DEA Special Agents are specifically trained officers dedicated to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. They work on high profile drug cases, including drug trafficking, illegal smuggling and more. This job can be a very dangerous one, and DEA Special Agents are trained to use weapons, make arrests, conduct raids and defend themselves and the public against violent criminals. Other duties include conducting surveillance and managing investigations that can last a very long time and require travel. Surveillance may be conducted by using computer software, Internet programs, telephone monitoring, cameras and other techniques. Skills useful to quality DEA Special Agents include proficiency in at least one foreign language, like Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish, and Arabic, as well as knowledge of maritime and aerial operations, which can be analyzed to predict drug smuggling schedules and methods and apprehend criminals. DEA Special Agents who have a solid understanding of accounting and finance can also help the department evaluate transactions, audits and other financial actions which can be traced back to criminal behavior. DEA Special Agents work in extremely stressful, intense situations and must be able to think clearly and make good judgments even in these dangerous conditions. Agents must also work irregular hours and overtime sometimes to complete a case, give their testimony or make a raid at a time that is most favorable to the investigation.
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DEA Special Agents can expect to earn between $36,870 and $75,025. They may have to relocate according to the needs of the federal agency. Benefits include eligibility to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program and Federal Employees Retirement System. Agents also receive paid training, sick leave and vacation days.
One of the chief ways that DEA Special Agent applicants are evaluated is by testing their knowledge of law enforcement. A degree in criminal justice, especially a graduate level degree, can be very helpful in passing this part of the evaluation. Law enforcement programs will cover topics in criminal behavior, the legal system, making arrests, terrorism, border patrol and homeland security, the corrections system, surveillance and much more.