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Special agents
As of 2017 there were 4,650 special agents employed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA agents' starting salary is $49,746–$55,483. After four years working as an agent, the salary jumps to above $92,592.

After receiving a conditional offer of employment, recruits must then complete a 19-week rigorous training which includes lessons in firearms proficiency (including basic marksmanship), weapons safety, tactical shooting, and deadly-force decision training. In order to graduate, students must maintain an academic average of 80 percent on academic examinations, pass the firearms-qualification test, successfully demonstrate leadership and sound decision-making in practical scenarios, and pass rigorous physical-task tests. Upon graduation, recruits earn the title of DEA Special Agent.

The DEA excludes from consideration job applicants who have a history of any use of narcotics or illicit drugs. Investigation usually includes a polygraph test for special-agent, diversion-investigator, and intelligence research specialist positions.

Applicants who are found, through investigation or personal admission, to have experimented with or used narcotics or dangerous drugs, except those medically prescribed, will not be considered for employment with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Exceptions to this policy may be made for applicants who admit to limited youthful and experimental use of marijuana. Such applicants may be considered for employment if there is no evidence of regular, confirmed usage and the full-field background investigation and results of the other steps in the process are otherwise favorable.

The DEA's relatively firm stance on this issue contrasts with that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which in 2005 considered relaxing its hiring policy relevant to individual drug-use history.

Aviation Division
The DEA Aviation Division or Office of Aviation Operations (OA) (formerly Aviation Section) is an airborne division based in Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Texas. The current OA fleet consists of 106 aircraft and 124 DEA pilots.

The DEA shares a communications system with the Department of Defense for communication with state and regional enforcement independent of the Department of Justice and police information systems and is coordinated by an information command center called the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) near El Paso, Texas.

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