All About The DEA

Description of the DEA

The DEA's mission is to protect Americans against drug abuse. This job is certainly one of the more dangerous jobs. The DEA is a federal law enforcement agency that is responsible for dealing with drug smuggling and drug abuse within the United States. It is under the U.S. Department of Justice and works directly with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Additionally, the DEA has been given the power to conduct United States drug investigations internationally.

All special agent candidates must meet one of the following criteria to be considered for DEA Academy training:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.95


  • A bachelor’s degree (no minimum GPA requirement) and at least 3 years of specialized experience in any one of the following: engineering, telecommunications, accounting and auditing, piloting aircraft, captaining a sea vessel, or speaking a foreign language (Russian, French, Spanish, Balkan Languages, Nigerian Languages, Urdu, Farsi, Chinese, Mandarin, Hebrew, Arabic, or Japanese)


  • An LL.B., master’s degree or Juris Doctor (no minimum GPA requirement)


  • Extensive law enforcement experience in undercover work, surveillance operations, drug/narcotics related operations, or evidence collection

Once hired, recruits must complete an 18-week training program at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, VA. After graduation, entering agents are assigned to one of four divisions:

  • Operations Division
  • Operations Support Division
  • Inspection Division
  • Intelligence Division


DEA agents are expected to have the highest moral character. Candidates with serious criminal infractions, histories of drug use, or habitual financial insolvency are typically disqualified from becoming DEA agents.

In order to ascertain the reputation and moral character of a candidate, the DEA administers a comprehensive background investigation. A polygraph examination is used to verify that all information submitted by the applicant is accurate and that no disqualifying factors were missed.

A psychological evaluation is then conducted to ensure that no disqualifying traits or pathologies are present.

Following all of these evaluations the hiring panel will weigh the candidate’s application in its entirety before rendering a final decision. Only applicants who have been deemed “Most Competitive” will receive offers to become DEA special agents.


Following basic training, new agents are assigned to one of 223 offices throughout the country. Once posted, the agent may receive a salary rating from GS-7 up to GS-9, which translate into initial salaries ranging from $49,746 to $55,483. These salaries are also augmented by a 25 percent differential for availability based on shift rotation and schedule, as well as a Cost of Living Adjustment. Within four years, agents may advance to the GS-13 pay level, which offers a salary as high as $92,592.
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