In the nation’s war on drugs, DEA agents are at the forefront of every major bust across the country. Drug Enforcement Administration agents tend to play a major role in the breakup of drug trafficking cartels, major drug deal trades, and other significant offenses against the country’s stringent drug laws. DEA Special Agents work for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, a branch of the federal government that is responsible for eradicating the use and sale of drugs in the US.
Getting a degree in criminal justice doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a job in government, but the coursework usually covers many of the topics you’ll need in this type of career.
If you want to learn what it takes to pursue a career as a DEA Agent, or work in a career fighting drug crimes, contact the schools featured here to learn more!
DEA Agent Job Description
As a DEA agent helps to prevent drug related crimes, this job may require quite a bit of travel and personal sacrifice, since DEA agents are some of the top law enforcement officials in the US. The role you take on may depend on the needs of the agency, your special skills and education, and the current drug issues in your region. For example, some special agents may research new drugs growing in popularity in different areas or collect evidence needed to arrest a major dealer. You may also be required to go undercover to gather evidence and information on suspected leaders in the drug industry. Agents typically carry out arrests and transport dangerous suspects.
Since DEA agents have such a huge responsibility to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there are rigorous educational standards in place. If you’re planning on becoming a DEA Special Agent, you’ll need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree.
Train to Become a DEA Agent
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, applicants for this position must meet a long list of requirements. At minimum, you must have a bachelor’s degree. Technically, this degree can be in any field. However, those who are considered “best qualified” often have degrees in criminal justice, finance, foreign language, computer science, or engineering. Not only must you have a bachelor’s degree, you must perform well in school. All DEA Special Agents must have a GPA of 2.95 or higher. Many hired agents have near-perfect GPAs.
A master’s degree or postgraduate law degree may also qualify you for a role as a DEA agent. If you opt to earn a master’s degree, you may want to choose a field that gives you experience in a special skill. Per the DEA, special skills include piloting, accounting and auditing, information systems, and fluency in an in-demand foreign language.
DEA Agent Training
If you meet the rigorous background check, special clearance, and education requirements of the hiring process, you may be selected for a special agent position. At this point, you must receive additional training. The DEA Training Academy is located at the Marine Corps Base in Virginia. The Basic Agent Training program lasts 18 weeks. You must attend classes full-time and live on-site while completing your education. As a Basic Agent Training student, you complete an 84-hour fitness and defense program that gives you the skills needed to stay safe and take down non-compliant suspects. In addition, your curriculum includes 122 hours of firearms training. This part of your training includes quite a bit of practical experience; not only do you learn how to safely use guns, you learn how to use your newly gained knowledge to respond appropriately to dangerous scenarios. Given how prestigious this role is, it’s no surprise that students must keep an 80% average on all coursework to graduate.
DEA Agent Salary and Career Outlook
DEA salaries fall under the general services (GS) pay schedule. Salary ranges are determined by the level that you’re hired at and what level you progress to with experience. The beginning salary for a new DEA graduate at the GS-7 level is about $35,854. Those who begin at the GS-9 level can have a starting salary of $43,857.
On top of the prescribed general services base pay, DEA agents earn more for a “locality payment”. The amount of additional pay you receive depends on where you are assigned and the cost of living in that area. For example, those in Sacramento area may start out at $47,060. Agents in the Dallas area start out at $46,471. The beginning salary for Chicago-area agents is $48,177.
Regardless of location, all DEA agents receive an additional 25% on top of their starting rate of $36k for the “Law Enforcement Availability Pay”. Once you’ve completed four years of work as an agent, your base salary may increase. The DEA outlines their salary plan here.
Find out how you can study to become a DEA agent and be part of their mission to keep drugs off the streets. Contact the schools in our directory to find out more.