What’s the federal bureau with a heavy law enforcement mission, thousands of special agents defending the U.S. against international and domestic terrorism, and a heavy need for individuals with a Top Secret security clearance? If your first thought was the FBI, maybe it’s time to expand your horizons. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a law enforcement agency with a distinct mission – to investigate crimes and protect the public from a diverse range of threats, from arson to explosives. It also has a critical mission maintaining the proper commerce of firearms and explosives.

What is the ATF?

The ATF is made up of nearly 5,000 personnel, nearly half of whom are special agents. Special Agents are empowered to enforce nearly ever statute in the U.S. Code and have lead investigative authority for any federal crimes committed with a firearm or explosive. All ATF special agents require a Top Secret or higher clearance, and many need a TS/SCI clearance.

But the ATF mission is broader than investigations and criminal cases. Industry Operations Investigators perform the regulatory functions of the ATF, and may spend their days interviewing firearms and explosives dealers, importers, and manufacturers.

ATF field offices are located across the country and in multiple international locations.

Who Works for the ATF?

The ATF has a weighty mission, and it’s looking for candidates from diverse backgrounds to help it prevent terrorism and violent crime. If you’ve considered law enforcement careers with other three letter agencies, it’s also worth looking into ATF career opportunities. The job requirements vary by position – special agents will be met with physical fitness requirements, attorneys will be met with others. Like most intelligence community and law enforcement agencies, however, willingness to learn, adaptability, passion, work ethic, and attention to detail are in-demand skill sets that cross all functional areas, from agent to office administration.

How Do You get a job with the ATF?

If you’re a veteran with a current clearance, that is certainly an advantage when applying for positions, with most having those TS or TS/SCI requirements. Highlight your active clearance when searching for openings on career marketplaces and USAJobs. And while a formal application process is required, don’t discount the value of networking. Search out AFT presence at events, and use the hidden job market.

Entry-level job applicants may consider ATF’s paid internship or student volunteer opportunities – both remain one of the best ways for entry-level candidates to get their foot in the door for any federal employer.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.