How To Become a DEA Agent

If you have solid leadership skills, make good decisions and are in excellent physical condition, you might wonder how to become a DEA agent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws that relate to illegal drug use and sales. DEA agents have many of the same responsibilities as law enforcement agents at various levels, but employment with the DEA is especially competitive. Candidates will often need to earn a college degree or have law enforcement experience to be competitive in the search for a sought-after position as a DEA agent. They also must meet specific physical requirements.

DEA agents spend much of their time pursuing individuals suspected of having ties to organized drug trafficking. At times, they encounter terrorist groups in whose plans drug trafficking plays some role. A DEA agent will be expected to travel and to relocate as needed in order to fight drug crime most effectively. DEA agents may work with other law enforcement agencies and federal agencies, including customs agents. Surveillance and undercover work are requirements for this specialized law enforcement position. A career as a DEA agent is challenging, but for many special agents, it is very rewarding.

While the DEA has no set educational or experience requirements, the competition for special agent positions in this agency is intense. To have an advantage in the job search, aspiring DEA agents should earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice before applying to the agency. Other subjects of study that prospective DEA agents may wish to pursue include police science, finance, engineering, computer science or various foreign languages. Previous experience in a law enforcement position or as part of the United States military can improve a candidate’s prospects of attaining a position.

The hiring process for DEA agents is lengthy and strict. Applicants should be between 21 and 36 years of age, and in excellent physical condition. They must have near-perfect eyesight and hearing with no movement impairments caused by past injuries or other medical conditions. Aspiring DEA agents must be in excellent physical condition, and are only permitted to take the agency’s rigorous Physical Task Test a maximum of two times. Additionally, candidates must pass a written test, interviews, a background check, a psychological evaluation, drug testing, medical screening and polygraph testing. All in all, the process is known to take as long as a full year.

Salaries for DEA agents depend on education and experience level. The DEA reports that starting salaries vary from $49,746 for less experienced employees and $55,483 for more seasoned employees. For DEA agents who have been with the agency for four years, salaries are closer to $92,592 per year, the DEA states. If you want to travel, have a desire to end drug trafficking and possess the physical skills to meet the demands of the job, knowing how to become a DEA agent could be the first step to beginning an exciting and rewarding new career.

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