DEA Agent Salary

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been leading the fight against narcotics, drug abuse and narcotics trafficking for almost a half century.  This prestigious organization has grown in its many responsibilities and currently conducts anti-drug operations in virtually every corner of the globe.  To be successful in the War on Drugs, the DEA utilizes a wide variety of professionals including special agents, intelligence research specialists, diversion officers, attorneys, accountants, administrators, chemists, engineers and information systems specialists.

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DEA Special Agent Salaries

As the primary field officers for the agency, special agents enjoy extremely lucrative salaries throughout their careers.  These salaries begin once special agent recruits enter Basic Academy Training.  Students enrolled in the 18-week training program may receive between $37,309 and $41,612 during their training.  The salary recruits earn within this range is heavily dependent upon their qualifications:

  • Education—Almost all new recruits possess at least a bachelor’s degree and almost 20 percent possess a post-graduate degree or coursework.
  • Prior law enforcement experience—Almost 60 percent of trainees have served as police officers in local, state, military or federal agencies.
  • Military record—The DEA provides significant incentives for military revenues to join the agency.  Almost 30 percent of recruits have served honorably in a branch of the military.

Following basic training, new agents are assigned to one of 223 offices throughout the country.  Once posted, the agent may receive a salary rating from GS-7 up to GS-9, which translate into initial salaries ranging from $49,746 to $55,483.  These salaries are also augmented by a 25 percent differential for availability based on shift rotation and schedule, as well as a Cost of Living Adjustment.  Within four years, agents may advance to the GS-13 pay level, which offers a salary as high as $92,592.

Intelligence Research Specialists

The DEA relies upon accurate and timely intelligence collected from a variety of human and electronic assets within the United States as well as abroad.  The professionals within the agency that gather, process and re-package this intelligence are the intelligence research specialists.  The majority of these white collar professionals possess at least a master’s degree or significant post-graduate course work.  To reflect the superior credentials, intelligence specialists join the Drug Enforcement Administration at the GS-9 pay grade, which offers salaries from $51,630 to $67,114 per year.  These analysts may end their careers with a GS-13 pay grad, which tops out at $92,592 in salary at its highest step.


Attorneys manage many of the legal proceedings that result from successful field operations.  These prestigious legal experts are typically accorded great respect and large compensation packages by the DEA.  A well-qualified attorney with considerable experience in litigation or other critical legal fields may expect an initial pay grade of GS-14 or GS-15.  The salary ranges for these two pay grades are

  • GS-14:  $105,211-$136,771
  • GS-15:  $123,758-$155,500

Diversion Investigator Salary

While special agents conduct law enforcement operations and investigations into narcotics related activities, diversion investigators investigate the misuse of prescription pharmaceuticals.  These professionals do not possess the law enforcement powers of agents and serve primarily as investigative support.  Despite a lack of arrest powers, these investigators often possess similar training and qualifications as special agents and provide valuable services to the agency.

Diversion investigators may join the agency with a GS-7 or GS-9 rating, dependent upon educational and employment history. Their initial salaries range from $33,477 to $53,234 per year.  Like special agents, diversion investigators may advance to the GS-13 pay grade, but they may not qualify for availability pay like special agents unless they consistently perform overtime duties.

Forensic Chemist Salary

Criminal organizations are continually developing new compounds that can produce the euphoria associated with narcotics, avoid detection by canines, or cost less to produce.  To identify new versions of existing drugs and entirely new compounds, the DEA employs forensic chemists to analyze substances.  These chemists may be recent college graduates to doctoral recipients. The salaries for forensic chemists range from $68,000 to $76,000 per year.

Administrative Support Professional Salary

The Drug Enforcement Administration is a complex organization that employs a wide variety of professionals to manage support functions related to clerical, financial, and management duties.  The majority of these entry-level positions are available with pay grades from GS-5 up to GS-11, depending upon educational and professional credentials.  Some of these positions, especially those with management responsibilities, may provide promotion potential up to GS-13, but most fall short of that range.  The salaries associated with these pay grades are:

General Schedule Grade
Pay Range
General Schedule 5
General Schedule 7
General Schedule 9
General Schedule 11
General Schedule 13

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