How to Become a DEA Agent in California by Meeting Requirements

Three of the DEA’s 21 divisions are located in California, which support most of the DEA agent jobs found in the western United States. The San Francisco division includes eight regional offices (Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Oakland, Redding, Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Rosa), while the San Diego division has only three (Carlsbad, Imperial County and San Ysidro). However, the San Diego division includes California’s 137-mile-long border with Mexico, so many DEA careers in California are spent busting cartels that make use of the many routs throughout the nation’s busiest drug trafficking areas.

The Los Angeles division covers 10 regional offices: three in California (Riverside, Santa Ana, Ventura), three in Nevada (Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Reno), two in Hawaii (Honolulu, Maui) and one in Guam. According to DEA statistics, Hawaii currently leads the nation in domestic marijuana cultivation.

Recent DEA Successes in California

San Diego Division –In San Diego, DEA jobs involve disrupting the smuggling of illegal drugs from Mexico. As smugglers use increasingly more sophisticated techniques, DEA agents in California employ the latest methods and technology to stay one step ahead.

One recently discovered tunnel that extended from Tijuana to southern San Diego County was 28 feet deep, 1,876-feet long and equipped with a state-of-the-art ventilation system. The drug cartels do not limit themselves to tunnels, however. Recently, a compressed-air “marijuana canon” was seized that was capable of shooting 28-pound drug packets across the border from Mexico into California!

On December 20, 2012, the San Diego DEA division announced the end of a 32-month operation called “Operation Knight Stalker” with the arrest of 30 members of the Knight Templar drug cartel, one of the area’s largest and most vicious drug-trafficking gangs. The arrestees were charged with felony transportation/possession of illegal drugs. During the bust, DEA agents confiscated 1,000 pounds of meth, 200 pounds of cocaine, 320 pounds of marijuana, and $200,000 in U.S. currency. The arrests of such a large number of active cartel members should seriously cripple, if not destroy, the cartel entirely

San Francisco Division – A lengthy investigation by the San Francisco division’s financial investigative team resulted in the March 2013 convictions of nine defendants involved in illegally distributing prescription drugs over the internet. The men collectively forfeited over $94 million in illegal proceeds from the sale of controlled substances like oxycodone or percocet. Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano stated, “Prescription drug abuse in California has risen to alarming levels, oftentimes leaving a trail of devastation behind. Internet sales are especially worrisome because of its availability to teenagers and addicts.”

Los Angeles Division – Working with the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force out of Washington State, on February 28, 2013 the Los Angeles DEA led a major campaign that extended from LA to eastern Washington. A total of 41 (28 in Los Angeles alone) members of a criminal organization that was illegally distributing the prescription drug oxycodone were arrested.

How to Become a DEA Agent in California

Meeting the requirements necessary to be eligible for training at the DEA Academy in Quantico is no easy task. The standard degree requirement is either a J.D. or LL.B, or a bachelor’s degree in combination with another important job-related qualifier, including any one of the following:

  • Foreign language fluency
  • Pilot’s license
  • Maritime license or documented experience
  • Accounting and auditing experience (24 semester hours specific to auditing or accounting required)
  • Experience with electronic theory and application
  • Military leadership experience

DEA Special Agents are federal employees; therefore, the qualifications and steps in the hiring process are uniform across all states. Candidates must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21-36, able to pass a battery of written, oral, drug, physical fitness, medical and psychological tests, and willing to relocate to any place in the country. The entire process can take one year or longer.

DEA agent annual salaries start at either GS7-$49,746 or GS9-$55,483, depending on qualifications. Agents can expect to earn $92,592 after four years and are entitled to all federal benefits.

Application information is available on the DEA website; however, it is strongly suggested that, before applying, serious applicants attend a special agent orientation session regularly offered at the three California division offices. Call a recruiting officer at one of the divisions (San Diego, 858/616-4100; Los Angeles, 213/ 621-6700; San Francisco, 415/ 436-7900) for further information.

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