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How to Become a DEA Agent: Career & Salary Information

It is not an unknown fact that drugs cause immense societal problems. Drug use, drug abuse, and the mere presence of drugs in society have the unique ability to pull all the fibers apart that society so dearly clings to. The scourge of drugs has the power to fragment societal constructs and has been labeled a problem since its inception.

For that reason, governments have sought to do whatever possible to ensure that drugs hold no space in society. However, this opens the avenue of illegality with drugs coming unwarranted into society. And it is for this reason that the U.S. Department of Justice created the federal law enforcement agency known as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to combat drug trafficking and drug distribution.

To become a DEA agent, you would need to meet a list of very specific requirements, you would need to attend specific training that is directly related to this field of law enforcement, and you would need to obtain a bachelor's degree to be considered as a candidate for the role of a DEA agent.

Let us take a closer look at this much-needed and extremely interesting career path.

What Is A DEA Agent?

DEA agents are special agents who are members of law enforcement and work towards combating the manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of all illegal drugs. As federal government members, they are tasked with controlling and mitigating a problem that seems to be constantly on the rise.

As a DEA agent, you are tasked with great responsibility and will often be found in unsafe situations, given the nature of your job. But while you do fill big shoes in society, if done successfully, your role can be extremely fulfilling, especially when you see what your role does in the lives of others.

Being a member of law enforcement, it is well known that you are expected to serve and protect as a DEA agent. However, the role of a DEA agent differs in that they are not protecting civil society from dangerous human beings but rather from something that is neither human nor seen.

Drugs are often sold secretly, never out in the open for the world to see. This makes the jobs of DEA agents all the harder. They are required to not only know what is illegal and not illegal but also identify and pinpoint possible dealers and distributors of drugs.

But this is just a small part of their role. Often, they aim to stop the problem at the root. This means infiltrating a dealer to lead them to the source and then stopping the larger problem. This is extremely dangerous, but as heroes, DEA agents will do whatever they can to ensure that communities are safe.

What Does A DEA Agent Do?

Drug rings are societies and circles of their own. In the same way, drugs aim to undo civil society, and so do DEA agents who seek to undo the constructs created in drug rings. Their duties include assessing where national and international drug laws have been broken and implementing strategies to ensure that this does not occur again.

They are also tasked with investigating and prosecuting all drug criminals, who are often also guilty of committing crimes beyond just being drug-related.

Not only do they need to locate and seize all drugs, but as members of a larger team, they are also required to work with many other individuals to distribute knowledge of all drug-related occurrences.

Steps To Become A DEA Agent

Step One: Do Your Research

Before you even begin looking for training academies and the requirements you would need to fulfill, you need to know what the job entails and what will be required of you in the role of a DEA agent. While it is a very fulfilling job, it also places you in dangerous roles, and you may be required to move wherever your job takes you.

This means that the role that you get may not be in the state that you are currently living in, and you may need to relocate.

Step Two: Meet The Requirements

To be considered for the role of a DEA agent, you need to meet minimum requirements. You are required to be a U.S. citizen, you need to hold a valid U.S. driver's license, you need to be between the ages of 21 and 37, you will be required to obtain and retain a top-secret clearance, and you will need to be in good health and excellent physical condition.

Step Three: Obtain A Qualification

At the very least, DEA agents must have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. But as many seek higher roles within the field, they often pursue honor and master's degrees in criminal justice.

Other beneficial fields of academic study are legal studies or even an LLB.

Step Four: Pass The Assessments

Once you meet the criteria to be considered and have applied for a role within the DEA, you will need to pass several assessments and background tests that are vital for pursuing this role. These assessments and tests include a health screening and physical check as this job involves a lot of strenuous physical work.

You will also need to pass a polygraph test, credit checks, and most importantly, pass a drug test. Being in the field of actively trying to mitigate the use and distribution of illegal drugs, you can understand how utterly and completely detrimental it would be to pursue this career as someone who uses drugs.

Step Five: Get Training

While many who go into the DEA may have prior police or law enforcement experience, they would have completed some form of police academy training. However, basic academy training is required if an individual does not have prior law enforcement experience.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A DEA Agent?

At the very least, you would need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a law degree. You can also pursue a higher degree such as an honor's or master's degree.

What Is The Average Salary For A DEA Agent?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for DEA agents classified under the roles of detectives and criminal investigators is $83,640, according to the data recorded in May 2021.

What Makes A Good DEA Agent?

Not only are you required to have the relevant tactical training and skills, but you are also expected to have a strong work ethic, be honest, and can collaborate with multiple teams to meet the ends of justice.

You are required to have the integrity and the responsibility that many people look for in law enforcement agents, and you would need to be able to successfully serve and protect.


How Long Is DEA Academy?

Basic Agent training takes 18 weeks to complete.

Do DEA Agents Make Good Money?

According to the BLS, earning a median annual salary of $83,640 according to the BLS, it can be assumed that DEA agents do earn good money, but this does come with great responsibility and being at risk almost daily.

Is It Hard To Become A DEA Agent?

It would not be fair to say that anyone can pursue the role of a DEA agent. The training is vigorous, the background checks are intense, and working towards this career goal requires a keen focus on one's success. Anyone willing to words this role and who is aspiring become a DEA agent role can easily put in the work to become a DEA agent, but that doesn't mean it is easy.

Do DEA Agents Carry Guns?

Yes, DEA agents carry weapons and attend and complete firearm training as a prerequisite to becoming a DEA agent.

What Degree Is Best For DEA Agents?

The best degree would be a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.


In the hopes that the high demands of this role haven't deterred you from pursuing this role, being a DEA agent is bound to bring great fulfillment to all those who pursue this career path. Granted, it is not easy, but knowing that you have made communities even slightly safer by removing the presence of drugs is something you can be proud of.

It is a morally and financially fulfilling role for the right candidates.

find criminal justice degrees near you

find criminal justice degrees near you