Working in the TSA, Transportation Security Officers are on the front line to safeguard the American public by providing airport, railroad, road, and maritime transportation security.
They are charged with protecting the U.S. transportation systems from terrorist attacks and with ensuring freedom of movement for both commerce and people. The Transportation Security Officer, or a TSO, must be able to act quickly to counter security threats while also interacting with the public in a helpful and friendly way.
TSOs screen passengers, coordinate security, gather intelligence, and oversee the federal government’s transportation-related issues during a national emergency.
Transportation Security Officer Requirements
To qualify as a TSO you must be a citizen of the U.S. or a U.S. National with a high school diploma or equivalent GED. You may also qualify if you have at least one year of full-time experience working in the area of security, aviation screening, or as an x-ray technician.
You must be able to read, write, listen, speak in proficient English, and be mentally alert and observant. Transportation Security Officers interact extensively with the public and are required to have personal characteristics of dependability and skills in customer service.
This is a physically demanding position and it is not suitable for those with poor vision, color blindness, or impaired hearing. The physical requirements are specific with set limits for blood pressure, joint mobility, dexterity, strength, and stability. You must be able to lift and carry up to 70 pounds and pass a drug test.
You must pass a background investigation, including a background and a credit check. Applicants are required to be fingerprinted, photographed, and have their security paperwork completed; including a standard questionnaire required for National Security positions.
You may be disqualified if your credit check reveals delinquent federal or state taxes, or past due child support payments.
Transportation Security Officer Education and Training
When you are initially hired you must complete 56 to 72 hours of classroom training, 112 to 118 hours of on the job training, certification testing, and may be required to travel for up to two weeks.
To maintain your employment as a TSO you must demonstrate readiness for duty on a regular basis with no impairment of drugs, alcohol, or sleep deprivation.
On occasion, you will be scheduled for recurring and specialized training, and may be required to pass a random drug screening. Background investigations may be updated on occasion and you may be required to be re-certified in one or more areas of duty.
Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Salary
The average salary for a full-time Transportation Security Officer career position is $39,310 per year with an additional locality pay. Part-time positions are also available and are also eligible for federal health benefits at the same low cost as a full-time Transportation Security Officer.
TSO Career Opportunities
There are often many career positions open for both part-time and full-time Transportation Security Officers. These positions are published on the TSA website and list the location of each open position.
You may find yourself working in an airport or a bus terminal, but will most often be doing shift work. Your work hours are subject to change with minimal notice. As a part-time TSO you may have the opportunity to move into full-time and then into supervisory positions.
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