Drug Enforcement Administration

General Information:

DEA is the lead agency for federal narcotics investigations (Title 21) and has exclusive jurisdiction in pursuing U.S. drug investigations abroad.  With approximately 5,500 special agents, DEA has 223 domestic offices and attache offices in 67 countries.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was created through an Executive Order in July 1973 to establish a single unified command.  This created a single federal agency to enforce the federal drug as well as consolidate and coordinate the government’s drug control activities.  As a result, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), and other federal offices merged to create the DEA.  See the link for additional information regarding DEA history

DEA Special Agents are very specialized criminal investigators.  Their entire career is focused on narcotics investigations and are often considered subject matter experts.  DEA aggressively uses informants, surveillance operations, and wire tapping operations to pursue narcotics dealers and traffickers.  Conducting narcotics investigations is a very dangerous speciality and DEA special agents are well trained for the task.    The journeyman level for a Special Agent is GS-13, however, new special agents must satisfactorily complete significantly complex investigations in order to be recommended for this grade.  DEA also maintains a robust presence overseas and hosts many narcotics task forces.  

I would encourage all applicants to read this Congressional Report dated June 2012 for additional information concerning DEA operations. 

Hiring Process: 

DEA has one of the longest hiring processes but it is very well coordinated by regional recruiters who are actual special agents.  Expect the application process to take at least two years. 

Each agency has a qualifications preference and DEA is no exception. 

Potential Applicants must first contact their local DEA Recruitment Office and attend a Special Agent orientation session.  This provides a realistic job preview and Q&A session.  Applicants must then wait for a limited time vacancy announcement to open on their website and USA  Once the announcement is closed, applicants are evaluated as follows:

  • Qualifications Review
  • Written Assessment and Panel Interview
  • Urinalysis Drug Test
  • Medical Examination
  • Physical Task Test
  • Polygraph Examination
  • Psychological Assessment
  • Full-field Background Investigation
  • Final Hiring Decision

All applicants must successfully complete all phases of the hiring process, and remain among the Most Competitive candidates, to receive a final offer of employment. 

Keep in mind that DEA also has one of the most difficult fitness tests for special agents.  All potential applicants should read the fitness test brochure and prepare appropriately. 


New special agent trainees must complete an intense 18 week in-residence training program at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA.  This is a very para-military type stress academy, which is unique to federal law enforcement.  DEA is also one of the few remaining federal agencies with a separate academy.  See the link for additional information about the DEA Academy.


DEA Website:  This link provides detailed information regarding a career with the DEA and the application process.

Inside the DEA – National Geographic (2010)

Inside DEA Takedown – National Geographic

Voice of America – DEA Seeks more Female Agents

DEA (Spike TV) 

Inside DEA Academy Parts 1 & 2 

Wikipedia Link:  This provides excellent information regarding the overall history of the DEA. 

DEA Museum: This is an excellent source of information regarding DEA history.

Association of Former Narcotics Agents:  This has limited information for the public but due to its association with the DEA it has been listed on this page.


The Last Cowboy – The True Story Of One Of DEA’s Most Decorated Undercover Agents (2012)

Dancing With The Devil – Confessions of an Undercover Agent (2010)

Chemical Cowboys: The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin (2010)

DEA Special Agent: My Life on the Front Line (2008)

Inside the DEA (2006)

Hotshots and Heavy Hits – Tales of an Undercover Drug Agent (2005)