ATF Agent |
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ATF Agent

Career Overview

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a division of the Department of Justice, regulates the firearms and explosive industries and oversees investigations into the illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. They are a primary federal investigative agency for crimes of arson. The ATF is the lead agency on any federal investigation involving the use of explosives.

ATF Special Agents investigate criminal violations relating to firearms, explosives, tobacco and alcohol, along with incidents of arson where federal assistance is needed. They conduct surveillance, gather and analyze evidence, execute search warrants and employ a variety of investigative techniques in their field work. They are often called to testify before grand juries during the process of building criminal cases against suspects.


ATF applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 37. Applicants must have a bachelors degree from an accredited school and three years' experience in a law enforcement or criminal investigative field. An "equivalent" combination of experience and education may be substituted for these two specific benchmarks.

Current Employment

The Bureau currently has about 5,500 employees. About 2,500 of those are ATF Special Agents.

Job Outlook

The number of ATF agents may grow slightly over the next five years, but most vacancies will occur due to retirements. The competition for federal law enforcement positions is high, in part because many experience law enforcement officers working at the state or local level want to move into federal employment.

Salary Range

New ATF agents are hired at a GS-5 ranking, paying about $36,500 annually.
Some ATF agents, principally those with a masters degree or extensive experience are hired at the GS-7 level, $41,500 annually.

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