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DEA Agent

Drug Enforcement Administration agents, or DEA agents, are special officers employed by the United States federal government to fight crime — especially the buying and selling of illegal drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration looks for physically fit applicants with the right education, training and drive to join its team.

If you want to pursue a career in the domestic enforcement of federal drug laws, learn how an online degree in Criminal Justice can help you get started on your path to becoming a DEA Agent.

Degrees for DEA Agents

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration strongly advises potential DEA agent candidates to earn a college degree (with a grade point average of 3.0 or better) in one or more of the following areas:

Applicants at least 21 years of age who have earned their bachelor’s or master’s degree may apply for a DEA agent position at one of the DEA agent recruitment centers. There are several steps in the hiring process, including intensive interviews, assessments and tests as well as a thorough background investigation.

When hired, future DEA agents will undergo a 16-week Basic Agent Training (BAT) program at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Va., which is the same training facility used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Similar to FBI training, DEA agent training is rigorous and includes exercises in firearms, undercover surveillance, self-defense, arrest techniques, identifying illegal drugs and a tough physical fitness program.

DEA Agent Career Description*

DEA agents enforce controlled substances laws, which involves arresting individuals who participate in illicit drug trafficking and drug use. The everyday work life and daily duties of DEA agents may include:

  • Surveying suspects
  • Infiltrating drug trafficking organizations
  • Arresting violators
  • Seizing assets of drug-related crimes
  • Investigating laundering schemes
  • Confiscating illegal drugs
  • Investigating the illegal distribution of prescription medications
  • Collecting evidence
  • Testifying in court
  • Promoting educational programs to reduce illegal drug use

In addition to domestic enforcement of federal drug laws, the DEA coordinates global investigations. Drug enforcement officers may work with foreign governments in identifying drug traffickers, destroying illegal drug production, surveying criminals and infiltrating international drug cartels.

DEA Agent Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be more competition for positions in federal enforcement agencies than for jobs in local agencies. The BLS adds that those with a bachelor’s degree and several years of law enforcement or military experience — especially investigative experience — will have the best opportunities in federal agencies.

According to the DEA, salaries for drug enforcement agents are based on applicants’ college education and work experience. After graduating the training program, DEA agents can earn a starting salary of $49,746 to $55,483. After four years in the DEA, drug enforcement officers are eligible to earn approximately $92,592 (or more) annually, depending on their classification level.

*Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.



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