcement experience while about thirty percent are from a military background.
DEA Special Agent Requirements
Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and no more than 36 years of age at the time of appointment. Competitive candidates for these coveted positions have a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a GPA of 2.95 or higher. Preference may be given to candidates with degrees in certain disciplines such as finance, law, language, and as of recently, criminal justice.
The hiring process is multi-step and all candidates must complete each phase successfully to remain in the most competitive group and receive a final offer of employment. There is an initial qualifications review followed by a written, oral, and panel interview. Applicants must pass a medical examination which includes a test for drug presence.
A Physical Task test determines if you can withstand the physical rigors of training. If you fail the PT test you will have a second opportunity to pass it within 30 days.
Candidates will take a polygraph examination, undergo a psychological assessment, and a thorough background investigation will be conducted. This extensive application process may take up to a year to complete before a candidate is hired as a DEA Special Agent.
Education and Training
Basic training is a 16 week resident program with emphasis on leadership, ethics and human relations. The typical class size is 40 to 50 Basic Agent trainees.
The basics of report writing, law, automated info systems, and drug recognition are provided in the academic instruction. This academic focus is in addition to a rigorous 84-hour regiment in physical fitness and defensive tactics which prepares new Agents for compliant and non-compliant arrest scenarios.
In addition, students have 122 hours of firearms training ranging from basic marksmanship to tactical shooting and deadly force decision training.
Through the training of a DEA Special Agent, there is an emphasis on the respect for human life, leadership and ethics, human dignity and sound judgment in the use of deadly force.
As the training progresses, students must apply the classroom knowledge to a series of increasingly demanding practical exercises to test leadership, decisiveness, and procedural knowledge.
DEA Special Agent Salary
Salary includes federal Law Enforcement Officer base pay at the GS-7 or GS-9 level plus a locality payment which is based on duty station assigned.
After graduation from the DEA Training Academy, 25% Availability Pay is added to the base and locality pay. Starting salaries range from $49,746 for a GS-7 to $55,483 for a GS-9. DEA Special Agents can progress to the level of GS-13 after four years and earn about $92,500 or more per year.
DEA Career Opportunities
Special Agents are subject to transfer throughout their career so mobility is a condition of employment, but also an opportunity for those who enjoy exploring new areas of the country. You will receive your final duty station assignment between the 8th and 12th week of training.
In addition to relocation, as a DEA Special Agent you may be required to travel frequently with little advance notice. Ongoing individual training will allow you to focus and progress in areas where your individual talents, skills, and interests can best be utilized.
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