How to Become an ATF Agent in California

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms seizes more guns in California than it does in any other state in the nation, with the 2013 total reaching 31,244 and accounting for more than 13 percent of all seizures nationwide. Among these are many of the most dangerous and unusual weapons the ATF deals with:

  • 52 machine guns
  • Flare guns
  • Tear gas launchers
  • Pipe bombs and other improvised explosive devices
  • Grenades
Sponsored Content

ATF agents also trace thousands of guns back to California that were involved in crimes committed in other states. This has earned California a reputation for exporting more illegal firearms than any other state in the nation.

In effort to reduce gun crime, the Bureau maintains offices in 17 cities throughout California:

  • Glendale
  • Riverside
  • San Diego
  • Santa Ana
  • Santa Maria
  • Los Angeles
  • Long Beach
  • Carlsbad
  • El Centro
  • Van Nuys
  • San Francisco
  • Dublin
  • Fresno
  • Oakland
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose
  • Stockton


How to Join the ATF in California as a Special Agent

Get a Degree – To be eligible for ATF jobs in California or anywhere else in the country candidates will need to meet certain specific qualifications. One of the initial requirements for a career with the ATF is post-secondary education.

Prospective agents can qualify for entry at an advanced level and rank if they demonstrate good academic performance in a bachelor’s degree program while majoring in one of these specified areas:

  • Political Science
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Criminal Justice
  • Psychology
  • Forensics
  • Sociology
  • Law Enforcement

Training for ATF jobs also incorporates many elements of these majors, and having a background in such will accelerate the learning process.

Candidates may also qualify as entry-level agents with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than those listed above, OR three years of experience in criminal investigations, OR a combination of both higher education and experience.

Other minimum requirements include being a US citizen with a driver’s license, and being between the ages of 21-36 with some exceptions made for veterans and federal police.

Submit an Application – Once candidates are fully prepared, they can submit an application to the ATF through the federal USA Jobs website. Applications will only be accepted when there are vacancies advertised. Applicants may also sign up to be notified of openings by email.

A complete application will include:

Participate in Training – After being hired, ATF training begins with 12 weeks spent at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia where new agents will be instructed on:

  • Suspect interviewing
  • Crime scene management
  • Methodologies of criminal investigation
  • Firearms training
  • Handcuffing

Next agents will complete 15 weeks of Special Agent Basic Training, with instruction in:

  • Field operation
  • Undercover techniques
  • Fire/arson and explosives investigations
  • Ammunition and firearm detection and analysis
  • Physical conditioning

Once agents have completed their training they may be deployed to one of the two divisions that cover California: the San Francisco Field Division or the Los Angeles Field Division.

The ATF’s Vital Presence in California

ATF agents participate in hundreds of operations in California each year, taking the state’s most violent armed criminals off the streets and dismantling their massive illegal enterprises. The fact that law and order exist in California is thanks in no small part to the Bureau’s 4,770 employees (including 793 investigators) stationed in the state.

Domestic terrorism investigations were launched by the ATF for a series of attacks in California suspected to have been perpetrated by the Earth Liberation Front including:

  • Dozens of instances of vandalism and arson attacks against large sports utility vehicles, including in Santa Cruz, suburban Los Angeles, and Fair Oaks.
  • Structure fire attacks targeting a San Diego condominium, an Auburn commercial building, and a Chico residence and shopping center under construction.

The ATF also recently conducted an extensive undercover operation to infiltrate an ex-patriot group of Hmong in Sacramento who were attempting to purchase heavy arms that included surface-to-air missiles, with the intent of overthrowing the government in Laos. The investigation eventually led to the arrest of ten suspects on numerous felony charges.

Back to Top