How to Become an ATF Agent in Massachusetts

The Boston Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is proactive in reducing violent crime throughout Massachusetts and five other New England States.  ATF special agents investigate the following types of criminals to help reduce crime in Massachusetts:

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  • Gun traffickers
  • Gang members
  • Career criminals
  • Armed violent offenders

ATF agents are specialists in investigating cases involving arson and explosives and share their expertise with officers of other law enforcement agencies to help solve these types of cases.

In addition, Massachusetts is home to five firearms manufacturers, including the third largest manufacturer of civilian firearms in the country—Smith and Wesson of Springfield.  ATF investigators who specialize in industry operations are highly knowledgeable about the manufacturing process and regulations that govern this industry.  They help to ensure that firearms are stored, handled, and sold safely.

Requirements to Become an ATF Agent in Massachusetts

Basic Requirements – Residents of Massachusetts who want to become special agents with the ATF must meet the basic requirements necessary to become a federal law enforcement officer.  These include the following:

    • Possessing
      • US citizenship
      • A valid driver’s license


  • Being 21 to 36 years of age
    • People with the following types of career experience may be exempt:
      • Veterans
      • Federal law enforcement officers (civilian)

Educational Requirements by Grade – Applicants who do not have previous law enforcement experience must meet the following educational requirements.

    • Bachelor’s degree for G-5
    • One of the following for G-7
      • One year of graduate work in a following or a related field:
        • Sociology
        • Psychology
        • Political science
        • Criminal justice


      • Having met certain standards for a bachelor’s degree
        • GPA of a B for all undergraduate courses
        • GPA of a B+ for courses in their major
        • Belonging to a national honor society
        • Ranking in the class’s upper third


  • One of the following for G-9
      • Two years or graduate study or a master’s degree in a following or a related field:
        • Sociology
        • Psychology
        • Political science
        • Criminal justice


    • An equivalent degree such as an LL.B. or a J.D.


Training to Become an ATF Agent

ATF agents undergo intensive and rigorous training before they start their careers with this agency.  This two-phase training involves the following:

  • Criminal Investigators Training Program
  • Special Agent Basic Training

The first phase of training teaches prospective agents the basics of criminal investigations.  Some of the areas they study involve the following:

  • Firearms training
  • Driving training
  • Managing crime scenes
  • Conducting surveillance

After they have passed this course, they learn specific skills to become ATF agents such as investigating fires, arsons, and explosions.  Trainees also learn such basic law enforcement skills as reporting writing and conducting interviews.  They should be in top physical condition, since this training emphasizes tactical skills.

ATF Cases in Massachusetts

ATF jobs in Massachusetts involve investigating a number of different types of violent crime, as shown by some of the following prominent cases.

Racially Motivated Destruction of a Church – In the hours following Obama’s election in 2008, a group of Springfield men set fire to and destroyed the Macedonia Church of God in Christ.  ATF investigators determined that gasoline had been used to destroy the predominantly African-American church.  Subsequent investigation found that the attack was racially motivated.  A Springfield man pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Crack Sales by an Armed Career Criminal – A Boston man was sentenced to over 21 years in federal prison for distributing crack and being in possession of a firearm while being a felon.  He qualified as an armed career criminal for the following reasons:

  • A history of violent crime dating back to 1996
  • Having at least three convictions for a violent crime or drug offense

Widespread Sale of Firearms and Narcotics – ATF agents were part of a long-term investigation into the sale of narcotics and the trafficking of guns in the Brockton area.  Thirty-two people were arrested in 2011 for these federal crimes.

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