DEA Agent: Job Description, Salary, and Training
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works to keep illegal drugs out of the country and enforce existing drug and substance laws. Members of the DEA conduct investigations, work to prosecute offenders and work toward stopping the production of illegal drugs and substances.
Working for the DEA has several career paths available, from entry level positions to more advanced options like special agents or forensic scientists. Each career area has its own set of job requirements and pay levels.
For a DEA special agent, the starting salary is approximately $49,746 for someone at the GS-7 level and $55,483 for someone at level GS-9. For DEA positions like diversion investigator or forensic chemist, the pay is commensurate on education, previous experience and other skill-based factors.
Job Skills for DEA
Qualifying for a job with the DEA requires meeting specific job requirements based on position. Forensic computer examiners need to have experience gathering computer-related evidence, forensic chemists need to have college experience in chemistry and fingerprint specialists need to know how to use advanced laboratory experience.
DEA special agents have to be able to pass physical tests as well as psychological examinations and written examinations. They must be able to handle themselves in intense situations and have the ability to work well in a team environment. Special agents should have strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
Speaking a second language is another desired trait, as DEA agents interact with a global audience. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and not older than 36 years old to be hired as a special agent.
Work Environment for DEA
Science and technology-based positions within the DEA are more likely to work in laboratory or office environments. DEA special agents might have to travel for work. Their day to day job can take place on the road during an investigation, in an office while doing paperwork or in a courtroom during a trial.
DEA employees have a lot of responsibility, so the job can potentially be stressful. Special agents in particular face danger and injury while on the job. The skills, physical abilities and other performance metrics need to be consistent throughout a special agent’s career, so there is some pressure to perform well each day.
Education Requirements for DEA
Each position in the DEA has its own criteria for education. The science-based positions usually require a degree or college coursework in chemistry or a related subject. Forensic chemists need a bachelor’s degree or a combination of experience and 30 hours of coursework in chemistry. However, a master’s or doctorate degree may be needed for other positions like forensic computer examiners.
Special agents for the DEA need to have a bachelor’s, master’s, LL.B. or J.D. degree. A grade point average of at least 2.95 is also required. Applicants with degrees in criminal justice, police science or a related area will get special consideration. Economics, finance, computer science, information systems, telecommunications, accounting and electrical/mechanical engineering are other desired degrees for this position. Candidates fluent in Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or dialects of Nigerian languages are also in-demand for the DEA.