How to Become an ATF Agent in Rhode Island

In February 2013, a Chinese national was sentenced to federal prison for attempting to smuggle counterfeit tobacco products into the U.S. via Rhode Island, while in May 2013, a Rhode Island man was arraigned on a federal indictment for his involvement in an armed confrontation with a Rhode Island State Police Officer. Again, in June 2013, four men and six firearms were seized following an ATF investigation involving an alleged drug trafficking conspiracy out of Rhode Island.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Rhode Island, which is organized under the ATF’s Boston Field Division, operates out of the Providence field office (401-277-2700).

Meeting Minimum Requirements

Individuals who want to learn how to become an ATF agent in Rhode Island must meet the minimum requirements for employment at the GL-5 pay grade (the minimum at which ATF agents are hired), which include:

  • Being a United States citizen
  • Being between the ages of 21 and 36
  • Holding a valid driver’s license
  • Being in excellent physical condition

Education/experience requirements are an important part of qualifying for an ATF agent job. At the GL-5 pay grade, applicants must possess one of the following:

  • At least 3 years of experience (showing a progression of responsibility), with at least one year of specialty experience equivalent to the GL-4 level (specialty experience is defined as experience in criminal or law enforcement investigations); OR
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university—common degree programs, although not required, include sociology, criminal justice, criminology, and political science
  • A combination of education and experience


Completing the Hiring and Training Process

The hiring and training process for ATF special agent candidates is involved, as these individuals must successfully complete a specific pre-employment process, which includes a special agent assessment test; a special agent examination; a structured panel interview; a polygraph examination; a drug screening; a medical examination; and a physical task test.

The physical task test is a standardized test that is used to ensure that all candidates meet their responsibilities as ATF special agents. All employees are tested in three areas, which include:

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • 1.5-mile run

The acceptable standards for the physical task test vary according to the candidate’s age and gender. Candidates who are not able to meet the standards are immediately removed from the hiring process.

The training process for new special agent hires is mandatory, with all new recruits required to complete both parts of this intensive, 27-week program, which includes:

  • Criminal Investigator Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia
  • The ATF’s Special Agent Basic Training at the ATF National Academy

Special Agent Basic Training (SABT) is an intensive, often rigorous, program that includes in-depth study in a number of areas crucial to the career of an ATF special agent. This 15-week training program typically includes a small class size of about 24 students.

Just a few of the disciplines learned in SABT include:

  • Firearms trafficking
  • Report writing
  • Firearms and ammunition identification
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Undercover operations
  • Firearms and tactical training

The objective of firearms training is to familiarize new hires with the safe and effective use of their issued weapon, which may include a handgun, a shotgun, or a long gun. Firearms training consists of about 100 hours of training in areas such as marksmanship and tactical and judgment shooting.

Arson and explosives training consists of a basic foundation of knowledge related to arson, fire and explosives. As such, training often includes:

  • Fire scene investigations
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Live burn scenarios
  • Effects of explosives
  • Processing bomb scenes

Tactical training consists of tactical judgment training, with tactical teams encountering both lethal and non-lethal targets and using proper judgment and control when in specific situations.  All new hires must complete a Final Tactical practical, which is administered at the end of tactics training.

Physical training and conditioning are also an important part of SABT training, and all new hires must complete approximately 56 hours of physical training and 72 hours of close quarter countermeasure training.

All trainees must achieve at least 25 percent in three critical areas, which include a 1.5-mile run, an agility run, and a bench press, to pass the physical training component of SABT.

ATF Agent Jobs in Rhode Island: Salary and Career Benefits

ATF agents in Rhode Island are hired at the GL-5, GL-7 and GL-9 federal pay levels, depending on education and experience. Therefore, the starting salary for these federal law enforcement officials ranges between $33,829 and $42,948, which includes the Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) pay.

ATF agents, in addition their base salary and possible locality pay, are afforded the following federal benefits:

  • Vacation time of 13 to 26 days per year
  • Sick leave of 13 days per year
  • Paid holidays
  • Low-cost health insurance
  • Low-cost group life insurance
  • Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) benefits (Special agents with 20 years of service may retire at age 50, and 57 is the mandatory retirement age)
  • Tax-deferred Thrift Savings Plan
  • Health Improvement (physical fitness) plan

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