How to Become an ATF Agent in Virginia

The duties of an ATF agent in Virginia are varied and often change from day to day. For example, in 2011 Virginia’s ATF agents tracked and arrested two men in Virginia Beach for selling improvised explosive devices and machine guns to an undercover ATF agent. Two years later, in 2013, Virginia’s ATF agents responded to major crimes including the Washington D.C. Navy Yard shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing.

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Virginia ATF agents often collaborate with other federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement. Some recent collaborations have included work with such agencies as:

  • Arlington County Sheriff’s Office
  • Alexandria Police Department
  • Norfolk Sheriff’s Office
  • Portsmouth Police Department
  • Richmond County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hampton Police Division
  • Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office
  • Virginia State Police


Satisfying the Requirements to Become an ATF Agent in Virginia

There are basic requirements that one must meet before applying to become an ATF agent in Virginia. They include U.S. citizenship, being between 21 and 36 ½ years old, being legally able to carry a firearm, being ready to relocate, and being registered with selective service if required.

Additional requirements that some prospective ATF agents in Virginia might not think of but that are just as important include reliability, being calm under pressure and in stressful situations, and being detail oriented.

Physically, ATF agents in Virginia must possess the fitness to pass the ATF Physical Task Test, including running 1.5 miles and doing mandatory amounts of sit-ups and push-ups. They must also pass a drug test and physical exam. Prior to hire, ATF agents in Virginia must also pass the written ATF Special Agent Exam and a thorough background check.

Entry-level ATF agent jobs in Virginia require that candidates hold a minimum of a bachelor degree in any field, or three years of experience in law enforcement/criminal justice. Although the bachelor’s degree may be in any major, criminal justice-related majors are the most helpful.

Higher-level ATF agent jobs in Virginia require possession of a master degree in a related field, like criminal justice, psychology or sociology. Many Virginia ATF agents at the highest levels have law degrees such as L.L.B. or J.D.

Training for Careers in the Virginia ATF

Basic training for new ATF agents in Virginia takes 27 weeks and takes place in Glynco, Georgia. The first part, consisting of 12 weeks, is the Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP). Students are trained in firearms techniques and procedures, as well as criminal investigation techniques, court procedures, managing crime scenes, and techniques involved in law enforcement. The next training is the 15 week long Special Agent Basic Training (SABT). New Virginia ATF agents learn specialized techniques here involving identifying firearms, investigating arson and explosives, firearms trafficking, interviewing and report writing skills.

Another form of training takes place in Virginia for ATF agents who work with canines. The Canine Training and Operations Support Branch is located in Front Royal and is where ATF agents train with canines to become certified in various techniques. The most popular is the Accelerant Detection Canine Program (ADCP), in which dog and agent teams are trained for recognizing explosives by their odors. Recertification training is conducted once per year for these teams of agents and canines.

ATF Field Offices in Virginia

The Washington Field Division of the ATF oversees Virginia’s ATF agents and field offices. They include:

  • Bristol (Industry Operations and Criminal Enforcement)
  • Falls Church  (Industry Operations, Firearms Group and Arson/Explosives Group)
  • Charlottesville (Criminal Enforcement)
  • Richmond (Industry Operations and Criminal Enforcement)
  • Norfolk (Industry Operations and Criminal Enforcement)
  • Roanoke (Industry Operations and Criminal Enforcement)
  • Harrisonburg (Criminal Enforcement)
  • Winchester (Criminal Enforcement)


Virginia ATF Agents in the News

ATF agents in Virginia have faced some tense and challenging moments recently. The ATF’s Special Response Team from Virginia was assigned to respond to the Boston Marathon Bombing in April 2013 and to the Navy Yard shooting in September 2013.

Recently members of the Special Response Team provided journalists with a tour of their facility in Northern Virginia, which houses specialized guns, battering rams and armored vehicles to be used in situations like these. Virginia’s ATF agents say that with the equipment and training they have received, they are confident that they will be successful when faced with life-or-death situations such as these.

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