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Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

Earnings Potential

  • The ATF employs a large number of talented individuals and the salaries vary greatly.  For example:
  • An Office Automation Clerk (entry level position) can expect to earn between $28,349 and $36,856 per year.
  • A Supervisory Criminal Investigator (division chief) can expect to earn between $107,521 and $139,774.
  • A Human Resources Specialist can expect to earn between $77,353 and $100,554 per year.
  • A General Attorney working for the ATF can expect to earn between  $107,521 and $139,774.
  • A Forensic Chemist can expect to earn $84,713 and $130,817.


A professional who works for the ATF may be called upon to perform any one of a number of tasks.  As the name would indicate, agents work primarily in regulating the use of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms; on a day to day basis, an ATF agent may be involved in various activities.  Examples follow.


Fire investigation:              On August 13, 2006 the fire at the Covington Country Club was discovered in the early morning. The building received approximately $700,000.00 in damage.  When investigating the fire, local officials requested assistance from the ATF.  The ATF found that the fire had been started using gasoline in order to conceal a burglary, and later made arrests in connection with the fire. 

Investigation of

Drug rings:                         On August 15, 2006 Law enforcement officials announced the dismantlement of an international black tar heroin trafficking group.  “Operation Black Gold Rush” was the result of a joint effort between many different law enforcement groups, involving operations in 15 cities and eight U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Over 130 defendants were indicted, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were seized, along with over 17 kilograms (37.4 pounds) of black tar heroin. 


Arms Smuggling

and falsification of

arms licenses:

On August 10, 2006 Christopher Sadowski, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,

Firearms and Explosives (ATF), announced that five people from central Ohio had plead guilty to participating in an arms trafficking scheme to illegally buy and sell more than 300 firearms in just one year. In initial investigation by the ATF found that Mark Nelson had been enlisting other individuals including members of his immediate family to “straw purchase” firearms on his behalf. A straw purchase is when an individual acts as an intermediary and purchases firearms from a licensed firearms dealer on behalf of another in order to hide the true identity of the purchaser or possessor. Often, as in this case, the true purchaser is a prohibited individual and cannot lawfully obtain firearms.

Degrees that Lead to a career in the ATF 

Many different careers exist in the ATF, typically, a successful candidate for an entry level ATF position possess a bachelors degree in criminal justice, or a bachelors degree that is appropriate to the specific position: for example Human Resources, or Government Affairs.

Current Career Opportunities

Many different career opportunities exist within the ATF, such as:


GS 1811-14/15 Positions, CFO/Management, Chief Counsel, Positions in the Director's Office, Positions in Field Operations, Enforcement Programs & Services, Professional Responsibilities & Security Operations, Public & Governmental Affairs, Positions in Science & Technology, Strategic Intelligence & Information, Positions in Training & Professional Development and Office Positions.