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Drug Enforcement Administration Career Requirements and Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Get a quick view of the career requirements as well as details about degree programs and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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As an agent for the drug enforcement administration, a qualified applicant would have to be between 21 and 36 years of age, have experience investigating, surveilling, or arresting criminals, and hold a bachelor's degree, which can be earned from a number of related fields.

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Essential Information

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents enforce laws concerning controlled substances. They play a vital role in the nation's war on drugs. Most DEA agents have a bachelor's degree and/or prior military or law enforcement experience.

Required Education A bachelor's degree, preferably in an area such as criminal justice, police science, finance, information systems or computer science
Projected Job Growth (2012-2024)* -1.2% for all detectives and criminal investigators
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $77,210 for all detectives and criminal investigators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Drug Enforcement Administration Career Requirements

The application process to become a DEA agent can take a year or more to complete. To be eligible for consideration, applicants must be between 21 and 36 years old. As of 2016, applicants who graduated with a bachelor's degree and at least a 2.95 GPA in the following majors were given special consideration:

  • Criminal justice/police science
  • Finance, accounting or economics
  • Information systems/computer science
  • Telecommunications/engineering
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Chemistry
  • Some foreign languages

In lieu of a bachelor's degree, relevant work experience in investigating, surveying or prosecuting criminals might be accepted. Those with a military background are also considered. Additionally, candidates must be in excellent physical condition with no prior drug record.

Those seeking additional education and internship experience prior to applying can seek entry-level or voluntary roles in positions such as telecommunications, administration, business management and investigations.

Additional Information

Prospective DEA agents must complete an 18-week Basic Agent Training program in Quantico, Virginia. While there, future agents go through an intense curriculum that focuses on drug recognition, report writing and law classes. They also participate in firearm training and deadly force decision training. They're graded on their response to increasingly challenging practical exercises.

After graduating from training, DEA agents can be assigned to work anywhere in the United States. These assignments are based upon current needs of the agency; agents can be moved at any point in their career and continue to undertake urinalysis drug tests throughout.

Upon graduation, DEA agents earn federal Law Enforcement Officer base pay, in addition to a payment based on their location. They also have 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) added to their base and locality pay.

Drug enforcement agents all must complete their training at the same program, where upon completion they are sent all over the United States, typically based on the prominence of drug activity in a specific location. The majority of these DEA agents have law enforcement experience and hold a relevant degree of some kind.

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