Once a part of Treasury Department’s Bureau of Internal Revenue, ATF was established in 1886 as “Revenue Laboratory” to conduct research and development on firearms. ATF was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A new name for the agency was adopted: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).
Since its establishment in 1934, this Bureau has investigated and prosecuted a wide range of crimes, as well as assisting other law enforcement agencies. Terrorism and violent crime are lessened, and the general public is better protected, thanks to these laws, which adhere to the Constitution and federal law. Applicants for this elite law enforcement agency must meet a long list of requirements before they can be considered for consideration. The following requirements make up the short list:
- Consider yourself to be a citizen of the United States
- Please fill out the ATF Special Agent Candidate Questionnaire
- Completion of and certification as an ATF Special Agent
- ATF Pre-employment Physical Task Test: Take and pass
- Attend a field panel interview and do well on it.
- Applicants for special agent positions must adhere to ATF’s drug policy.
Candidates with a high school diploma will be considered. If you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, you may be eligible to work as an ATF special agent. Even though the ATF doesn’t require a specific college degree, those who are interested in becoming special agents often choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field like criminal justice or psychology. Agents must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in order to rise up the GL (government/law) pay scale. As an example, candidates for the GL-9 level need to have a master’s degree (or an equivalent graduate degree) or at least two full years of higher-level graduate education leading to a degree in criminal justice or a closely related field.
Students can earn POST credit at schools like Capella University, which offers online criminal justice degree programs taught by professors with real-world experience (Peace Officer Standards and Training). In addition, Regis University offers online Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Criminology.
The ATF’s Internship Program is another path to a career in the agency. Applicants must be full-time students at an accredited educational institution, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Students in high school to those pursuing a doctorate are eligible. Presidential Management Fellows Program, a flagship leadership development program for advanced degree candidates, is another option Applicants must have completed a qualifying advanced degree within the last two years (e.g., masters or professional degree). Lastly, you can join the ATF’s volunteer program as a student, which is an unpaid opportunity to learn about its duties. Anyone in a degree program, whether they are in high school or a college or university, can apply.
No matter how you get in, you’ll have to go through two different training programs before you can become an agent with this federal agency. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Department of Homeland Security, Glynco, Georgia, offers a 12-week Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP). The Special Agent Basic Training (SABT) is the next stage of training (SABT). Among the many topics covered by the SABT are the identification of firearms and ammunition, firearms trafficking, and writing reports, to name just a few. A class of 24 students takes 15 weeks to complete this course.