Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Career and Degree Information

You'll enforce the nation's drug policy and curb the illegal sale and use of drugs. Here's what you'll need to know.

dea agent searching suspect

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) special agents come from a variety of backgrounds and enforce controlled substances laws and regulations.

If you'd like to fight drugs and drug abuse, bring criminals to justice, and earn a good salary while you do it, this could be the career for you.

What You'll Do as a DEA Agent

DEA agents bring to justice the organizations that are involved in controlled substance growing, manufacturing and distribution. To accomplish this DEA agents work to dismantle drug trafficking rings, prosecute drug traffickers and destroy the financial infrastructure of the organizations involved in the crime.

The DEA's responsibilities include the following:

  • Investigating violations of interstate and international drug laws
  • Investigating and preparing for the prosecution of criminals and drug gangs
  • Collecting, analyzing and distributing drug intelligence information
  • Seizing of assets derived from illegal drug trafficking

DEA Agent Education

A bachelor's degree is required and special consideration is given to those applicants who have degrees in criminal justice, police science or related fields. Degrees in finance, accounting, economics and foreign language also receive special consideration.

The DEA Agent facility is located in Quantico, Va. and is used by both the FBI and the DEA for instructing their agents. New agents attend courses for 16 weeks where they receive the following:

  • Basic Agent Training
  • Practical Applications
  • Tactical Training
  • Firearms
  • Legal Training
  • Intelligence Training
  • Ethics

DEA Agent and Salary Outlook

Now that you know how to become a special agent, you'll want to know about the DEA agent salary you can earn. According to the DEA, after graduation from training, starting salaries range from $49,746 to $55,483, depending on your grade level.

There's the potential to earn a higher salary after four years of special agent service with a starting point of $92,592.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, job growth for special officers is expected to be slower than average—5 percent—through 2022. This is due to the fact that although the need for public safety requires more officers, growth will always be driven by local and state budgets, which vary widely.