What Training Is Required for a Career in Airport Security?
Airport security professionals protect travelers from emergencies, theft, criminal activity, and terrorism. Those interested in pursuing careers in this field should expect to undergo background checks, fingerprint checks, criminal record checks, and, in some cases, physical examinations. Learn more about the training and education needed to work in airport security below.
There are two types of airport security personnel: operations staff and management. Operations staff members deal directly with airport patrons and enforce basic safety procedures of the airport. Managers supervise teams of security officers and oversee high-crisis issues.
Important Facts About Airport Security
|Work Environment||Airport, office|
|Key Skills||Strength, interpersonal skills, technical knowledge, training, customer service|
|Median Salary (2018)||$41,490 (for all transportation security screeners)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||6% growth (for all security guards)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Entry into operations staff positions requires a high school diploma. Candidates with experience and training are more likely to get hired, especially those with an associate- or bachelor's-level security certificate. New security personnel are required to complete a 12-hour course on security procedures and equipment operation.
Operations employees begin their tenures in the E Band (entry-level) as baggage screeners or transportation security officers (TSO), according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is the agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that employs most of the country's airport security personnel. Over time, operations members may progress to master or lead transportation security officer, then to expert or supervisory manager, and finally to transportation security manager.
The following is a list of operations positions and responsibilities, according to the TSA:
- Transportation Security Officer (E Band): A TSO's main duty is to screen baggage and passengers for threats. They also monitor passenger flow at entry and exit points.
- Lead Transportation Security Officer (F Band): Lead transportation security officers delegate work among small teams of employees. They also supervise the technical training of team members and field employee complaints, scheduling, and communication. Lead TSOs also supervise security checkpoints.
- Supervisory Transportation Security Officer (G Band): This airport security position features the following responsibilities: cargo and baggage screening, assisting management with inquiries and investigations, guiding lower-level staff in resolving difficult technical issues, pre-board screening, and evaluating team performance.
- Transportation Security Manager (H-I Bands): The TSM is responsible for screenings at security checkpoints. They also work closely with supervisors to identify and correct security vulnerabilities.
Management positions are typically held by those with advanced degrees or security certificates as well as several years of proven field experience. Most airport security management candidates have demonstrated leadership ability at the senior management level and possess comprehensive knowledge of airport security protocol. Job- and site-specific training is provided for those transferring from independent security organizations. Below is a sample of airport security management positions:
- Federal Security Director: This is the ranking position at any airport. The federal security director's primary duty is to provide general, daily operational direction for airport security teams. Other duties include tactical planning, crisis management, data protection, and risk assessment.
- Assistant Federal Security Director - Regulatory Inspection: Those with this title prepare and implement inspection programs, advise the security director, and assess the ongoing state of airport security.
- Assistant Federal Security Director - Screening: This is an upper-level position that manages screeners, supervisors, and screening managers at security checkpoints. A person in this position has final authority regarding screening procedures and problems. He or she also recommends new policies to the director.