DEA Agent Career Outlook & Description

DEA Agents, or Drug Enforcement Administration special agents play a very important role in the security of the United States. They investigate violations of federal law that involved controlled substances, illegal drugs, and drug abuse. The agents are particularly focused on organizations and individuals who grow, manufacture, and distribute drugs within the United States, or those who attempt to send drugs and illegal substances into the country. DEA agents attempt to interrupt drug trafficking operations, and destroy the organizations’ financial structures related to drug trafficking. The primary goal of DEA agents is to interrupt the flow of drug traffic before it reaches potential users. As part of their job, DEA agents often do surveillance and undercover work, and some of their job duties take place in dangerous situations.

Find a School

Prerequisites for Becoming a DEA Special Agent: Education & Qualifications

As a federal agency, the DEA has stringent requirements for potential agents. To become a DEA agent, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, pass a drug test, complete a drug questionnaire to show that they comply with DEA drug policy, and pass a background check. In addition, applicants must be in excellent physical shape, and be between the ages of 21 and 36. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, and those who hold a degree in criminal justice, police science, finance, accounting, economics, or foreign language are most likely to be placed at the top of the list.

Did you know? The United States spends many billions of dollars each year on drug enforcement. In 2007, the Bush Administration called for $12.9 billion to fund the battle against drugs.1

Find a School

DEA Special Agent Job Training

Once an applicant is hired to be an agent, he or she undergoes an intense four-month training period. During training, the new agents learn about writing reports, federal and international law, how to recognize drugs, weapons use and safety, and decision-making in critical situations that require the use of deadly force.

DEA Special Agent Salary & Benefits

New DEA agents typically start at the GS-7 level while some start at the GS-9 level, depending on their education and former experience. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average annual salary is $77,860 for detectives and criminal investigators which includes special agents. There are many benefits that come with a position as a DEA agent. These include health insurance plans (with dental/vision, long term care insurance, and flex spending plans included), life insurance, a retirement program, and liberal time off benefits (sick leave, annual leave, and federal holidays). Supervisory positions, especially those that require the agent to relocate, pay higher salaries.

Schools with Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Programs

request information

University of Phoenix
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • M.S. in Administration of Justice and Security/Law Enforcement Organizations
  • M.S. in Administration of Justice and security/Global Homeland Security
  • A.A. in Criminal Justice

request information

Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • BS - Homeland Security
  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • PhD - Criminal Justice

request information

Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Masters of Science in Management in Homeland Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Human Services

request information

Liberty University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Masters in Criminal Justice: Command College

request information

American InterContinental University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor's - Homeland Security and Crisis Management
  • Associate's (AABA) - Criminal Justice Administration

request information

California University of Pennsylvania
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Master of Science in Legal Studies: Homeland Security
  • Master of Science in Legal Studies: Criminal Justice
  • MA in Social Science (Applied Criminology)

request information

Keiser University Graduate School
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Criminal Justice, MA (Online)


References:
1. Lyman, Michael D. Drugs in Society. Burlington: Anderson Publishing, 2011.
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm

Page Edited by Charles Sipe.