How to Become a DEA Agent in Iowa by Meeting Requirements

DEA agents are vital to combating drug trafficking in Iowa.  DEA Special agents work in many areas of Iowa partnering with local law enforcement to form DEA task forces operating out of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and the Tri-State Sioux City area.  The main DEA office in Iowa is located in Des Moines, which supports most of the special agent jobs in the state.

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High Profile DEA Drug Interdictions in Iowa

Iowa’s central location in the Midwest makes it a haven for Mexican drug cartels, traffickers from Canada, and various street gangs using the state’s highway system to smuggle drugs to other areas of the Midwest and the Northeast. The intersection of interstate highways 35 and 80 northeast of Des Moines provides ready access for drug shipments out of Iowa. Drug traffickers in Iowa routinely transport drugs to such major markets as Chicago and New York City.

DEA jobs in Iowa involve working in the predominant drug markets of the metropolitan areas of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.  DEA agents also monitor and intercept the shipment of drugs from Sioux City into markets throughout the Northern states.  Shown below are some prominent cases in which DEA agents were able to thwart drug traffickers in Iowa.

  • DEA agents, along with a number of other members of the Sioux City Tri-State Drug Task Force, seized over 200 grams of pure methamphetamine from a vehicle in May 2012.  For this, and the distribution of over 150 grams of the drug in 2011 and 2012, a Sioux City resident was sentenced in February 2013 to over 24 years in federal prison for conspiring to distribute the drug.
  • In March 2013, a Davenport resident was sentenced to over 14 years in jail for distributing kilogram quantities of crack cocaine in the Davenport area.  He was captured as the result of a joint effort between the DEA and other federal and state authorities.
  • DEA agents, along with officers from the Davenport Police Department, arrested a resident of the city for manufacturing at least 50 grams of methamphetamine and distributing part of it to his customers.  He was sentenced to over 12 years in prison in February 2013 for his manufacture of methamphetamine and possessing firearms.
  • In February 2013, a man from California was sentenced to five years in federal prison for transporting 250 pounds of marijuana in the back of his truck.  Joint efforts by the DEA and state and local authorities led to his arrest and conviction.

What it Takes to Become a DEA Agent in Iowa

Potential applicants for DEA agent jobs come from a variety of backgrounds.  Educational requirements include:

  • Having a J.D., LL.B. master’s or bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.95


  • Having experience in narcotics investigation with another agency


  • Having three years of experience in such areas as being an aircraft pilot, an accountant, or a ship’s Captain along with a bachelor’s degree

Iowa residents interested in learning how to become a DEA agent should contact the St. Louis Division to find out if there are jobs available in the state.  Applicants must be in very good physical shape and be free of mental or emotional problems that might impede their careers as DEA agents.

Recruits undergo their formal training at the DEA Academy in Quantico.  This location in Virginia is also the site of the FBI Academy.  Agents in training pursue their academic coursework at the DEA Academy, while they learn practical skills such as using firearms, driving in pursuit, and getting in physical shape at the FBI Academy.

Addressing the Drug Problem in Iowa

The rising threat of methamphetamine trafficking caused eight counties of Iowa to be placed in the Midwest HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) in 1997.  A number of other drugs are also abused and trafficked in Iowa, posing a number of problems for law enforcement officials and creating a great strain on social service resources in the state.

Methamphetamine – Methamphetamine is considered the greatest drug threat in Iowa, particularly in Des Moines, because of its ready availability and contribution to the number of violent and property crimes.  In 2009, Iowa had the 11th highest rate of treatment for methamphetamine abuse in the country.  Traditionally, the drug has been smuggled in from Mexico by drug cartels.

Local production is becoming a more severe issue, particularly with the trend of manufacturing meth using the one-pot system.  2011 saw a 25% increase in the number of meth labs in Iowa over a one year period.  Of these 412 labs identified, 109 were using the one-pot method.  These labs are a serious threat to public safety because of the toxic and flammable nature of the chemicals involved and the tendency for producers to manufacture them out of homes, often subjecting children to the drug.

Marijuana – DEA agents have found a strong sustained demand for marijuana in Iowa, and it is the primary drug used by most addicts entering treatment in Iowa.  This is a particular problem among the youth in the state with about 50% of youth surveyed in 2010 reporting that they had easy access to pot.  60% of juveniles seeking treatment for drug addiction were using this drug.

In particular, demand for highly potent forms of the drug have been increasing in recent years.  In addition to the large amount of pot smuggled in from Mexico and Canada, the amount of locally grown pot has been increasing.  It is also increasingly being imported from California and Colorado.

Cocaine – Cocaine trafficking is a persistent threat in the urban areas of Iowa, especially in Cedar Rapids.  This is particularly true for crack cocaine.  Law enforcement officials find that highly alarming, given the amount of violence involved in the use and trafficking of crack cocaine.

Prescription Painkillers – The abuse of prescription drugs may be the most rapidly increasing form of drug abuse.  Frequently, these drugs are diverted from those who have prescriptions for opiate pain medications.  Over 72 million doses of hydrocodone were prescribed in Iowa in 2011, along with over 23 million doses of oxycodon.

Iowa has seen a steady increase in treatment admissions for the abuse of opiate pain relievers from 1999 through 2009.  The rate increased 470% over this period.  Poison centers in Iowa have found that calls for help about hydrocodone and oxycodone increased 24 fold from 2002 to 2011.  DEA agents help to fight this trend by arresting distributors, monitoring the records of clinics, and sponsoring drug take back programs for people to get rid of unused pain medications in their households.

Heroin – According to drug treatment providers, heroin addiction is a growing problem in Iowa.  DEA agents in Cedar Rapids are especially concerned with the resurgence of heroin usage.  Part of the reason for this trend is that people addicted to painkillers are finding that heroin provides a cheaper high.

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