How to Become an ATF Agent

If you'd like to learn how to become a ATF Agent (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agent), this article will guide you through the requirements, including ATF agent requirements, job description, ATF Agent salary and additional resources for becoming an AFT agent.

ATF Agent Job Description

An ATF Agent is a part of Federal law enforcement working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and upholds the law where Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are present. AFT Agents investigate violations of the Federal law relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. Some of your responsibilties will include:

  • conducting investigations
  • compiling evidence
  • pursuing warrants
  • writing reports
  • appearing in court to present evidence

AFT Agent Requirements

There are very specific requirements for employment listed on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the heading "Conditions of Employment". For complete requirements, take a look at this information packet on how to become an AFT special agent.

Basic Requirements

Basic requirements include:

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Male applicants must be registered with selective service
  • At least 21 years of age and not older than 37
  • Must be eligible to carry a firearm and ammunition (may not have certain felony or misdemeanor convictions)
  • Must have ability to relocate

Physical Requirements

As an AFT agent, you must also meet certain physical requirements. These include:

  • Complete the ATF special agent applicant questionnaire, ATF Special Agent Exam, and ATF Special Agent Assessment
  • Complete Physical Task Test which includes 1.5 mile run, push ups and sit ups with minimum scores
  • Complete field panel interview
  • Take and pass drug test
  • Weight in proportion to height
  • Complete background investigation for top secret security clearance

Education and Experience

Grade 5

In order to qualify for a GL-05 level, (the entry level for an AFT agent), you must possess either the appropriate education, experience or combination of the two. Education requirements are a four year bachelor's degree in any field. In lieu of education, experience requirements are three years of progressibe responsibility demonstrates your ability to work in criminal justice and law enforcement. A combination of work and experience can be acceptable, however the more education you have gives you an edge over other applicants and having a degree in criminal justice while working in Law Enforcement may give you perspective and exposure to the field.

Grade 7

Grade 7 pay requires one year of graduate degree study. Preferred degree areas include:

  • masters degree in criminal justice
  • masters degree in sociology
  • masters degree in psychology
  • masters degree in political science

Grade 9

Grade 9 salary requires a masters degree (2 years of graduate education). Preferred degree is a LL.B or JD in criminal justice, sociology, psychology or political science.

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for police and detectives is $55,010 per year. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF agent salary for Grade 5 step 1 is $33, 829 while Grade 9 step 1 salary is $42,948 per year. As you progress in step through experience, you can expect to gain yearly salary increases along with locality pay and law enforcement availability pay. Locality pay is in the range of 14% to 35% increase in salary. Law enforcement availability pay may increase your pay up to 25%.

At your peak, as a grade 13 ATF agent, you should expect to make between $71,674 and $93,175. That excludes bonus pay for locality and law enforcement availability.

In addition, you can expect to receive annual vacation time of 13 to 26 days per year, sick leave of 13 days per year, 10 paid holidays, low cost health insurance and life insurance, and retirement.

Other Resources

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives