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Salary and Benefits for Special Agents

Salary and Compensation

ATF special agents use the General Law (GL) pay scale for law enforcement officers. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reviews application materials to determine the GL grade for which each applicant may qualify. All applicants must meet the basic qualifications of GL grade 5 to be eligible to take the ATF special agent exam.

Base Salary Range

Based on their qualifications, new special agents start anywhere between GS grade 5, step 1 and GS grade 9, step 10.

In 2024, this includes a base salary range of $41,781 to $68,442 before locality and availability pay. OPM updates its pay scales each year to reflect cost of living increases.

Locality Pay

All ATF duty stations qualify for locality pay. Special agents receive an additional percentage of their base salary (14% to 35%) depending on their location.


Availability Pay

Special agents receive an additional 25% of their base salary as law enforcement availability pay (LEAP) due to the type of work and additional hours required by the job.

Foreign Language Award Program

ATF’s Foreign Language Award Program offers cash awards to qualified employees who speak one or more foreign languages and make substantial use of them when performing their official duties.

Promotion Potential

Over the course of their career, special agents may be promoted up to GS grade 13. In 2024, this includes a base salary of $88,520 to $115,079 before locality and availability pay. Promotions are performance-based and must receive supervisory approval.


Annual and Sick Leave

Annual leave (or vacation time) is earned at the rate of 13 to 26 days per year, based on length of federal service. Employees can save up a maximum of 240 hours of annual leave.

Sick leave is earned at the rate of 13 days per year and has no maximum limit.

All federal holidays are paid days off. Employees who have to work during federal holidays receive premium pay.

Health and Life Insurance

ATF employees are able to choose from a variety of low cost health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program.

A wide range of vision and dental insurance plans are available to employees through the Federal Employees Dental/Vision Program (FEDVIP).

New employees are automatically enrolled in Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), and can choose to waive or increase their life insurance coverage.

Physical Fitness

ATF is committed to supporting the health, physical fitness and well-being of its employees through the Health Improvement Program (HIP). Special agents can take up to 4 hours per week as excused absence from work for regular workouts, fitness classes and other exercise activities. Employees stationed at ATF Headquarters can also take advantage of the building’s state-of-the-art fitness center.

Mental, Physical and Emotional Wellness

ATF takes a proactive approach to ease the stress and emotional toll of law enforcement work. The agency’s world-class Peer Responder Program trains and certifies employee volunteers, including many special agents, to provide psychological first aid and immediate support to fellow ATF employees and their families in the aftermath of a critical incident.

All employees and their household members have access to first-class, comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services through Business Health Services (BHS). These services are free, confidential and available 24/7, including counseling and problem resolution sessions, childcare/eldercare referrals, and other work-life services.


Special agents with 20 years of service may choose to retire starting at age 50. Agents must retire at age 57, or as soon as 20 years of service have been completed after age 57.

New agents are automatically covered by the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). This three-tiered retirement plan combines federal retirement, disability and survivor benefits with Social Security benefits and a tax-deferred Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), similar to a 401(k) plan.

Last Updated: June 4, 2024

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