Special Agent FAQs
If you're ready to apply to become a DEA Special Agent there is a lot you should know. To prepare for your conversation with your recruitment coordinator, click on the links below.
To be eligible to apply, you need to meet the following criterion:
- Must be 21 years old, and no older than 36 years old at the time of appointment
- Hold U.S. citizenship
- Possess a valid U.S. driver's license
- Be willing to relocate anywhere in the U.S.
- Able to obtain and retain a Top Secret security clearance
- Be in excellent physical condition
- Be willing and able to carry and handle firearms
*You must be at least 21 years of age and not older than 36 at the time of 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.
Applicants need to meet physical and medical requirements, prove they have achieved minimum education and/or job experience, and demonstrate basic competencies needed for the position.
Please see Special Agent Job Announcement for specific items concerning qualification.
Applicants need to meet the following medical qualifications:
Sharp visual and hearing acuity.
Manual dexterity with comparatively free motion of fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.
Arms, hands, legs, and feet are sufficiently intact and functioning. (If unable to meet this standard, the applicant can ask for a medical review process to determine their eligibility.)
Sufficient vision in each eye, with or without correction. If the applicant has near vision (corrective lenses permitted) sufficient for reading printed material the size of typewritten characters.
Does not have hearing loss, as measured by an audiometer, that exceeds 35 decibels at 1000, 2000 and 3000 Hz levels.
Emotional and mental stability that allows them to perform duties that are exacting and responsible and involve activities under trying conditions.
Do not have a physical condition that would cause them to be a hazard to themself or others.
Applicants must be in excellent physical condition in order to pass the Physical Task Assessment (PTA). The PTA determines a candidate's ability to withstand the physical rigors of Special Agent Training.
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.
You need to possess one or more of the following:
- A bachelor's degree (GPA of 2.95 or higher), a master's or a J.D. or LL.B.;
- OR experience assisting in investigations of alleged or suspected violations of the law; participating in multi-agency/organization venues, briefings, meetings, conferences; researching, collecting and analyzing data from a variety of sources relating to investigations; writing reports and conducting briefings of findings, results, or accomplishments for information or action relating to law enforcement activities and/or court cases; assisting court officials and law enforcement personnel with case-related materials; and testifying or presenting evidence for court, legislative, or administrative proceedings;
- OR three+ years of substantive work experience and special skills; e.g., pilot/maritime, accounting/auditing, military/technical, mechanical including information systems, telecommunications, engineering, and/or a foreign language fluency (fluency subject to verification); and a bachelor's degree or higher (no minimum GPA required) with coursework related to the aforementioned special skill.
You need to possess all of the following competencies:
- Written and oral communication capabilities
- Attention to detail/memory
- Interpersonal skills
Basic Agent Training Program (BATP)
All Special Agent candidates must attend the 16-week Basic Agent Training Program (BATP) located at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA.
Basic Agent Training Program (BATP) is designed to prepare a Basic Agent Trainee (BAT) to be an entry-level Special Agent upon graduation. It is incumbent upon each and every BAT to ensure that they are familiar with the requirements, regulations, and guidance provided in this document. In order to graduate from the BATP, a BAT must receive a passing score in nine (9) performance-based disciplines, demonstrate that they possess the necessary eight (8) critical job-related traits and characteristics to be a Special Agent, and conduct themselves in a safe manner at all times throughout the BATP.
The Performance-Based Disciplines are:
- Physical Fitness
- Standards of Conduct
- Report Writing
- Practical Applications/Exercises
- Driver Training
- Defensive Tactics
- Tactical Operations Training
- Firearms/Weapons Training
Depending on scheduling and candidate availability, our hiring process may take 12 months or longer.
DEA has vacancies throughout the United States.
DEA Special Agents are generally hired at the GS-07 or GS-09 level, depending on education and/or experience and Special Agents progress to the GS-13 grade within a few years after being hired. In addition, 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) is added to your base and locality pay when hired. This 25% salary is additional, above your normal salary. Visit the latest Office of Personnel Management Law Enforcement Officer Salary Calculator and OPM.gov, for specific locality pay: Salaries & Wages (opm.gov).
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.
DEA. 8 August, 2019. Special Agent FAQs. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/careers/special-agent/special-agent-faqs on 27 March, 2023
DEA. "Special Agent FAQs."Drug Enforcement Agency, 8 August, 2019, https://www.dea.gov/careers/special-agent/special-agent-faqs Accessed 27 March, 2023.
DEA. . Drug Enforcement Agency on DEA website. https://www.dea.gov/careers/special-agent/special-agent-faqs. 8 August, 2019. Accessed 27 March, 2023.