What is a DEA Agent?

DEA Agents work for the Drug Enforcement Agency. They deal with illegal and illicit drug use that touches every aspect of society. DEA agents deal with many problems because the global drug business is tied to terrorism, organized crime and all sorts of illegal activities. The Drug Enforcement Agency was created through the Department of Justice to combat the effects of domestic drug trafficking.

A Unique Criminal Justice Job

DEA agents play special roles within the world of federal law enforcement. They investigate all aspects of the illegal drug market. They are sometimes sent to work in exotic countries with cooperating foreign governments. They may also work in remote and dangerous locations near the Mexico-United States border. DEA special agents work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. They often coordinate investigations, share intelligence and enforce anti-drug laws. DEA agents often work behind the scenes supporting local and regional efforts.

DEA agents are responsible for report writing, gathering evidence, interviewing people, conducting surveillance and providing courtroom testimony. They are also responsible for preparing, obtaining and executing search and arrest warrants. On any given day, they may be found participating in undercover operations, conducting inter-agency investigations and tracking suspected criminals. DEA agents often handle automatic weapons, dangerous drugs and large sums of money.

Stringent Job Requirements

Job candidates at the DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies must meet stringent standards to be eligible for hire. Prospective DEA special agents must be citizens who are between the ages of 21 and 36. Job candidates must have a valid driver’s license and hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some jobs will accept professional law enforcement experience or training in place of specific degree requirements. The hiring process involves passing drug, medical, background, psychological and physical fitness tests.

For example, the written and fitness tests are similar to law enforcement qualification tests that benchmark the candidates’ physical strength, cardio stamina, cognitive functioning and investigative intelligence. There are written assessments, multiple oral interviews and Top Secret security clearance qualifications. It takes up to one year to successfully complete the DEA hiring process. It takes at 18 weeks to complete basic agent training, which is similar to FBI special agent training.

DEA Special Agent Training

Almost all DEA agents come from a military or law enforcement background, so they have already undergone and passed rigorous fitness, firearm and self-defense training. Regardless of the background, all new DEA agents must complete the 18-week training program at the DEA’s academy in Quantico, Virginia. These students complete a combination of classroom and practical training. Students learn about ethics, leadership, criminology and drug recognition.

Students receive training in law enforcement techniques like field surveillance, undercover operations, home searches, armed raids, prisoner processing, immigration enforcement and inter-agency coordination. DEA academy students spend over 120 hours learning and practicing firearms, marksmanship, combat shooting and fighting tactics. Students drill in different scenarios, such entering low-light buildings and natural environments while using a shield and gun.

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DEA academy students build their strength and stamina through exercise, self-defense and fighting classes. Tactical training focuses on the mental conditioning required to handle unarmed, hostage and violent confrontations.