DEA Information – Drug Enforcement Administration

What is the DEA?

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces federal controlled substances laws and regulations and aids in bringing those responsible for the illicit manufacturing, distributing, and growing of controlled substances before a criminal or civil court. The DEA also works to reduce the availability of illicit controlled substances in both the domestic and international markets.

Working for the DEA

The DEA hires qualified applicants for positions as special agents, diversion investigators, forensic scientists, intelligence research specialists, and for professional and administrative careers.

Becoming a DEA Agent

Becoming a DEA special agent requires a rigorous hiring process that starts with contacting a local recruitment office. From there, applicants attend an orientation, have their qualifications reviewed, participate in a panel interview and take a written assessment, complete a drug test, medical exam, and physical test, take a polygraph examination, complete a psychological assessment, and undergo a background check. From the time an applicant attends orientation to the time a hiring decision is made can take one year or longer. The most successful applicants have bachelor's or master's degrees in fields like criminal justice or police science. Special agents can be posted anywhere in the country and can be transferred at any given time.

DEA Diversion Investigators

Diversion investigators conduct investigations on the distribution and illegal sale of controlled substances. Investigators gather and analyze data to develop a solution to take the appropriate action against those suspected of conducting illegal drug activities. The successful candidate should be able to interpret federal regulations and communicate verbally and in writing. Those with military and law enforcement backgrounds are highly desired for these positions. In addition to meeting the DEA's general requirements, interested applicants must also meet vision and hearing requirements.

Forensic Science and the DEA

The DEA employs three types of forensic scientists: forensic chemists, fingerprint specialists, and forensic computer examiners. Forensic chemists help the DEA by analyzing different substances to check for the presence of drugs. They also provide testimony, conduct research, and provide training. Fingerprint specialists assist DEA agents in investigations, provide testimony, develop prints, and conduct training. Forensic computer examiners recover digital evidence, analyze this evidence, provide court testimony, work with DEA field agents, and conduct training. Those interested in one of the three forensic science careers must meet specific education and experience requirements.

Intelligence Research and other DEA Jobs

Intelligence Research Specialists research and analyze information regarding drug transportation, cultivation and production; drug trafficking routes; and drug trafficking organizations. These specialists work directly with DEA agents at field offices in the United States and abroad.
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DEA professional and administrative support positions include accountants, administrative officers, security administrators, telecommunication specialists, record management specialists, and evidence technicians. The DEA also employs attorneys, human resources personnel, finance managers, and facilities operation technicians.
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DEA Requirements

Those interested in applying for any position with the DEA must be U.S. citizens, must pass a drug test and complete a questionnaire, must successfully complete a background investigation, and for males born after 12/31/59, must be registered with the Selective Service System.

DEA Agent Salary, Earnings and Wage Information

Special agents beginning their career with the DEA usually start at the GS-7 or GS-9 level (depending on education and experience) and earn between $35,369-$49,729 annually for GS-7 level, or between $39,448-$55,905 annually for GS-9 level. Again, experience and education can greatly affect starting salaries. The salary includes locality pay (depending on your station) plus federal Law Enforcement Officer base pay. Upon successful graduation from the DEA Training Academy 25% Availability Pay will be added to your base and locality pay. After approximately four years of successful service DEA Agents become eligible to advance to the GS-13 level and can earn over $90,000 or more per year.
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Source: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,,

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