United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Tough Work, Vital Mission

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DEA Special Agents training targets

Use the links below to view our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about becoming a DEA Special Agent.

What is a DEA "Special Agent"?

DEA Special Agents are a select group of men and women from diverse backgrounds whose experience and commitment make them the premier federal drug law enforcement agents in the world.

Am I qualified to be a Special Agent?

You can find out if you qualify by taking our quick online Eligibility Quiz.

Is there an age restriction for applying to become a DEA Special Agent?

Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and no older than 36 at the time of their appointment. In accordance with Public Law 100-238, this position is covered under law enforcement retirement provisions; therefore, you must be appointed before reaching your 37th birthday unless you are a preference eligible veteran OR presently serve or have previously served in a Federal civilian law enforcement retirement-covered position (after subtracting the years/months of prior federal service worked in a primary law enforcement position, you must be less than 37 years of age). The maximum entry age limit was established under the age discrimination prohibitions contained in Section 15 of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act. DEA may disqualify you at any time during the process should it be determined you reach age 37 before completion of the selection process unless you are a preference eligible veteran.

Is a college degree required in order to qualify?

A bachelor's or master's degree is highly desirable, yet not required if you possess one or more years of experience conducting narcotics/drug-related criminal investigations of alleged or suspected violations of the law, participating in surveillance and undercover operations and taking part in apprehending, arresting persons suspected of violations and assisting in the organization of evidence for presentation to prosecution officials.  Candidates without such experience may qualify if they possess a bachelor's degree (minimum GPA of 2.95 or higher) or a master's degree.  Special consideration may also be given to candidates with degrees (no minimum GPA required) and Finance/Accounting, Information Systems/Telecommunications, Electrical/Mechanical Engineering, Military Leadership experience or a foreign language fluency (fluency subject to verification).

How do I apply?

To begin the application process, contact your nearest DEA Division Recruitment Office.

How long is the hiring process?

Depending on scheduling and candidate availability, our hiring process may take 12 months or longer.

What is involved in the hiring process?

The multi-step hiring process includes the following phases:

  • Qualifications Review
  • Written and Oral Assessment and Panel Interview
  • Urinalysis Drug Test
  • Medical Examination
  • Physical Task Assessment
  • Polygraph Examination
  • Psychological Assessment
  • Background Investigation
  • Final Hiring Decision

All applicants must successfully complete all phases of the hiring process, and remain Most Competitive, to receive a final offer of employment. For more information, please contact your nearest DEA Division Recruitment Office.

Where are applicant interviews held?

Scheduling, times and locations are handled by the local Recruitment Coordinators.

Will I receive training?

Yes. If selected for a Special Agent position, you will be required to successfully complete an 18-week Basic Agent Training (BAT) program at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

What will I learn at the Academy?

Through this program, instruction and hands-on training are provided in undercover, surveillance and arrest techniques, defensive tactics and firearms training; and the basics of report writing, law and drug identification and recognition. In addition, you will participate in a rigorous physical fitness program. For more information, please view DEA Training Academy.

Where will I be assigned to work as a Special Agent? Can I request a location?

Between the 8th and 12th weeks of your training, you will be provided with your final duty station. Mobility is a condition of employment. Assignments are made based upon DEA's current operational needs.

How often will I be transferred?

Mobility is a condition of employment. Special Agents are subject to transfer throughout their career, based upon the needs of the agency.

What is the starting salary and grade for Special Agents?

DEA Special Agents are generally hired at the GS-7 or GS-9 level, depending on education and experience. The salary includes federal Law Enforcement Officer base pay plus a locality payment, depending on your duty station. In addition, 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) will be added to your base and locality pay. After graduation starting salaries are approximately $49,746 for a GS-7 and $55,483 for a GS-9. After four years of service, Special Agents are eligible to progress to the GS-13 level and can earn approximately $92,592 or more per year. Visit the latest Office of Personnel Management Law Enforcement Officer Salary Calculator.

What is your drug use policy?

DEA is charged with enforcement of the Federal Controlled Substances Act; therefore, all applicants must fully disclose any drug use history during the application process. Applicants whose drug use history is outside of acceptable parameters will not be considered for employment. All DEA employees are subject to random urinalysis drug testing throughout their careers. Download our Drug Questionnaire (Download our Drug Questionnaire PDF 91 KB)

What is the Physical Task Assessment (PTA), and why is it important?

The PTA determines if potential candidates can withstand the rigors of Special Agent training. Candidates must be in excellent physical condition in order to pass this assessment.

What happens if I fail the Physical Task Assessment (PTA)?

If you fail your first PT assessment, administered in the field, you will get a second chance to pass it within 30 days. A second failure will be cause for your application process to be discontinued. Therefore, it is a good idea to train to ensure that you are prepared to successfully complete this assessment.

What is a BI?

A background investigation (BI) is one of the final steps in the application process that seeks to discern a comprehensive snapshot of you. The investigation provides information on personal history, education and work experience, personal and professional references, as well as other necessary checks. The time it takes to complete the BI is dependent on the type and scope of investigation being conducted.

How can I apply for a non-agent position?

Investigate information on other DEA Career Opportunities.

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