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Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Career & Degree Guide

You’ll enforce the nation’s drug policy and curb the illegal sale and use of drugs.

professional in black vest looks at bulletin board of crime images

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

If you’re interested in combating drugs and drug abuse, working to bring criminals to justice, and potentially earning a good salary while you do it, this may 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


A bachelor’s degree is required for DEA applicants and special consideration is given to those applicants who have degrees in criminal justice, police science, or related fields. Your GPA needs to be 2.95 or higher to be considered.

Degrees in finance, accounting, economics, and foreign language also receive special consideration as needed by the agency. Unique skills and experiences, such as foreign language proficiency, may be a plus, but remember, you must also hold a bachelor’s degree or higher with coursework in a foreign language, literature, writing, communications, or humanities and cultural studies.

All academic degrees and coursework must be completed at a college or university that has obtained accreditation or pre-accreditation status from an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Graduate-level education

The DEA also welcomes potential candidates who have earned a master’s degree in criminal justice or other areas, a Juris Doctor, or an LL.B (a professional degree in law).

For Grade 07 entry, in many instances you may substitute education for specialized experience if you have a completed a full academic year of graduate level school or law school. If you meet the requirements of the Superior Academic Achievement Provision, you may also be considered. Superior Academic Achievement includes:

  • Your class standing
  • A GPA of 2.95 or higher, based on your 4-year education or in your final 2-year curriculum
  • Or, a GPA of 3.5 or higher based on your required courses in your major

If you plan to enter at a higher grade, such as Grade 09, only graduate-level education besides the Grade 07 level requirements will be considered.


After meeting the skills and education requirements, you’ll attend the DEA Agent facility, which 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 Salaries

Now that you know how to become a special agent, you’ll want to know how much you can make working for the DEA.

DEA Special Agents are generally hired at the GS-7 or GS-9 level, depending on their education and experience. DEA agent salaries include Criminal Investigator base pay plus a locality payment, depending on where you work. In addition, 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) will be added to your base and locality pay. After four years of service, DEA Special Agents are eligible to progress to the GS-13 level and can earn approximately $92,592 or more per year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies investigators under detectives and criminal investigators, and says as of 2022 the median annual wages for criminal investigators was $86,280, and for those employed in government agencies and offices, the average annual salary was $66,720.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

National data

Median Salary: $86,280

Projected job growth: 1.5%

10th Percentile: $47,990

25th Percentile: $61,240

75th Percentile: $110,530

90th Percentile: $150,570

Projected job growth: 1.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $62,420 $40,150 $138,570
Alaska $141,210 $75,500 $165,690
Arizona $93,830 $55,000 $127,520
Arkansas $45,360 $36,310 $129,750
California $107,240 $73,320 $153,210
Colorado $92,440 $60,280 $147,370
Connecticut $92,070 $68,290 $150,820
Delaware $80,060 $58,070 $158,930
District of Columbia $142,420 $85,560 $175,340
Florida $74,120 $42,900 $149,410
Georgia $58,670 $39,070 $141,090
Hawaii $107,740 $94,490 $150,740
Idaho $66,990 $45,850 $125,820
Illinois $95,040 $62,650 $152,980
Indiana $61,500 $40,000 $134,910
Iowa $75,070 $52,350 $133,680
Kansas $58,880 $38,960 $96,430
Kentucky $58,430 $39,520 $141,540
Louisiana $53,320 $36,940 $137,610
Maine $72,180 $50,840 $112,530
Maryland $116,770 $59,070 $169,120
Massachusetts $93,220 $59,170 $158,480
Michigan $83,490 $63,590 $151,420
Minnesota $76,340 $53,900 $122,530
Mississippi $47,950 $35,000 $117,960
Missouri $72,740 $42,430 $139,360
Montana $89,940 $57,700 $129,750
Nebraska $79,480 $49,490 $138,490
Nevada $80,240 $53,390 $136,050
New Hampshire $75,470 $54,720 $145,270
New Jersey $98,320 $60,990 $163,240
New Mexico $81,660 $43,830 $99,990
New York $96,200 $61,410 $169,100
North Carolina $55,360 $43,400 $122,760
North Dakota $79,060 $48,030 $129,750
Ohio $76,270 $49,990 $137,970
Oklahoma $59,810 $43,260 $125,820
Oregon $95,220 $59,990 $147,260
Pennsylvania $86,280 $64,190 $142,000
Rhode Island $80,080 $70,160 $140,860
South Carolina $52,470 $40,980 $137,610
South Dakota $62,070 $46,450 $129,750
Tennessee $60,430 $41,880 $133,680
Texas $82,090 $46,550 $129,650
Utah $70,680 $43,820 $141,540
Vermont $95,220 $61,940 $141,540
Virginia $93,500 $48,270 $169,120
Washington $105,120 $74,590 $153,340
West Virginia $70,680 $41,700 $149,410
Wisconsin $83,010 $60,710 $98,180
Wyoming $70,480 $53,990 $133,680

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

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.

Source: www.dea.gov/careers/