DEA Agents, or Drug Enforcement Administration Agents, are federally commissioned law enforcement professionals. These individuals are responsible for upholding and enforcing all of the national rules and regulations with regards to controlled substances. If any individual or organization is found to be dealing in the trafficking of illegal drugs, the DEA is responsible for bringing them to task.If you’re interested in finding out more about DEA Agents and what it takes to enter this profession, continue reading to learn more.

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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:

Meet the Minimum Age Requirement

Must be at least 21 years old and 36 years or younger at the time of application. The age requirements are mandatory to meet.

Should Have US Citizenship

Every prospective DEA Agent must hold U.S. citizenship. Without being a US citizen, you cannot become a DEA Agent in the US.

Should Have a Driver License

Every candidate must possess a valid U.S. driver’s license.

Should Have Excellent Physical Condition

Every candidate should be in excellent physical condition. This is extremely important because the job of a DEA agent requires a lot of physical activity.

Should Be Flexible

Every prospective DEA agent should be willing and able to relocate anywhere within the U.S. Since DEA agents are required to go undercover at times, they are transferred all across the US as part of their job responsibilities.

Should Be Familiar with Firearms

DEA agents should be willing and able to carry and use firearms. DEA agents will need firearm training and learn to use firearms properly.

Should Have Great Vision and Hearing

DEA agents should have 20/20 vision and perfect hearing. The job of a DEA agent requires excellent vision and hearing to do the job properly.

Should Have Security Clearance

Before DEA agents are appointed and start working, they should have Top Secret security clearance from other law enforcement agencies.

Should Meet the Educational Requirement

DEA Agent should 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 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

The salary figures for DEA officers are not publicly available so we will look at the category of Detectives and Criminal Investigators as a reference. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detectives and Criminal Investigators made an annual mean salary of $90,370 in the US in 2021.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detectives and Criminal Investigators in the US will experience a job decline of -1% between 2021 and 2031.