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How to Become a Transportation Security Officer

Learn about the process of becoming a transportation security officer. Read on for a summary of the education requirements, skills, and salary expectations.

Transportation Security Officer at a Glance

Transportation security officers work at ports of entry to the United States and are responsible for screening passengers, their belongings, and cargo containers to ensure they comply with all laws and regulations. The role may involve both the operation of technical equipment (such as x-ray machines and other screening devices) as well as the face-to-face interaction with passengers on a daily basis. The table below will give you a general overview on the application requirements for transportation security officers.

Education Required High school diploma or similar
Training Required 2-6 weeks of on-the-job training
Skills Needed Communication, interpersonal, and critical-thinking skills; attention to detail
Median Annual Wage (2018) $41,490* (for all transportation security screeners)
Career Outlook (2018-2028) 1% growth* (for all transportation security screeners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Is Required?

Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be considered for positions as transportation security officers. Equivalent credentials that are accepted as substitutes include the General Educational Development (GED), Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). The Transportation Security Agency also considers at least one year of professional experience in the security industry as a substitute for the education requirement. Applicants must also have full English proficiency and will be tested on it during the application process.

Are There Any Other Requirements?

There are several requirements outside of your educational background. A few of these requirements relate to your personal finances, as you cannot be considered a candidate if you are delinquent on any federal or state taxes, have defaulted on more than $7,500 of debt, or are past due on any payments related to child support. You must also be a United States citizen, pass a drug screening, and be a legal adult (18 years or older). Additional requirements (such as medical) may apply.

What Should I Expect from the Application Process?

The application process begins with two principal tests, which evaluate both your English proficiency skills and your ability to interpret the results of x-ray machine screenings for luggage and cargo. The process continues with a formal interview, where the agency will attempt to determine both your customer service skills and ability to solve and react to common problems on the job. Finally, you will be asked to complete a drug screening and a medical test, where everything from your eyesight to your physical stamina will be evaluated (this is due to the fact that transportation security officers are sometimes required to lift heavy objects or stand for extended periods of time).

What Are the Responsibilities of a Transportation Security Officer?

Transportation security officers are tasked with protecting passengers and the general public from potential threats. The principal responsibility of a transportation security officer is luggage and cargo screening with the use of x-ray equipment at all US ports of entry. This is an important and delicate skill with serious implications, as mistakes could result in serious security risks for the general population. Other responsibilities include performing hand searches of passengers and their belongings.

What Is the Career Outlook and Average Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks employment data for transportation security officers under the ''Transportation Security Screeners'' category. In 2018, it estimated the median annual salary for that category at $41,490. The BLS also projected a 1% growth in job opportunities for all transportation security screeners between 2018 and 2028.