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Special Agents

ATF agents arresting a suspect

ATF special agents are highly trained, elite law enforcement officers who investigate violations of federal laws and regulations related to the criminal misuse of firearms and explosives, firearms trafficking, acts of arson, and the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.

A female and male special agent standing outside an operation

As sworn law enforcement officers, special agents are authorized to carry weapons and make arrests for federal offenses against the United States. ATF is one of the few federal agencies where special agents get to oversee their cases throughout the entire criminal investigation process, from the crime scene to the courtroom. Special agents travel extensively and must be ready to accept reassignment to any U.S. state or territory relational to ATF’s operational needs. As of December 2019, ATF has 1,714 special agents stationed across 25 field divisions, hundreds of field and satellite offices, and overseas posts

Day in the life

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ATF special agents work closely with their partners at the local, state, tribal and federal level, from law enforcement and public safety officials to scientists and forensics experts. Special agents also serve as experts on a wide range of joint task forces to combat firearms trafficking, violent crime, and terrorism. During these interagency collaborations, ATF special agents interview suspects and witnesses, surveil targets, make arrests, secure and execute search warrants, and search for physical evidence, often with help from ATF’s K-9 teams

Training and Technology

ATF special agents collect crime scene evidence

The first stop for newly hired special agents is the ATF National Academy, located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. The curriculum is split into two parts: FLETC's Criminal  Investigator Training Program for 12 weeks and ATF Special Agent Basic Training for 15 weeks. Over these seven months, the new agents take in-depth academic and legal courses while undergoing intense physical and practical training.

Once agents complete basic training, they are assigned to any one of the ATF field divisions across the country, where they use cutting-edge ballistics and forensics technologies as part of the investigative process. They continue to hone their tactical skills such as advanced firearms training, close-quarter defensive countermeasures, and undercover techniques as they work to combat violent crime in our neighborhoods.

ATF agents may choose to enhance their tactical skills by pursuing specialized career tracks. Veteran agents with specialized skills, experience and certifications can apply to serve on ATF's rapid response teams.

Becoming a special agent

ATF special agents serve on the front lines in the battle to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods, and must be able to handle rigorous training, personal risks, irregular hours, and extensive travel. Our application process and conditions of employment for new special agents are designed to ensure this exciting and rewarding career is the right fit for you.

Explore this career path

Last Updated: April 16, 2024

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