Average Salary: $77,120
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,061,000
ATF agents earn a base annual wage of $35,000 to $45,000 a year (source). However, the amount of money they actually take home depends on a number of factors. There are certain "grades," or levels, that applicants are hired into based on their experience.
For example, those hired as Grade 5 Step 1 agents are paid at the lower end of that scale, while those hired as Grade 9 Step 1 agents start out at a bit more. Then, as they prove themselves and move up the ladder, they become eligible for various promotions, raises, and perks. Remember how good it felt to go all the way from grade five to grade nine in school? It's kinda like that. Except not at all.
As with most jobs, agents can make more if they live in an area of the country that has a high cost of living. In addition, special agents who perform duties after two hours of any overtime may receive Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP). Those working on special assignments, undercover, or on big operations generally also qualify for LEAP.
ATF agents generally work office hours from 8:30AM to 5:00PM. Because they often work overtime during undercover operations, they earn an additional twenty-five percent for each hour on the job. Think you should make more? Better not try helping yourself to money found in raids.
One such ATF agent, Steven Campbell, made that mistake when he stole money out of a house during a drug raid. He was ratted out by another agent who saw him slip the money into his pants, and now he's doing hard time—over a year in a federal prison. Not sly, that one.