Transportation Security Officer Degrees and Careers
If you've ever flown with an American airline, you have likely come across a Transportation Security Officer. TSOs work for the Transportation Security Administration, an agency that's part of the federal government. TSOs tend to be based at one major airport, although you may need to fill in at different airports as needed.
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Airport security is a very high priority for the federal government, so there's a great need for skilled Transportation Security Officers. As an officer, you may help screen passengers, do physical screens of passengers, and perform security screens on luggage. This position tends to involve lots of interaction with people from different age groups, countries, and backgrounds. In addition, you must spend lots of time on your feet as a TSO.
When you compare this job to other criminal justice careers, it has far fewer requirements than the majority of jobs. If you are looking for an entry-level career in the Transportation Security Administration, this may be a great place to start. The hiring process can be long, as selected applicants must take a variety of tests and assessments. These assessments test your knowledge of the English language, your vision, and other skills that are critical to your job performance.
Requirements for Becoming a Transportation Security Officer
The Transportation Security Administration tests its applicants on a range of skills to determine whether or not they are appropriate for a TSO position. They note that TSOs must have at least a high school diploma or GED. However, you can use work experience to qualify for this position as well. If you have one year or more of full-time work experience as an x-ray technician, you may be considered qualified for a Transportation Security Officer job.
Once the Transportation Security Administration has established that you meet their minimum requirements, they can put you through a list of tests to determine your eligibility. You take a Computer Based Test that measures your command of the English language. In addition, the test will look at your ability to interpret x-rays of people and packages. You must also pass a medical evaluation, a color vision test, an interview that tests your decision making skills, and a drug screen. The Transportation Security Administration will compile all of your qualifications and test results to label you as Best Qualified, Highly Qualified, or Qualified. From there, they make their hiring decisions and assign people to airports across the country.
According to the TSA blog, training is a significant part of any Transportation Security Officer's job. Upon getting hired, you must complete a training program that is over 120 hours long. This training includes classroom education and practical, on-the-job training. You may be tested on this information before you are allowed to officially begin your career. Depending on your assignment, you may have to complete more training; officers that screen passengers and baggage must complete further on-the-job training. On an annual basis, you may have to go through a certification process that rigorously tests your knowledge, ability to interpret x-rays, and ability to work with the public.
Career Outlook and Salary Potential for Transportation Security Officer
The job outlook for Transportation Security Officers is fairly positive. Job growth for TSOs is expected to increase between 2-4% from 2016-2026, which is a little slower than the average job growth for all professions in the U.S.
If you want the best job outlook possible, you may need to be willing to relocate. When the Transportation Security Administration posts positions, they are typically looking for people to work at specific airports throughout the country. If you're open to working at any airport that is hiring, then you may be able to find available jobs more quickly than those who want to stay in a specific geographic area.
Your salary is dependent on which pay band you get hired at and how qualified you are for the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, TSOs earned an average wage of $40,960 in 2017.
Working as a Transportation Security Officer
As a Transportation Security Officer, you can play a very significant role in airport and airplane security. On average, United States TSOs confiscate two guns and over 2,800 knives per day across the country. There are many more dangerous items that are confiscated, allowing passengers to feel safe when traveling.
You must use a combination of technology, policy knowledge, and common sense to identify threats and choose people for further screening. You may use screening equipment, hand wand tools, and pat-down searches to find and take away dangerous items. As a result, you must be comfortable interacting with people, explaining what you're doing and why, and conducting searches in a quick and efficient manner.
You may also interact with people in a more casual capacity. If passengers stop to ask for directions or ask a question, you may need to help them in a friendly, professional manner.
Focus and concentration are two incredibly important skills to have in this job. Airports are notoriously noisy, and you must be able to focus on what you're doing in the midst of noise and large crowds. The summer of 2018 is predicted to have more travelers than ever before, so you need to be prepared to do your job as thoroughly and efficiently as possible.
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