ATF Agent

ATF agents investigate crime and enforce laws relating to illegal possession and distribution of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. They work under the direction of the Department of the Treasury. ATF agents conduct raids, search for and collect evidence, conduct interviews, arrest suspects, set-up surveillance activities, and obtain search warrants. These law enforcement officials assist municipal, state, and federal government police agencies. ATF agents collect and evaluate information and prepare documents and reports utilized by U.S. and other prosecuting attorneys.

Working as an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) is a very challenging law enforcement career. The ATF is headquartered in the District of Columbia, but field offices are located nationwide. ATF agents are responsible for investigating federal violations relating to the possession and distribution of tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. To investigate potential violations, ATF agents conduct surveillance, interview witnesses and suspects, request search warrants, and collect physical evidence which will be later used in court. ATF agents frequently collaborate with forensic chemists and other technical specialists when assembling and analyzing evidence.

Working as an ATF agent can be very satisfying. To successfully execute their job duties, ATF agents are required to complete various tests to assess mental and physical stamina. They're also required to undergo difficult training, work irregular hours, risk death or serious injury, and travel extensively. ATF agents are frequently relocated to branch offices and U.S. Territories, and many ATF agents are given assignments in other countries.

The following are typical duties of ATF agents:

  • Investigating federal violations relating to possession and distribution of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
  • Testifying at grand juries and court trials
  • Preparing case reports for attorneys and Justice Department officials
  • Collecting and analyzing data from raids, arrests, and other investigative activities

Conditions of Employment
The following are the requirements to become an ATF agent:

  • Be an American citizen
  • Satisfy all federal employee eligibility requirements. Males applying for ATF agent positions born after December 31, 1959 are required to show they've registered with the Selective Service or prove they're exempt from this requirement
  • Be between 21-37 years of age at time of application, unless you've previously worked as a federal law enforcement official covered by special retirement provisions for civil service, including mandatory or early retirement. Maximum age requirements will not be waived for anyone, including individuals with veterans' preferences
  • Answer all the questions listed in the ATF agent application and hold a valid drivers' license
  • Obtain a satisfactory score on the Treasury Enforcement Agent (TEA) Examination
  • Pass the ATF assessment test
  • Provide a writing sample and pass the field panel interview
  • Pass a drug test administered by the ATF
  • Pass a physical examination administered by a licensed government physician and satisfy these medical requirements:

    • ATF agents are required to satisfy uncorrected distant vision requirements of 20/100 in each eye at a minimum, and applicants with corrected distant vision are required to test 20/20 in 1 eye and at least 20/30 in the other. Applicants must be able to differentiate shades of color determined by plate tests and have normal peripheral vision and depth perception
    • Potential agents who've received a Radial Keratotomy (RK), Photorefractive Keratecotomy (PRK), Laser in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK), or Automated Larnellar Keratoplasty (ALK) are required to provide documentation that they've received one of these procedures from a licensed ophthalmologist within the prescribed time following the procedure, typically 3 months to a year, depending on the procedure
    • If the potential agent has hearing loss, as determined with an audiometer, the loss cannot be greater than 30 decibels at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz levels.
    • Potential agents must demonstrate the ability to safely perform physically straining tasks

  • Pass a polygraph test
  • Weight and height must be proportional
  • Qualify for a top secret security clearance following a background check

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Foreign Language Award Program
The ATF sponsors a Foreign Language Award Program where agents and other employees who speak and frequently utilize foreign languages while fulfilling job duties are compensated with bonuses. To qualify for the bonus, employees must demonstrate language proficiency and frequently speak their foreign language.

Promotion Potential
Promotions within the ATF are determined by performance and supervisor recommendations.

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