The career of an ATF Special Agent is unique and one of the most challenging in Federal law enforcement. Headquartered in Washington, DC, ATF has field offices throughout the United States and its territories. Highly trained special agents are responsible for investigating violations of Federal laws relating to firearms, explosives, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion. These investigations involve surveillance, interviewing suspects and witnesses, making arrests, obtaining and executing search warrants, and searching for physical evidence.
The profession of special agent is exciting and rewarding. Special agents must be tough – both physically and mentally. They must also be able to handle rigorous training, personal risks, irregular hours, and extensive travel. Special agents are subject to reassignment to any ATF office in the United States, to include any U.S. Territory or ATF overseas assignment.
Special Agents are responsible for:
- Investigating criminal violations of Federal laws within the enforcement jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Conducting investigations of violations relating to explosives, firearms, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion.
- Preparing concise criminal investigative case reports.
- Testifying for the Federal government in court or before grand juries.
- Gathering and analyzing evidence through investigative leads, seizures, arrests, execution of search warrants, and a variety of other means.
Conditions of Employment
Special Agent Applicants must:
- Be a U.S. Citizen.
- Possess a current and valid automobile operator’s license.
- Complete the ATF special agent applicant questionnaire.
- Take and pass the ATF special agent exam.
- Take and pass the ATF special agent applicant assessment test.
- Take and pass the ATF Pre-employment Physical Task Test.
- Appear for and successfully complete a field panel interview – a writing sample will be required.
- Be in compliance with ATF’s drug policy for special agent applicants.
Take and pass a medical examination by an authorized government physician and meet medical requirements. Medical requirements include:
- At a minimum, ATF special agents must meet uncorrected distance vision of at least 20/100 in each eye, and corrected distance vision must test 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other. Normal depth perception and peripheral vision are required as is the ability to distinguish shades of color by plate tests.
- Applicants that have undergone Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK); Laser-assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK); Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK); and Radial Keratectomy (RK) must provide proof that they have passed the specific protocol. The test must be administered by a board-certified opthalmologist who will document the results of the protocol test and that the test was performed no sooner than the prescribed time after the date of surgery. (3 months or one year, depending on the type of surgery).
- Hearing loss, as measured by an audiometer, must not exceed 30 decibels at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz levels.
- Applicants must be able to perform physically strenuous duties safely.
- Weight must be in proportion to height.
- Take and pass a drug test.
- Take and successfully complete a polygraph examination.
- Successfully complete a background investigation for a top secret security clearance.
- To be eligible for Federal employment, male applicants born after December 31, 1959, must certify at the time of appointment that they have registered with the Selective Service System, or are exempt from having to do so under Selective Service law.
- Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and not older than 36 at the time of appointment. In accordance with Public Law 100-238, this position is covered under law enforcement retirement provisions; therefore, candidates must be appointed before reaching their 37th birthday unless they are a preference eligible veteran OR presently serve or have previously served in a Federal civilian law enforcement retirement-covered position (after subtracting the years/months of prior Federal service worked in a primary law enforcement position, applicants must be less than 37 years of age). The maximum entry age limit was established under the age discrimination prohibitions contained in Section 15 of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act.
- For a complete list of the Basic Requirements and Conditions of Employment; and the Basic Qualifications for Grades 5, 7 and 9; go to ATF P 2310.4, Special Agent Informational Packet (top right).
- Minimum Qualifications
- Special Agent Informational Packet
- ATF Pre-employment Physical Task Test
- Preparing for the ATF Special Agent Exam
- Special Agent Training
- Frequently Asked Questions
- ATF Drug Policy
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Recruitment, Hiring and Staffing Center
Voice (202) 648-9496
Base Annual Salary Range For Year 2013:
$33,829 (Grade 5, Step 1) to $42,948 (Grade 9, Step 1) (Salary range excludes locality pay and 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay)
Base salary will depend upon grade qualifications. Application materials will be reviewed by the Recruitment, Hiring & Staffing Center to determine the grade for which an applicant may qualify. All applicants must meet basic qualifications at the grade 5 to be eligible to take the ATF Special Agent Exam (see the basic grade qualifications section in the announcement).
All ATF duty stations qualify for locality pay. Special agents receive an additional percentage of their base salary, depending upon their locations. The current range of locality pay is 14.16% to 35.15%.
Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP):
Because of the type of work and additional work hours, special agents receive 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay, which is added to locality pay.
Foreign Language Award Program:
The Foreign Language Award Program authorizes cash awards for ATF employees who possess and make substantial use of one or more foreign language(s) in the performance of their official duties. The award is based upon proficiency and substantial usage.
The full performance level for this position is grade 13. Note: Promotions are based upon performance and must receive supervisory approval.
- Annual leave (vacation time) is earned at the rate of 13-26 days per year, with a maximum accumulation of 240 hours per year.
- Sick leave is earned at the rate of 13 days per year and may be accumulated without limit.
- Paid holidays.
- Low cost health insurance with the option to choose from a variety of plans.
- Low cost life insurance.
- Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) benefits. Special agents may retire at age 50 with 20 years of service. Age 57 is the mandatory retirement age, with 20 years of service.
- Tax-deferred Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
- Health improvement (physical fitness) program.
- Federal benefits and additional related information are available on the following websites: