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ATF Agent Career, Job, Degrees and ATF Training Information

ATF agents, working under the supervision of the Treasury Department, enforce laws involving the illegal possession and sale of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. ATF agents obtain search warrants, raid buildings, search for evidence, interview suspects and witnesses, conduct surveillance, and make arrests. ATF agents work closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. ATF agents gather and analyze date and prepare reports used by an U.S. attorney preparing for a trial.



Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent is considered by many law enforcement professionals to be of the most challenging careers in Federal law enforcement. ATF headquarters are in Washington, D.C. and has field offices located throughout United States. Highly skilled and trained ATF agents investigate violations of Federal law relating to firearms, arson, explosive, alcohol and tobacco diversion. These investigations involve surveillance, interogating suspects, interviewing witnesses, obtaining and executing warrants, making arrests, and searching for physical evidence to support legal proceedings. Forensic chemists and other specialty technicians and professionals provide expert assistance in preparing cases.



A career as a ATF special agent can be exciting and very rewarding. To be successful ATF agents must be physically and mentally tough. They must also be able to handle rigorous training, irregular working hours, personal risks, and a lifestyle that permits extensive travel. As an ATF agent you can expect to be reassigned to any ATF office in the United States, to any U.S. Territory or a location overseas if you're need to on a foreign assignment.



ATF Agents are responsible for:
  • Conduct investigations of violations relating to explosives, firearms, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion.
  • Investigation of criminal violations of Federal laws within the enforcement jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Testify for the government in court or before grand juries.
  • Prepare comprehensive, yet concise criminal investigative case reports.
  • Gather and analyze evidence through investigative leads, seizures and arrests, execution of search warrants, and a variety of other means.
Conditions of Employment



Special Agent Applicants must:
  • Be a U.S. Citizen
  • Be eligible for Federal employment, male applicants born after December 31, 1959, must certify at the time of appointment that they have registered with the Selective Service System, or are exempt from having to do so under Selective Service law.
  • Be between the ages of 21 and 37, at the time of appointment, unless you have had previous service in a Federal civilian law enforcement position covered by special civil service retirement provisions, including early or mandatory retirement. Maximum age limitations may not be waived for any applicant, including those entitled to veterans' preference.
  • Complete ATF special agent applicant questionnaire. li>Possess a current and valid automobile operator's license.
  • Take and pass the Treasury Enforcement Agent (TEA) Examination
  • Take and pass the ATF special agent applicant assessment test.
  • Appear for and successfully complete a field panel interview – a writing sample will be required.
  • Be in compliance with ATF's drug policy for special agent applicants.
  • Take and pass a medical examination by an authorized government physician and meet medical requirements. Medical requirements include:
    • At a minimum, ATF special agents must meet uncorrected distant vision of at least 20/100 in each eye, and corrected distant vision must test 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other. Normal depth perception and peripheral vision are required as is the ability to distinguish shades of color by plate tests.
    • Applicants that have undergone Automated Larnellar Keratoplasty (ALK); Laser in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK); Photorefractive Keratecotomy (PRK); and Radial Keratotomy (RK) must provide proof that they have passed the specific protocol. The test must be administered by a board-certified opthalmologist who will document the results of the protocol test and that the test was performed no sooner than the prescribed time after the date of surgery. (3 months or one year, depending on the type of surgery).
    • Hearing loss, as measured by an audiometer, must not exceed 30 decibels at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz levels.
    • Applicants must be able to perform physically strenuous duties safely.
  • Take and pass a drug test.
  • Take and successfully complete a polygraph examination.
  • Weight must be in proportion to height
  • Successfully complete a background investigation for a top secret security clearance.
Foreign Language Award Program



The Foreign Language Award Program provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives provides ATF agents and employees cash awards for those who possess and make substantial use of one or more foreign language(s) in the performance of their jobs. The cash bonus is based upon proficiency as well as substantial usage of the foreign language.



Promotion Potential



Promotions as and ATF agent are based on superior performance and must receive supervisory approval.