How to Become a Narcotics Agent: Description, Requirements & Salary

Illegal drugs can have disastrous effects in a community. If you are passionate about fighting crimes associated with illicit drugs, read more about a career as a narcotics agent. Read on to learn about the duties, requirements, and median salary of narcotics agents. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Narcotics agents, also known as drug task force agents, are law enforcement officers usually operating for a specific state or federal law enforcement agencies, like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). These agents focus on tackling the production and sale of illicit drugs. The table below provide the key details of the education required, beneficial skills, median salary, and job outlook.

Degree Required High-school diploma required; associate's or bachelor's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Criminal Justice
Certification and Licensure CLEET certification preferred
Key Skills Physical stamina, flexibility, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills, judgement and decision-making skills, analytical, stress tolerance, team-working skills, integrity
Median Salary (2018) $63,380 (police and detectives)*
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 5% (police and detectives)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Do Narcotics Agents Do?

Narcotics agents are specially trained officers who often have to work in dangerous and hazardous environments. Their main function is to prevent the distribution and use of drugs. Their primary duties are to respond to calls regarding the sale of narcotics, obtain warrants, carry out interviews, search premises, participate in undercover operations, investigate suspects, collect and analyze evidence and write reports about their findings. As a narcotics agent you may be required to attend court proceedings to act as a witness.

How Do I Become a Narcotics Agent?

A high-school diploma is the minimum requirement to become a narcotics agent, but an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice is often preferred. Completion of police academy also provides a good level of training for preparing officers in the field of narcotics. In some cases military experience may be sufficient experience for an entry-level position. Typically an employer will require Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) certification, which often occurs after attending the police academy. You may need to pass written and physical examinations. Positions may require a polygraph examination, drug screen and background investigation.

What Skills Are Required to Become a Narcotics Agent?

As a narcotics agent you will need to be willing to have a flexible schedule, as you may work long and irregular hours. You must pay close attention to detail in order to collect evidence against a suspect and have good decision-making skills as you will sometimes be in high-pressured environments where you need to quickly assess the pros and cons of different situations to decide the right move. You will need to be stress-tolerant and have good communication skills in order to share information efficiently and effectively.

What Are the Salary and Job Growth Statistics?

According to the BLS, in May 2018 police and detectives, including narcotics agents, earned a median annual wage of $63,380. The lowest-paid 10% earned less than $36,550 a year, while the highest paid 10% earned over $106,090. The BLS states that the projected growth rate for police and detectives that include narcotic agents, is 5%.

What Careers Are Similar to Narcotics Agents?

If you are interested in a career as a narcotics agent, similar role you may also want to investigate, other positions in the police force, fire inspector, detective, correctional officer and forensic science technician.

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