Narcotics Officer Careers

You'll supply the determination and drive but you'll need to prepare in other ways for a career as a narcotics officer.

narcotics officer arresting drug pusher

Narcotics officers, also known as narcotics agents, often experience an exciting, variable, dangerous and rewarding career.

They don't work a standard schedule and can sometimes be away from home, but catching criminals is what drives them. Find out what you'll need to do to enter this career field.

What You'll Do in a Narcotics Officer Career

Narcotics officers enforce local, state and federal narcotics laws. They investigate narcotics-related crimes including drug trafficking and drug possession using a variety of resources and techniques.

Examples of the techniques and resources include the following:

  • K-9 units
  • Surveillance
  • Wire taps
  • Undercover work
  • Developing and using informants
  • Communicating with other law enforcement agencies to coordinate task forces during investigations
  • Buy/bust operations to thwart the blatant sale of narcotics on the streets

In addition to investigating and enforcing drug related laws, narcotics officers are also involved in serving warrants, apprehending suspects and prosecution. They may even testify in court as to the methodology used during the investigation to apprehend the criminal.

Qualifications and Education

Narcotics agents most often begin their career as a police officer or related law enforcement officer. In addition to this, most federal law enforcement agencies require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree.

Completing P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Basic Training) certification and earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, public administration or a related field can provide a competitive advantage when applying for a limited number of positions.

With a few years of law enforcement experience an officer becomes eligible to write or test for promotions and special assignments, such as to a Narcotics Task Force.

Any and all additional experience, education and skills become critical in setting oneself apart from other candidates. Officers must also possess characteristics such as:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Dedication
  • Professionalism
  • Respect
  • Team player

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, narcotics officers, which are classified as police and detectives, earn a median annual salary of $56,980.

While job growth is expected to be slower than average—5 percent—through 2022, many law enforcement agencies look favorably on those who have taken the initiative to earn their credentials prior to applying and pay higher salaries to those who do.

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.