How to Become a DEA Agent

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As federal law enforcement officers, the Drug Enforcement Agency's agents enforce and investigate violations of the U.S. controlled substance laws. They fill a demanding role that includes conducting criminal and financial investigations, making arrests, working undercover, testifying in court and coordinating efforts with other agencies. Agents must meet the strict minimum qualifications, but applicants with specialized skills and knowledge receive the highest consideration.

Physical and Medical Requirements

  • All applicants for the DEA agent position must be US citizens between the ages of 21 and 36. In addition, applicants must be in good health with good hearing, normal color vision and eyesight correctable to at least 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other. Any history of drug use, unless medically prescribed, results in immediate disqualification from the application process. In some cases, exceptions may be made for experimentation with marijuana.

Meet Minimum Qualifications

  • Most successful applicants have at least a bachelor's degree with a 2.95 GPA or higher. Applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement still may qualify to apply as an agent if they have at least three years of work experience in a desired special skill. Special skills include foreign language fluency; military training; pilot or maritime skills, accounting or auditing experience; or technical or mechanical skills. Applicants with experience conducting drug-related investigations, undercover operations, making arrests and testifying in court meet the minimum qualifications even without a bachelor's degree.

Complete Application Process

  • Applicants who meet the minimum qualifications may contact the closest DEA Recruitment Office to reserve a seat for the next orientation session or to schedule a phone orientation. After the orientation, applicants may begin the application process, which can take a year or more to complete. First, the DEA will review the applicants qualifications. Then the applicant undergoes a written assessment and interview with a panel. Applicants who successfully complete this step must pass a drug test, medical examination and the physical task test. This test includes sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, a 120-yard shuttle run and a two-mile run. After passing the physical tests, applicants undergo a polygraph and a psychological assessment. The DEA does a full background check on all applicants. After completing the application process, the DEA will offer a position to the most highly qualified applicants.

Attend DEA Training Academy

  • Agents who receive a job offer after the application process must attend Basic Agent Training before being assigned to work as a DEA agent. Trainees live onsite at the DEA Training Academy located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia, during the 18-week course. Classroom training covers topics such as law, drug recognition, report writing and ethics. Trainees must demonstrate leadership and mastery of classroom knowledge during practical exercises. In addition, trainees receive training in firearms and defensive tactics.

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