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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 2021 the median annual wages for criminal investigators was $83,640, and for those employed in federal government agencies and offices, the average annual salary was $114,040.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

National data

Median Salary: $83,640

Projected job growth: -0.7%

10th Percentile: $48,040

25th Percentile: $61,600

75th Percentile: $106,540

90th Percentile: $146,830

Projected job growth: -0.7%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $62,380 $40,080 $134,910
Alaska $133,600 $77,990 $167,440
Arizona $91,350 $55,200 $124,160
Arkansas $47,580 $37,220 $130,520
California $104,060 $64,610 $153,440
Colorado $97,980 $60,930 $145,890
Connecticut $94,670 $69,100 $141,480
Delaware $77,480 $54,070 $158,580
District of Columbia $133,930 $62,090 $168,480
Florida $67,930 $40,710 $143,120
Georgia $60,550 $40,430 $138,200
Hawaii $99,580 $83,320 $146,470
Idaho $64,610 $46,810 $126,690
Illinois $97,300 $61,000 $149,010
Indiana $60,850 $45,170 $131,620
Iowa $78,710 $60,500 $138,200
Kansas $60,500 $37,810 $97,860
Kentucky $64,610 $41,560 $138,200
Louisiana $57,660 $37,220 $138,200
Maine $76,910 $52,540 $126,690
Maryland $113,360 $61,000 $164,170
Massachusetts $97,980 $61,600 $161,010
Michigan $81,850 $61,190 $147,530
Minnesota $78,670 $51,750 $125,470
Mississippi $48,040 $37,220 $119,020
Missouri $60,520 $37,810 $131,850
Montana $83,640 $60,360 $126,690
Nebraska $73,550 $41,260 $130,520
Nevada $78,330 $59,570 $130,520
New Hampshire $80,140 $54,080 $145,350
New Jersey $99,880 $61,780 $159,700
New Mexico $77,480 $46,050 $100,090
New York $99,630 $61,600 $164,130
North Carolina $55,910 $47,250 $120,540
North Dakota $76,730 $47,170 $122,840
Ohio $77,580 $48,380 $135,700
Oklahoma $61,190 $40,250 $122,840
Oregon $100,330 $61,210 $143,400
Pennsylvania $78,540 $65,440 $138,360
Rhode Island $78,330 $64,460 $145,870
South Carolina $51,770 $40,190 $134,370
South Dakota $63,960 $47,850 $130,520
Tennessee $61,190 $40,710 $130,520
Texas $81,170 $48,320 $127,360
Utah $69,010 $40,560 $138,200
Vermont $91,580 $61,130 $135,450
Virginia $93,520 $47,610 $164,170
Washington $101,860 $78,710 $151,400
West Virginia $78,250 $38,250 $145,890
Wisconsin $81,850 $61,320 $102,000
Wyoming $68,730 $53,340 $130,520

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. 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/