FAQ: What Does a TSA Officer Do? (Plus Salary)

If you’ve been in an airport recently, you’re probably keenly aware of the security precautions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes to ensure U.S. air travelers and traffic are safe. ​Key to these efforts is the work of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

TSOs are responsible for providing security and protection of travelers across all transportation sectors in a courteous and professional manner. Their duties may also extend to securing high-profile events, important figures and/or anything that includes or impacts our transportation systems.

TSA Careers: On the Job with a Transportation Security Officer

What does a TSA officer do?

Here are some of a TSA officers key duties:

Checking passengers photo IDs and tickets

When passengers arrive at an airport, they go to the security line for their intended gate. At this gate, a TSA officer checks all passengers photo IDs and tickets. A TSA officer is responsible for ensuring that a passenger provides a valid form of ID, whether it be a drivers license, passport, permanent resident card or another acceptable document.

A TSA officer verifies the ID is current and has a picture that matches the passengers face. If a passenger doesnt have their ID, a TSA officer can conduct a thorough identity verification process to allow them to proceed through the security line. A TSA officer also ensures that all passengers have valid boarding passes they can use to board their specific flights.

Screening passengers and luggage

A TSA officer is also responsible for screening passengers and their luggage. They ensure passengers dont bring unauthorized and dangerous items with them on the airplane. A TSA officer has passengers set their belongings on a conveyor belt and sends the belongings through an X-ray machine.

This professional also operates a metal detector or full-body scanner and has the passengers walk through it. If the machine detects a potential abnormality, a TSA officer may perform a more thorough search using a hand wand. A TSA officer can also conduct a search by hand if they suspect a passenger is carrying contraband. In rare instances, a TSA officer may test for explosive items using a chemical swab system or another type of detection machine.

Notifying supervisors of security breaches

A TSA officer is responsible for reporting security breaches to their supervisors. They understand their legal limitations and cannot perform arrests on passengers who violate the TSAs protocols. Instead, they inform their supervisors or other safety personnel of security breaches, and these professionals can contact the appropriate authorities to take further action.

Maintaining order and directing foot traffic in the airport

Its a TSA officers responsibility to maintain order within their work environment. An airport can become crowded and hectic, especially during busy traveling seasons. A TSA officer helps direct foot traffic in an airport to ensure passengers safety and increase efficiency. They also deescalate conflicts and prevent crowding.

Answering passengers questions

If a passenger has a question about where to go to check-in or enter the security line, a TSA officer can provide them with an answer. A TSA officer often works in different parts of an airport, so theyre usually familiar with the various areas and can provide guidance to passengers. This professional also answers passengers inquiries about what items they can and cant bring with them on the airplane and helps them dispose of beverages and other prohibited items accordingly.

What is a TSA officer?

A TSA officer is a transportation security officer who works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Securitys Transportation Security Administration. They exhibit professionalism and courtesy to protect travelers safety. This trained professional abides by the TSAs standards and helps maintain the centralization of security as it relates to air travel.

How do you become a TSA officer?

Here are steps you can follow to become a TSA officer:

1. Complete your education

A TSA officer needs a high school diploma or equivalent level of education before they can apply for employment. Some of these aspiring professionals choose to pursue educational education. You may earn an associate or bachelors degree in a subject like political science, criminal justice or homeland security to acquire more knowledge that you can apply in your career as a TSA officer.

2. Obtain work experience

Most airports require their TSA officers to have prior work experience. Individuals who have experience in the military or working as security guards often have a better chance of securing employment as TSA officers. These positions prepare individuals to promote the safety of civilians and enforce rules and regulations.

3. Search for employment opportunities and satisfy requirements

After youve completed your education and acquired relevant work experience, you can search for employment opportunities. You may search for different openings on the TSAs website. Ensure that you understand the job qualifications, as the positions require candidates to pass color vision and hearing tests, undergo background checks and pass other tests. Once you meet these requirements, you can attend a job interview.

4. Undergo training

After completing the interview successfully, the place of employment has its candidates undergo training. This training comprises education on biometrics, property searches, imaging technology and other skills and concepts a TSA officer needs to have. Once a TSA officer completes their training, they can begin working in their position. This professional is responsible for renewing the certifications that they get during their training period.

How much do TSA officers earn?

Here are some key benefits of working as a TSA officer:

You receive access to great benefits

TSA officers are government employees, so they have access to great benefits. As a TSA officer, you can qualify for paid paternity and maternity leave, sick leave and annual leave. You can also sign up for health benefits, including medical, dental and vision insurance.

You can engage in meaningful work

If youre looking for a career that allows you to engage in meaningful work, a job as a TSA officer may be appropriate for you. This position lets you preserve the safety of passengers and prevent dangerous events. You can help passengers feel safe from security threats and enjoy their trips with peace of mind.

You can work part or full time

Many TSA officers work in full-time positions, but there are part-time positions available. Part-time positions are especially beneficial to students who are completing their education and wish to enter the workforce after college but want to become familiar with the role first. Working part-time as a TSA officer is helpful for transitioning into the position full time and turning it into a long-lasting, rewarding career.

You can advance your career

Working as a TSA officer is a good starting point for individuals who want to progress their careers in homeland security. You can use your career as a TSA officer to qualify for other positions that pay more and come with more responsibilities. For example, a TSA officer who has held their position for a few years can use their experience, alongside additional education, to enter a career as an attorney or criminal investigator.


Are TSA real cops?

Most TSA officers are not commissioned law enforcement officers, and their role is to conduct screening of passengers, baggage and cargo. TSA screeners can search you and your baggage at screening checkpoints, but they cannot arrest you. Other law enforcement officers, such as airport police, are present at airports.

What skills do you need to be a TSA agent?

Candidates who are adaptable, calm communicators with critical thinking skills make great TSA officers. Additional attributes that work well in the field include being a detail-oriented, observant person who possesses politeness and works well with the public.

Does TSA officer carry gun?

TSOs do not carry weapons, and are not permitted to use force, nor do they have the power to arrest.

Does the TSA do a good job?

This agency is the worst gov agency to work for. Officers are over worked, management don’t care about your outside life. It’s very hard to get days off and most of all officers are underpaid. This agency takes about 800 for taxes and you’ll still get audited tax time.

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