What do DEA Agents do?
The Drug Enforcement Administration is a federal agency which oversees and enforces the laws relating to controlled substances. Special agents called DEA agents are responsible for carrying out investigations to determine whether there is any illegal trafficking of drugs taking place within the country. To this end, DEA agents must collect evidence, follow up with leads, work undercover, retrieve illegal substances, and arrest offenders. Once illegal drug trafficking has been exposed, the offenders are prosecuted.
As such, DEA Agents work in a particularly dangerous field. The work is often physically and mentally exhausting, and involves a certain amount of risk to personal safety. In recent years, the DEA has even placed undercover agents in potentially hostile situations in order to make busts from the inside of drug cartels and organizations.
Nevertheless, the pay-off is that these special agents work on the frontlines to protect communities from drug related crimes.
Thinking of becoming a DEA agent?
DEA agents are highly qualified and go through comprehensive training in law enforcement. In fact, some of the most eligible DEA agents are professionals who also have experience in criminal investigations, linguistics, law enforcement, and information technology. Many DEA agents are also individuals who have served time in the armed forces or in law enforcement.
If you’re interested in becoming a DEA Agent, here’s what you’ll need to do.
Steps to Becoming a DEA Agent
In general, candidates interested in becoming DEA Agents must meet certain basic qualifications. The requirements are:
- Must be at least 21 years old and 36 years or younger at the time of application
- Must hold U.S. citizenship
- Possess a valid U.S. driver’s license
- Be in excellent physical condition
- Be willing and able to relocate anywhere within the U.S.
- Be willing and able to carry and use firearms
- Have 20/20 vision and perfect hearing
- Receive a Top Secret security clearance
- Hold a bachelor’s degree (GPA 2.95 or higher), master’s degree, or J.D. OR have extensive experience as a sworn law enforcement officer OR have substantive experience in the armed forces.
If basic requirements are met, candidates must further satisfy the following requirements in order to proceed along the hiring process:
- Submit to a psychological evaluation
- Complete a three part written assessment
- Take part in an oral interview
- Submit to a urinalysis drug screening
- Complete a physical assessment task
- Undergo a medical evaluation
- Submit to a polygraph test
- Undertake a thorough background investigation
If you meet all of the above requirements and qualifications, and clear all the relevant tests, you will be considered to be hired as a DEA Agent.
DEA Special Agent Training
All prospective special agents must complete Basic Agent Training at the DEA Training Academy which is in Quantico, VA. This 18 week training program involves academic instruction, physical training, and firearms training.
Trainees can expect to undertake:
- 84 hours worth of physical fitness and defensive tactics training
- 122 hours of firearms training and deadly force decision training
- Academic training in the basics of drug recognition, report writing, law, ethics, leadership, and automated information systems
In order to successfully graduate from the academy, trainees must have an academic average of 80% on all of their exams, pass a series of rigorous physical tasks, pass the qualifications test for firearms use, and demonstrate leadership and effective decision making in practical scenarios.
Once you graduate from the academy, you’ll be sworn in as a DEA Agent and assigned to one of the DEA field office located in the United States.
Job Prospects and Salary
According to statistics from O*Net Online, Criminal Investigators and Special Agents, such as DEA Agents, earned an average of $77,210 annually in 2015. In terms of employment growth, statistics suggest that there will be little to no growth in the field between 2014 to 2024.