How to Become a DEA Agent in San Diego, California by Meeting Requirements

San Diego, California has been classified as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area due to its location across the border from Tijuana. Methamphetamine, popularly called Mexican ice, has been identified as the worst threat. However, cocaine and marijuana are close behind. San Diego is the location of a division office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that includes three regional offices devoted largely to preventing drugs from entering the U.S. along the 137-mile-long border with Mexico that lies within this jurisdiction.

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Careers as DEA Special Agent Pilots

Persons with a bachelor’s degree or better, along with a current pilot’s license and three or more year’s multi-engine flying experience are encouraged to apply to join the DEA’s flying special agents. In November of 2012, members of the San Diego DEA’s Narcotics Task Force were conducting routine aerial surveillance when they spotted a large marijuana farm in Julian, a historic gold-mining town in San Diego County’s mountain foothills. Agents sent to destroy the crop found cell phones that spawned a 2-1/2-year-long investigation that ended with the arrest of 10 high-level traffickers who managed large-scale marijuana farms on public lands. Agents also seized 79,000 marijuana plants, 300 pounds of processed marijuana ($300,000 street value), 12 firearms, 13 vehicles and $237,000 in cash. The arrests halted the network’s blatant disregard for public lands.

How to Apply to Become a DEA Special Agent

Basic qualifications that must be met to become a candidate for the position of DEA special agent are:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Between 21 and 35 years of age
  • Excellent physical condition (including hearing and vision)
  • Able to obtain a secret security clearance
  • Able to lift and carry 45 pounds or heavier
  • Willing to relocate
  • Law degree OR a Bachelor’s degree or higher OR one year or more hands-on experience investigating drug-related crimes.

If you meet these requirements, go to the DEA San Diego division website and click on “Become a DEA Agent,” then click on “Eligibility Test” to see if you fulfill the other experience qualifications. The hiring process, which includes a battery of tests and interviews, takes a year or longer to complete. For additional information, call the DEA San Diego office at 858/616-4040 and ask to speak to a recruiting agent.

The San Diego DEA in Action

The April 2, 2012 sentencing of Benjamin Arellano Felix following his extradition from Mexico was a monumental victory for the San Diego DEA. Benjamin headed the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel, an extremely powerful and ruthless drug-trafficking organizations that was the subject of Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning 2000 film, “Traffic.” His 25-year sentence and the forfeiture of $100 million in profits were especially meaningful because of the cartel’s habit of recruiting young men from San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood to both traffic drugs and serve as hit men.

Just four months later, another key family member, Eduardo Arellano Felix, was extradited for trial in San Diego. Loss of the two men seriously dismantled the cartel’s organization and emphasized the much improved relationship between the DEA and Mexican law enforcement authorities since President Felipe Calderon declared war on illegal drugs. William R. Sherman, special agent in charge of the San Diego DEA, claimed that the two cases “marked the end of 20 years of investigations ….and showed that the DEA and their law enforcement colleagues will relentlessly pursue these traffickers until they are brought to justice.”

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