The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) needs strong and capable agents to help protect the nation – and its citizens – from dangerous and illegal drug trafficking. Do you have what it takes?
The DEA is one of the most recognized and regarded federal agencies in the world. They are on the cutting edge of criminal investigations, responsible for stopping drug traffickers, dismantling drug operations, and ultimately protecting our society from dangerous drugs. In this age of a harrowing opioid crisis and deadly synthetic drug trade, DEA special agents are needed more than ever.
If you wish to be on the frontline of drug investigations, seizing and disrupting drug trafficking across the United States, a career as a DEA agent may be for you. This is a rigorous yet exciting career choice, where every day brings something new, and where you can make a real impact within the community.
How do you become a DEA agent today? Because the job is so in-demand, and because of the demanding nature of the job, the Drug Enforcement Agency enacts a very thorough hiring process. Aspiring DEA agents are reviewed on their qualifications, interviewed by a panel of Special Agents, and assessed through a series of physical tasks. This entire process can take 12 months or longer.
As a leading criminal justice school in Connecticut, with graduates who have gone on to work in federal agencies like the DEA, Goodwin College outline the specific requirements to become a DEA agent below.
Basic Requirements to Become a DEA Agent
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, those looking to become a DEA agent must fulfill the following prerequisites before applying:
- Must be 21 years old, and no older than 36 years old at the time of appointment
- Must be a United States citizen
- Have a valid U.S. driver’s license
- Able to obtain (and retain) a Top Secret security clearance
- Willing to re-locate anywhere in the country, as needed
- Willing and able to carry and handle firearms, as needed
- Excellent physical condition and health
DEA Physical and Health Qualifications
Like most law enforcement jobs, working as a DEA agent requires you to be in good physical and medical condition. Your body must be able to effectively handle trying situations – such as running to catch a criminal, navigating your way out of a dangerous building, breaking down doors to illegal operations, or spotting near-microscopic residue from illicit drugs.
The DEA requires candidates to complete a Physical Task Assessment as part of the application process. This determines if potential candidates can withstand the rigors of Special Agent training. Specifically, the DEA requires special agents to have:
- Sharp visual and hearing acuity (hearing will be measured by an audiometer)
- Manual dexterity with free motion of fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees
- Sufficiently intact and functioning arms, hands, legs, and feet
- Good vision in each eye, with or without correction (near vision must also be sufficient to read printed material the size of typewritten characters)
- The emotional and mental stability needed to perform challenging duties and activities under trying conditions
- A clean medical bill, with no record of a physical condition that would cause the agent to be a hazard while on the job
In addition to the physical assessment, DEA agents must also successful pass a:
- Drug test
- Medical examination
- Polygraph examination
- Psychological Assessment
- Full-field background investigation
DEA Agent Education Requirements
Becoming a DEA agent is not just a matter of strength and stealth. Before pursuing a career in this federal agency, you must also possess a certain level of training – complemented by certain skillsets – that will demonstrate your competency for the job. Experience and education requirements for DEA agents include:
- A bachelor’s degree (with a GPA of 2.95 or higher), or a graduate degree
- OR closely related, in-field criminal justice experience. This may include (but is not limited to) collecting or analyzing data for criminal investigations, conducting or participating in briefings, assisting law enforcement personnel with cases, or presenting evidence in court.
- OR a bachelor’s degree (no minimum GPA required) plus at least three years of substantive work experience and special skills that can contribute to the job. For example, the DEA welcomes aspiring agents who have experience working in maritime, military, mechanical or IT systems, accounting, engineering, or foreign language fluency.
Many aspiring DEA agents choose to pursue their degree in a related field such as Criminal Justice, Public Safety, or Homeland Security. If you are considering becoming a DEA agent today, but are looking to gain some chops before diving into the field, this is the way to go. A specialized education will equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate a career in criminal investigation, teaching you the ins and outs of the U.S. criminal justice system, legal issues and ethics, emergency planning and response, and more.
DEA Agent Skills Requirements
In addition to the above training requirements, all aspiring DEA agents must possess:
- Written and oral communication skills
- Attention-to-detail and sound memory
- Good judgment and decision-making skills
- Interpersonal skills and the ability to work on a team
- Integrity and honesty
- Problem-solving skills
- The ability to self-manage
While you may have several of these skills already – making you fit for a job within the DEA – a postsecondary degree program can help you hone them even further. For example, graduates of Goodwin’s public safety degree program leave not only with “good written and oral communication skills,” but also with the full capacity to prepare and deliver oral presentations, research and write concise reports, and demonstrate skills in grant writing, policy analysis, and risk management.
How to Become a DEA Agent in Connecticut
If you currently reside in Connecticut and are looking to take the dive into a law enforcement education, your journey can start right here. Goodwin College can put you on track to become a DEA agent through a career-focused, bachelor’s degree program in Public Safety.
Our Public Safety degree offers two routes for aspiring DEA special agents: Homeland Security and Criminal Justice. The Criminal Justice courses emphasize criminal investigation, criminal procedure, and the development of the criminal justice system; the Homeland Security degree emphasizes emergency planning, the National Incident Management System, and personal and physical security. Both options are highly applicable to (and will make you eligible for) a successful career with the DEA.
Start checking off the boxes to your career as a Special Agent with the DEA. Learn more about the law enforcement education programs at Goodwin College by calling 800-889-3282 today.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.