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
Candidates 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.
You need to meet the following physical/medical qualifications:
- Sharp visual and hearing acuity.
- Manual dexterity with comparatively free motion of my fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hip and knee.
- Your arms, hands, legs, and feet are sufficiently intact and functioning. (If unable to meet this standard, you can ask for a medical review process to determine your eligibility.)
- Sufficient vision in each eye, with or without correction. You have near vision (corrective lenses permitted) sufficient for reading printed material the size of typewritten characters.
- You do 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 allow you to perform duties that are exacting and responsible and involve activities under trying conditions.
- You do not have a physical condition that would cause you to be a hazard to yourself or others.
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
Enter your zip code to find the recruitment office closest to you.
Depending on scheduling and candidate availability, our hiring process may take 12 months or longer.
If you’re interested in becoming a DEA Special Agent, contact your closest DEA Special Agent Recruitment Office to find out how to apply. You can view the latest Special Agent (Criminal Investigator) Job announcement.
Fitness is essential for DEA Special Agents. The Physical Task Assessment (PTA) determines if potential candidates can withstand the rigors of Special Agent training.
Candidates must be in excellent physical condition in order to pass the assessment.
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.
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.
Check out our other DEA Career Opportunities.