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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 through the United States. They screen passengers at airports, railways, subways, and other means of transportation 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 search for weapons, drugs, and other contraband that 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
  • Oversee most transportation-related responsibilities of the federal government during a national emergency

How to Become a TSA Screener: Requirements and Qualifications

Prospective TSA screeners must be:

  • A US Citizen or a US National
  • At least 18 years old at the time of application
  • Proficient in English and have customer service skills
  • Dependable and operate with integrity
  • Able to repeatedly lift and/or carry up to 70 pounds
  • Have the ability to maintain focus and awareness in a stressful environment
  • Possess and/or earn a bachelor’s degree or an 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. Training continues throughout each year the TSA screener is with the Transportation Security Administration. TSA screeners must also pass a written examination and image interpretation tests annually to maintain agency certification. TSA screeners must always remain alert while on the job and will face tests – such as an undercover TSA agent trying to pass through security with illegal contraband – at any given time 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. Those 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, who are employed by the Transportation Security Administration, 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 45,790 TSA screeners, employed by the Transportation Security Administration, who earn an average annual wage of $37,400.1 The United States government’s ongoing effort to combat terrorist activity at home and abroad influences the opportunities for employment with the Transportation Security Administration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 5.9% increase in employment for TSA screeners in the decade from 2012 to 2022.2

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

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

Those states that have the “highest concentration of” TSA screening jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and California.

What kind of schedule do TSA screeners usually work?

Screeners may be employed either full time or part time.

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 Transportation Security Administration 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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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339093.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj
3. Transportation Security Administration: http://www.tsa.gov/careers/career-areas
4. The TSA Blog: What It Takes to be a Transportation Security Officer: http://blog.tsa.gov/2008/02/what-it-takes-to-be-transportation.html