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Profession of US Drug Enforcement Agent


A drug enforcement agent is a person who works for the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in controlling and enforcing laws in relation to drugs, inside and outside the U.S borders. DEA is a federal agency established in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to implement laws and regulations on controlled substances (Drug Enforcement Administration). This report discusses the various aspects of the job including requirements and selection, the salary and benefits, training and duties of agents, and their role in the criminal justice system among others.


Minimum requirements

For a person wishing to join DEA for any post including Drug Enforcement Agent, there are minimum requirements that must be fulfilled. First, the candidate must be a US citizen aged between 21and 36 years at the time of selection and a holder of a valid US driving license. Secondly, the candidate must be willing to undergo and successfully complete DEA administered drug test for illegal or controlled drugs for which the candidate must not be reliant for three years prior to the test. Fourthly, one must complete a DEA Drug questionnaire to assess the candidate’s conformity with the DEA drug policy. Lastly, the candidate must be willing to undertake and pass successfully an extensive background investigation. An additional requirement for a male candidate is registered with the Selective Service System.

In addition to minimum requirements, the candidate should have at least a college degree with at least 3.0 points in the following specializations: accounting, economics or finance; criminal justice; computer or information science; electrical or mechanical engineering; foreign languages; and telecommunications. Professional experience in the drug enforcement field, legal field, or military experience is also a plus in qualifying a candidate. Those with a military background need to have received an honorable discharge from the force. Willingness to work or relocate to anywhere else in the US soil apart from the candidate’s home is important and willingness to work for long and irregular hours including holidays, weekends, and nights in rotating shifts is a requirement. The candidate must also be willing to submit to training in the use of firearms and carrying one in normal routine duties as they may be required to deal with hostile people or to work in unfriendly environments.

Training program

Drug enforcement agents just like other staff in the DEA undergo their training at DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. This training is aimed at improving a candidate’s individual and organizational performance in regard to achieving the mission and objectives of DEA. A basic training program known as the Basic Agent Training (BAT) is offered to all enforcement agents after recruitment at the entry level. This training spans a period of sixteen weeks in a resident program at Quantico. The items covered in the program include

  • Basic report writing skills
  • Laws regarding drugs in the US and internationally
  • Automated information systems
  • Drug recognition
  • Leadership skills
  • An intensive 84-hour physical fitness regimen
  • Defensive techniques including arrests techniques and surveillance
  • A 122 hours firearms training program that involves training in marksmanship, weapons safety, and tactical shooting among others.

All these are done with practical exercises implemented to assess students’ leadership decisiveness and graduation of the student knowledge of measures and techniques essential in the field. After successful conclusion and graduation from the training, the students are confirmed as DEA agents and sent to field offices throughout the country (Drug Enforcement Administration).

Duties and responsibilities

In the enforcement of laws on controlled substances, drug enforcement agents’ work will vary every day depending on the particular appointment they are undertaking. Agent duties may include: an appointment to work undercover to infiltrate drug trafficking schemes; assigned investigation of suspected drug traffickers; scrutinizing finances of such suspects for laundering schemes; the arrest of suspected drug lawbreakers; creating awareness on illegal drugs use; impoundment of illegal drugs among others.

Role of a drug enforcement agent in the criminal justice system

The position of the agents in the criminal justice system may also require them to support the courts in the conviction of suspected lawbreakers. This will require them to gather intelligence information on such suspects and their activities, prepare this information as evidence, and give testimonies in courts regarding the same (Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S Drug Enforcement Administration News Release).

Starting salary and benefits

The opening salary of an enforcement agent is determined by the education level and know-how one has in law enforcement or the military. Those with a bachelor’s degree or more and several years of experience earn more than those with a college degree according to the Bureau of labor Statistics (BLS). For agents at the entry-level, their classification is between GS-7 and GS-9 based on their schooling and know-how. The starting salary of an agent after the BAT program is $49,746 for an agent in the GS-7 level and $55,843 for an agent in the GS-9 level per annum depending on the aforementioned factors. This salary range is then reviewed after four years and could be up to $92,592 annually again depending on the classification level. Other benefits include federal health insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits, time off benefits, savings plan, and career advancement and training, and relocation expenses (Drug Enforcement Administration).

Job outlook

The outlook for this profession is projected to develop more rapidly than average due to the rise in incidences of drug trafficking targeting mainly the US and especially from Mexico. The competition will rise as people seek to join the profession due to its related benefits. More experienced and highly trained people will have more chances of gaining entry as well as career advancement (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition).

Positive aspects of the job

Working as a drug enforcement agent has benefits in that the job is well enumerated and has many benefits such as social security funds, federal health insurance for agents and dependants, savings scheme and expenses for relocating to new places, and any training undertaken during the service years are covered by the government. Secondly, there is room for career advancement as one is promoted to the next level depending on the experience gained, education level and performance. Drug trafficking and use which has many negative social implications for the country is curbed and the culprits brought to justice thereby, making America a safer and better society. This is all thanks to the agents who devote their lives to curbing the vice risking their life in return.

Negative aspects of the job

For a drug enforcement agent, irregular hours and constant posting to other places within the country can be hectic as one has to leave to sometimes unfamiliar places, and before settling down another transfer is on the offer. This can destabilize especially a family or a marriage. There are also the dangers involved with the job as an officer often is investigating dangerous criminals in sometimes hostile environments or go undercover in such environments. Lastly, the inequality in enumeration between those with experience and more education yet they may be doing the same job. This can demoralize the force and bring about conflicts in the workplace (U.S Drug Enforcement Administration News Release).

Works Cited

“Drug Enforcement Administration”. United States Department of United States Department of, 2008. Web.

“Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition”. Bureau of Labor Bureau of Labor Web.

U.S Drug Enforcement administration News Release. Meth Trafficker and La Familia Associate Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking: Defendant Charged in “Project Coronado” Faces Life in Prison. U.S Drug Enforcement 2010. Web.


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