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TSA Screener Career Guide

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employs thousands of individuals, known as TSA screeners, who maintain security at airports across the United States. The TSA also hires security officers, inspectors, directors, air marshals, and managers.

TSA Screen Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

TSA screeners provide security for persons traveling into and through the United States. They screen passengers at primarily at airports, but may also be posted at railways, subways, and other transportation hubs to help prevent attacks. Screeners use a variety of techniques and equipment, including x-ray machines, standing and handheld metal detectors, physical searches of persons and luggage, and canines and other security devices, such as cameras and surveillance equipment. TSA agents also search for weapons, drugs, and other contraband that can make travel unsafe.

TSA screeners are federal government employees with the Department of Homeland Security. Their primary duties include:

  • Discover and stop emerging transportation security threats by using state of the art technology
  • Educate and provide friendly customer service to travelers
  • Screen passengers and gather intelligence
  • Coordinate security involving aviation, rail, and other surface and maritime transportation
  • Coordinate heightened security for transportation during national emergencies

How to Become a TSA Screener: Requirements and Qualifications

Prospective TSA screeners must be:

  • US citizens or US nationals
  • At least 18 years old at the time of application
  • Proficient in English and have customer service skills
  • Dependable and able to operate with integrity
  • Able to repeatedly lift and/or carry up to 70 pounds
  • Able to maintain focus and awareness in a stressful environment
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in criminal justice to improve odds of hiring
  • Meet job-related medical standards, including passing a background investigation
  • Successfully pass an image interpretation test

TSA Screener Job Training

Training is an ongoing part of a screener’s job. New hirees must go through 120 hours of training before being assigned to screen their first passengers. TSA screeners must also pass written examinations and image interpretation tests annually to maintain agency certification. TSA screeners must always remain alert while on the job and will face unannounced tests – such as an undercover TSA agent trying to pass through security with illegal contraband – to determine if the screener is effectively doing his or her job.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prospective TSA screeners should be able to work and to communicate with diverse individuals and to thrive while working independently, especially when screening passengers. Transportation security officers with law enforcement experience may have a hiring advantage.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • TSA agent
  • Transportation Security Officer (TSO)

Career Opportunities and Employers

TSA screeners may enjoy such advancement opportunities as TSA trainer, bomb appraisal officer, and transportation security manager. Advancement depends on a screener’s job performance and “professional and educational credentials,” according to the TSA.

TSA Screener Salary and Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there are about 41,820 TSA screeners in the US, earning an average annual wage of $40,050.1 The US government’s ongoing effort to combat terrorist activity at home and abroad influences the opportunities for employment with the Transportation Security Administration.

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

Where are the best opportunities for securing employment as a TSA screener?

States that have the highest concentration of TSA screening jobs tend to be home to one or more international airports or ports. According to the BLS, as of 2015 the five states with the most TSA screeners were Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, and Virginia.1

What kind of schedule do TSA screeners usually work?

Screeners may be employed either full-time or part-time. Since most transportation hubs receive passengers and cargo around the clock, TSA screeners may work day or night shifts. Weekend shifts are usually required.

Are TSO officers required to travel?

While TSA screeners may be assigned to a particular airport, they may be required to work at other airports or mass transportation facilities if there is a shortage of screeners at a particular time.

Are there any career development opportunities within the TSA?

The TSA provides career development assistance to all screeners and other employees by offering a career coaching service. A career coach may help employees refine their interviewing skills, critique their resumes, and help them prepare applications for federal positions.

What kind of benefits does the TSA offer?

Employees with the TSA may be eligible for health insurance, paid leave, retirement savings, life insurance, and long-term care insurance. All employees generally receive paid training and 10 paid holidays each year.

Additional Resources

  • The Department of Homeland Security – Preparation manual for the Transportation Security Administration’s writing skills assessment.
  • Security Today – A publication dedicated to security, including airport and airline security, worldwide.
  • The TSA Blog – The official blog of the Transportation Security Administration that is designed to keep the general public informed about what’s going on at the TSA.
  • Transportation Security Administration – The official website of the Department of Homeland Security.

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References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Transportation Security Screeners: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339093.htm