A Career as a DEA Agent in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities
A bachelor's degree can lead to new career possibilities in the criminal investigation field, and many recent graduates choose to become DEA agents. Individuals who land entry-level roles with the DEA are often able to take on additional responsibilities, accruing tenure and advancing to high-level positions as they aid in criminal investigations and cultivate meaningful careers. While intellectually challenging and rewarding, this path can also be lucrative. Work experience strongly impacts salary, with late-career DEA agents earning 89% more than new professionals. Read on to explore some of the variables that influence agents' earning potential.
How Much Do DEA Agents Earn?
Few variables influence salary potential as strongly as professional experience. Entry-level DEA agents typically earn around $49,746 each year, while mid-career agents garner $55,483 annually and special agents enjoy annual salaries of $92,592 or higher. Other factors, including location, regional cost of living, standard pay rates, and an agent's level of education can also impact earnings. DEA agents with prior military experience may draw higher salaries than professionals with no military training.
The DEA website provides valuable career information for prospective agents, including starting salaries and pay grades, stages in the hiring process, and information about the Physical Task Assessment (PTA).
|Entry Level: GS-7||$49,746|
|Special Agents: GS-13||$92,592+|
What's My Earning Potential as a DEA Agent?
Increasing DEA Agent Salaries with LEAP
Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) offers extra pay to certain law enforcement agents and criminal investigators who regularly work unscheduled hours on top of their scheduled shifts. DEA agents who regularly complete two additional unscheduled hours during a normal workday are invited to participate in the program, which adds 25% to the professional's base pay per pay period.
Why was LEAP started?
The LEAP program aims to appropriately compensate all DEA agents for their extra work and time. DEA agents and other criminal investigators in job class 1811 and law enforcement agents in job class 1812 often work more than 40 hours each week. They are frequently required to maintain round-the-clock availability or work longer hours to complete cases and time-sensitive tasks. LEAP can significantly affect agents' total pay rates.
Who can partake in LEAP?
LEAP serves Federal Civil Service System criminal investigators in job class 1811 and game law enforcement agents in job class 1812. While FBI police and uniformed Secret Service offers cannot apply for LEAP, agents in DEA, FBI, and ICE are eligible to participate. Department of Defense special agents, and agents employed in the ATF, Secret Service, and NCIS may apply. LEAP is also open to diplomatic security agents, Air Force special agents, U.S. postal inspectors, and U.S. deputy marshals. To be eligible, law enforcement professionals must be able to prove that they complete an average of two extra work hours each day. Most work about 50 hours every week. LEAP participants relinquish the right to any additional payment premiums, including overtime pay.
How can DEA agents start using LEAP?
To qualify for LEAP, federal agents must regularly work 50 hours each week. Every year, agents must work with their supervisors to document and certify that they complete the extra time, and that they intend to maintain a similar schedule in the coming year.
Are there limits to how much more a DEA agent can make?
Agents who are eligible to receive LEAP can earn up to an additional 25% of their base salaries. This amount cannot exceed the maximum biweekly payment within an agent's pay grade.
What are the benefits of LEAP?
Law enforcement professionals who participate in LEAP receive compensation for their hard work, earning extra money on top of their base salaries. LEAP also saves the federal government money, cutting costs associated with overtime pay.
How much more can DEA agents make with LEAP?
DEA agents who participate in LEAP make an additional 25% of their basic pay rate account for any unscheduled duties performed outside of the regular 40-hour workweek. To qualify for the program, law enforcement professionals must complete, on average, two unscheduled work hours during a normal business day. Employees who receive LEAP funds cannot draw any other type of premium pay, such as overtime, based on unscheduled hours.
How Do DEA Agent Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?
The following table compares the' median annual salary for DEA agents to salaries for other criminal justice careers. The following data points can help you compare the earning potential for each position and decide if a career as a DEA agent is right for you. While the figures below indicate median annual salaries, individual numbers can vary considerably, depending on a law enforcement professional's work experience, education level, geographical region, and employer. As the table below indicates, DEA agents out-earn individuals in similar roles, such as corrections officers, security guards, and gaming surveillance officers.
|Position||Median Annual Salary||Projected Growth Rate|
|Corrections Officers and Bailiffs||$43,510||-7%|
|Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers||$26,960||6%|
|Police and Detectives||$62,960||7%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Take the Next Step Today
The following resources can help prospective DEA agents and other law enforcement professionals learn more about their educational options. Read on to find a degree that aligns with your career goals, law enforcement courses, and common career paths for each degree.