Airport Security Officer Career

Airports · 4 min read · Aug 10, 2022
Airport Security Officer

Safety and security are critical aspects of the aviation industry, and all stakeholders know that ensuring the two of them are top priorities.

While this has been true for the history of aviation, it is also true that more resources have been used to improve airport security since the terrible attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.

Technology has been implemented ever since, with more security cameras, and security screeners using x-ray machines and other airport scanners among other things. However, it is the airport security officer the one in the front line to guarantee the technology and systems implemented can actually achieve the ultimate goal, secure airports and airline passengers.

Therefore, airport security officers are a vital component of airport security, and the security of the whole industry. If you want to learn more about them, we invite you to keep reading as we share all the details.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

The Transportation Security Administration, also known under the acronym TSA, was established on November 19, 2001, after the Congress of the United States signed the  Aviation and Transportation Security Act as a direct response to the September 11 attacks.

The mission of the TSA is to protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. To do so, the agency relies on Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) by stating on their website “Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are the face of the agency, the people on the front lines and the most important role at TSA.”

But, is the job of the TSOs really that significant? Well, judging by the stats published by the TSA, it is. They claim to have 2.2 million passengers screened daily, and over 440 federalized airports secured. Clearly, it sounds like a lot of work.

Now, let’s move forward and see how they do it.

People waiting in line to pass an airport security officer checkpoint.

Transportation Security Officer (TSO)

Transportation security officer or TSO is the name given to an airport security officer that works directly with the TSA in the United States. However, TSOs may also work in any other sector of the US transportation system, and they may also be required to support other security officers to extend to securing high-profile events, important figures, and/or anything that includes or impacts the transportation systems.

These airport security officers are responsible for providing security and protection to travelers courteously and professionally. Therefore, they are required to develop relevant soft skills such as:

  • Interpersonal skills to be people-oriented.
  • Effective communication skills to transmit the right message to the passengers in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.
  • Dependability and adaptability to protect the traveling public and respond quickly to dynamic threats.
  • Attention to detail to keep alert and promptly identify any potential threat for the airport operation and passengers.

Duties of an airport security officer

When working as airport security officers, the duties of TSOs involve the following:

  • Operating various screening equipment and technology to identify dangerous objects in baggage, cargo, and/or on passengers, and preventing those objects from being transported onto aircraft.
  • Performing searches and screening, which may include physical interaction with passengers. This may be in the form of pat-downs or property searches. Also, conducting bag searches and lifting/carrying bags, bins, and property weighing up to 50lbs.
  • Controlling terminal entry and exit points.
  • Interacting with the public, giving directions, and responding to inquiries.
  • Retaining and implementing knowledge of all applicable Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Monitoring lost item reports and screening lost property.

Training of TSOs

According to the agency, part of becoming a TSO involves completing an immersive training program at their academy, located in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA. The program is a total of 80 compensable hours, and the agency covers all travel expenses and lodging, as students must reside on-center or in FLETC-provided housing for the entirety of the program. While the academy provides the foundation for success, employees continue to receive training throughout their careers.

An airport security officer checkpoint at a Chinese airport.

Airport security officers in the world

Airport security officers are found in different airports around the world. Obviously, the duties of screening passengers, dealing with hazardous materials and dangerous goods, and identifying suspicious activity, among others are not limited to one single region.

However, not all regions count on a dedicated agency like the United States. Many regions of the world rely on third-party services that send security officers to the assigned airport.

In any case, the most common situation is to see governments like the federal government of the United States taking responsibility for hiring trained and experienced security professionals.

FAQs about airport security officers and the TSA

Down to this point, you should have a very good idea about airport security officers and the TSA. Yet, we wanted to share some of the most common questions people ask about them in case any of them is in your mind. registered for Selective Service

What does an airport security officer do?

In short, an airport security officer makes sure that everyone and everything within civilian/commercial airports are always safe and sound.

Is it hard to become a TSA agent?

Generally, this is not an exhaustive process but it can be a highly competitive one. Almost all TSA agents have further studies beyond their high school diploma, and many have good experience to put on their resumes. However, this should not discourage you from trying, as the agency is constantly offering new opportunities.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Candidates of all different backgrounds and experience levels are accepted. Basic requirements include: U.S. citizen or national, 18 years of age or older, high school diploma, GED, or equivalent certificate, registered for Selective Service, able to pass a federal drug screening, medical evaluation, and background investigation, available to work shifts at odd hours, occasional overtime, and the ability to travel for training.

What are airport security personnel called?

As we mentioned above, airport security personnel is often called airport security officers. However, the TSA calls their personnel Transportation Security Officers or TSOs.

How long is TSA training in Georgia?

This training is usually a 10-day program to train with the TSA based in Glynnco, Georgia. The program comprises eight lessons with 24 student groups and 3 instructors.

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