How do I Become a DEA Agent?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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To become a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, you will need to apply at a DEA office in your region, pass a number of tests and qualifications, and then train for several months before completion of the program and graduation into the DEA. While federal law does dictate a few policies and requirements that are necessary for you to become a DEA agent, college education is not essential, though it can improve your eligibility. You will also want to be sure you are in excellent physical and psychological condition, as you will have to pass tests and examinations in both areas.

A DEA agent works for the DEA to help investigate, find, and apprehend criminals involved in the illegal drug trade in the United States (US). If you become a DEA agent, you will be expected to transfer if necessary to a region that is in need of officers, maintain and be proficient with a firearm, and potentially go undercover during investigations. You will also be a government employee with all applicable benefits and part of the General Schedule (GS) pay scale.


To become a DEA agent, you should start by contacting your local DEA offices to fill out the necessary paperwork and schedule an interview. Though a college degree is not strictly necessary, preference is given to candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Special consideration is also given to those who have a degree in an especially useful field, such as criminal justice, police science, foreign languages, computer science, and accounting. A grade point average (GPA) of 2.95 or higher is also expected from candidates.

As an eligible candidate to become a DEA agent, you will need to be between the ages of 21 and 36 years old. The only exception made is for members of another similar agency who have been with that agency from an age that was no more than 36 and wish to transfer into the DEA. You will have to pass a background check to be given the necessary security clearance of a DEA agent, and you must not have been convicted of a felony. You must also not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in order to become a DEA agent, as such a conviction legally disqualifies you from any position requiring the possession of a firearm or ammunition.

The entire application process to become a DEA agent can take up to 12 months and includes a written and oral assessment, panel interview, urinalysis drug testing, a polygraph test, thorough physical examinations, psychological assessment and background investigation. If you pass all of these steps and are accepted into the training program, you will have to relocate to Quantico, Virginia, for a 16-week Basic Agent Training (BAT) program. Successful completion of this program is required to become a DEA agent, and upon graduation, you will be assigned to your first position at an agency location.


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