What It Takes To Become a DEA Special Agent

Our rigorous hiring process can take up to 12 months or more, and includes the following steps:
  1. Qualifications review.
  2. Written assessment and panel interview.
  3. Drug test.
  4. Medical examination.
  5. Physical task assessment.
  6. Polygraph examination.
  7. Psychological assessment.
  8. Full-field background investigation.

How to Become a DEA Agent

Average salary

To become a DEA special agent, you must complete a number of steps, including:

1. Pursue a degree

Every candidate for a special agent position with the DEA must hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminal psychology, finance, or a related field. Classes in forensics, criminal investigations, criminology, and sociology are frequently required for coursework. Some DEA special agents have a master’s degree in criminology or criminal justice, though it is not necessary.

If a candidate lacks a four-year degree but has substantial experience working as a police officer or government agent, they may still be qualified.

2. Research requirements

Before submitting an application for a position, prospective DEA special agents must fulfill a number of specific requirements, including:

Candidates must also meet physical and medical requirements. Candidates should, for instance, have good hearing and vision, manual dexterity, emotional stability, and mental stability, as well as no physical conditions that could endanger them or others.

Applicants must fully disclose any drug use history. If a person’s past drug use is above the acceptable threshold, they will not be given consideration for employment.

3. Apply at a DEA recruitment office

4. Pass exams and evaluations

The next step after visiting your local DEA recruitment office is passing several tests and evaluations. A series of oral and written tests will be scheduled by your recruitment coordinator. Your capacity for reasoning, problem-solving, and written communication will be assessed by the written exam. Additionally, a psychological test will be administered to you to gauge your capacity for maintaining mental stability under pressure.

A polygraph examination, a drug test, and panel interviews are also part of the hiring process. Additionally, your physical fitness will be evaluated through exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, and running. If you pass the physical task assessment (PTA), you pass or fail the special agent training.

5. Pass background checks

The DEA will conduct a thorough background check on you, during which they will assess your reliability and competency by reviewing your academic, employment, and financial histories.

You will probably not be considered if you have any serious criminal, drug, or psychological issues. However, if your background check was unblemished and you passed all other tests, a DEA hiring committee will take your application into consideration. You will be given the opportunity to become a DEA special agent if you meet their requirements.

6. Complete basic training and first post

Before becoming fully qualified agents, all new DEA recruits must successfully complete an 18-week basic training course at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The training facility will teach recruits how to use non-lethal weapons, make decisions, use defensive techniques, practice martial arts, and other critical abilities. Additionally, lecturers will cover criminal investigation, negotiation, and interrogation techniques in the classroom.

Post assignments are typically received during weeks 8-12. Depending on the DEA’s current needs and operations, post assignments vary in length and location.

What does a DEA special agent do?

Major drug crimes are investigated by DEA special agents both in the US and abroad. To run drug intelligence programs and stop drug trafficking, they collaborate with local, state, federal, and international agencies.

DEA special agents look into businesses and people that cultivate, produce, and distribute drugs here in the country as well as those that try to smuggle them into or out of the country.

Prior to reaching potential users, DEA special agents’ top priority is to seize illegal substances. They frequently carry firearms and other defensive weapons, and they may participate in undercover operations as part of their job.

Other primary duties of a DEA special agent may include:


Here are responses to frequently asked inquiries about turning into a DEA special agent.

What skills do I need to be a DEA special agent?

Special agents for the DEA must be vigilant and able to pick up on minute details that could compromise their case. To correctly interpret the evidence, they must be able to carefully examine it. DEA special agents must always be methodical, accurate, and thorough.

Special agents for the DEA must be proficient communicators with coworkers, superiors, witnesses, and suspects. To question suspects, speak with witnesses, and submit case reports, they will need to communicate clearly both orally and in writing. Additionally, DEA special agents should be able to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues and other law enforcement officials.

DEA special agents must be trustworthy, reliable and honest. They must abide by a strict code of ethics and pay close attention to agency policies and procedures. Additionally, they are frequently requested to offer eye-witness testimony in writing or court

What does a DEA special agents work environment look like?

DEA special agents are stationed at the DEA headquarters in Virginia, but they frequently travel to other parts of the country to carry out investigations. DEA agents do not typically choose their assignments. Instead, a supervising officer will select the agents who are most qualified to handle a particular case. DEA special agents typically collaborate with other law enforcement teams and work with a partner.

As part of their duties, DEA special agents may be required to work undercover or travel abroad. They typically carry badges, firearms and other defensive weapons.

What are other special positions within the DEA?

In addition to special agent positions, the DEA also has other positions. You may consider becoming a:


Is it hard to become DEA agent?

Being a DEA agent is difficult, dangerous, and rewarding work. There are many and stringent requirements to be accepted into the DEA agent training program. There are several stages to the application process, which is extremely competitive and can take up to a year to complete.

Do DEA agents make good money?

The average Dea Agent in the US makes $69,167. San Francisco, California, has the highest average total compensation for Dea Agents, at $104,670, which is 51% higher than the US average.

How can I join the DEA fast?

The first step in how to become a FAST Team member is to join the DEA as a special agent.

How to Become a FAST Team Member
  1. U.S. citizenship.
  2. Bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.95 GPA.
  3. Near normal vision and hearing.
  4. Peak physical condition.
  5. Ability to pass a background security investigation.
  6. Ability to pass a drug test.

How long does it take to be in the DEA?

How long does it take to become a DEA agent? The DEA hiring process can take up to 12 months, and basic agent training can take up to 18 weeks.

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