DEA Criminal Investigator Description

The men and women who are chosen to become special agents are among some of the most exclusive individuals who have been hand-selected to take part in the most professional drug law enforcement organization in the world. No two special agents have the same background, and each is chosen for their specific skills and knowledge that they can bring to the agency.

Special agents are critical in solving the challenging drug trafficking problems that the United State faces and helping to bring those responsible to justice. Part of the regular, everyday duties of a special agent could include:

  • Infiltrating criminal organizations
  • Conducting financial and asset investigations
  • Confiscating illegal drugs
  • Working undercover
  • Testifying in court against major crime figures in the drug world
  • Teaching other law enforcement agencies how to help stop the drug epidemic

There is no denying that the job of a DEA special agent is exciting and adrenaline filled, however it is important to understand that these men and women put their lives at risk every day. They are the heroes that are working to help protect our communities and strive to eradicate our nation of the plaguing drug problem that is upon us.

Agents are required to demonstrate a number of vital skills throughout the course of their career in order to ensure that they are safe and performing their job correctly.

  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Decisiveness
  • Dedication

Individuals who are searching for a way to help serve their country and have desire to become a special agent are encouraged to apply. While the hiring selection process is rigorous, keep in mind that it is meant to help truly find the individuals that can fill these vital roles. It is truly an honor to become a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.


Prior to becoming a DEA candidate it is important to understand what one could have to look forward to should they become a special agent. Like other federal agency positions, the DEA offers a competitive salary for those agents who have been with them for long periods of time and to compensate for the demands of their role.

Base pay scale is based on the level ranking of the agent. For instance a GS-7, which is considered the entry level special agent position with little to no experience, would start off at about $49,796 per year, after the completion of the Training Academy. A GS-9, which is also an entry level special agent, however with prior experience, would start off at about $55,483 annually. While these salaries might not sound like much, with four years of service, a special agent can be promoted to a GS-13 level which can involve a pay jump of up to $92,592 per year or more.

Because the demands of the special agent position require that they be available to work at short notice and the risks that are associated with their role, DEA agents are eligible for law enforcement availability pay (LEAP). LEAP is typically about 25% above the agent’s assigned salary.

Locality pay is also important to consider for special agents who are working in designated areas of the country. This amount is based on the station of duty that the agent is assigned to, and is above and beyond the assigned base pay.


The Drug Enforcement Administration offers great competitive benefits for all of their employees, including:

Health Benefits – All special agents are eligible for health insurance coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. Depending on the plan chosen by the agent, dental and vision coverage is available for the employee and their family.

Life Insurance – Special agents may also enroll in the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program, which offers a number of different options for coverage, including individual and family plans.

Retirement Benefits – Special agents can choose to enroll in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which can be used to fund a 401K account to assist with retirement savings. A portion of the agent’s income generated is used to fund this personal account.

Vacation and Sick Leave – An agent who has been with the DEA for a given period of time is also entitled to periodic vacation time and accrued sick leave based on their years of service to the agency.

It is important to note that all special agents are entitled to thorough training programs and are provided with relocation expenses throughout their careers.


DEA Jurisdiction & Investigative Priorities DEA Experience & Education Requirements