September 11, 2001, brought about significant and far-reaching changes to our federal government. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created following 9/11 to strengthen the security of our nation’s transportation system. The TSA has established principles that are designed to maintain security for the traveling public and continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security.
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TSA works to secure the nation’s airports and screen all commercial airline passengers and baggage using a risk-based strategy and collaborations with the transportation, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.
TSA is constantly moving forward through the implementation of technology and the careful analysis of intelligence. Just a few of the TSA’s emerging technologies include:
- Paperless boarding passes
- Bottle liquids scanners
- Explosives detection system
- Explosives trace detection
- Threat image projection
- Imaging technology
What is the TSA? TSA Careers and Airport Security Jobs
The TSA reports that it highly skilled employees screen more than 2 million passengers every day at its more than 450 work locations. This federal agency is comprised of nearly 50,000 employees, who include inspectors, security officers, air marshals, and managers. These professionals are tasked with accomplishing everything from screening for explosives at checkpoints to inspecting rail cards and patrolling subways.
TSA law enforcement careers include law enforcement officers, federal air marshals, and airport security professionals. Airport security operations rely on the expertise of a number of professionals, including:
- Scheduling Operations Officers
- Aviation Regulatory Inspectors
- Transportation Security Inspectors – Cargo
- Transportation Security Managers
- Supervisory Transportation Security Officers
- Lead Transportation Security Officers
- Transportation Security Officers
Salary Expectations for Airport Security Jobs
Unlike most federal agencies that use the general schedule (GS) grading system to determine salary ranges, the TSA uses an SV grading system, a discrete salary system with pay ranges that differ from the GS system. Airport security jobs typically begin at the D pay band, which is $25,518 to $38,277. The promotion potential is the E pay band, which is $29,302 to $44,007.
In addition to the base salary for TSA airport jobs, individuals may receive a locality pay, depending on where the job is located. For example, a transportation security officer in Gunnison, Colorado, earns a starting salary of between $29,422 and $44,134, which reflects a locality pay of 14.16 percent.
Other pay bands for TSA careers include:
- Pay Band F: $33,627-$50,494
- Pay Band G: $39,358-$60,982
- Pay Band H: $48,007-$74,390
- Pay Band I: $58,495-$90,717
- Pay Band J: $71,364-$110,612
- Pay Band K: $85,311-$132,237
- Pay Band L: $101,962-$155,500
- Pay Band M: $120,236-$155,500
TSA Employment and Training Requirements
Although education and experience requirements for TSA jobs vary according to the position and rank, minimum requirements include:
- Must be a United States citizen
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must possess a high school diploma
- Must be able to pass a drug screening and medical evaluation
- Pass a background investigation, which includes a credit check and a criminal check
It is also common for many individuals seeking TSA jobs to pursue formal degree programs from accredited colleges and universities. Typical degree programs often include: police science, criminology, criminal justice, and sociology, just to name a few.
All candidates for TSA jobs who meet the agency’s minimum requirements are evaluated through the employment of a number of tests/assessments, which include:
- Computer Based Test: Tests English language proficiency and x-ray interpretation aptitude
- Color vision test
- A structured interview that assesses an individual’s decision-making abilities and the ability to work with teams and with the general publics
- Drug screening
- Medical evaluation that includes a vision screening, hearing exam, and a joint mobility exam
- Background investigation
Upon completion of all pre-employment assessments, individuals are then categorized in one of the following categories:
- Best qualified: Demonstrates a superior level in all evaluation criteria
- Highly qualified: Demonstrates a satisfactory level in all evaluation criteria
- Qualified: Demonstrates minimal or basic satisfactory qualifications
New TSA agents must complete a standard course of training before beginning work.
The TSA Online Learning Center (OLC) is a centralized learning management system that supports the delivery of all TSA learning and development programs. Within the OLC is the TSA Screener Training Program, which includes study in x-ray operation, screening of persons, searching accessible property, searching checked baggage, and operating machines that test for explosives.
All new employees must complete more than 120 hours of classroom and on-the-job training and undergo a number of tests before they receive their work assignment. Individuals assigned to screen both passengers and baggage must complete additional training.
All TSA employees must complete an annual certification process that includes written tests, image interpretation tests, and a third-party evaluation.