Transportation Security Officer Job Description
Transportation security officers, also known as TSOs, provide security and protection to travelers in airports, railroads, seaports, highways, and public transit systems. Security firms, travel hubs, depots, and stations in the public and private sector hire transportation security officers to work full- and part-time hours during all shifts, with some overtime hours required. Transportation security officers work in a potentially dangerous environment, as some travelers may have the intent to cause harm or do damage of a criminal nature. Transportation security officers work within a larger team of security officers and primarily report to a senior officer.
Transportation Security Officer Duties and Responsibilities
Daily duties for transportation security officers vary depending on the type of travel hub they work in, the number of travelers arriving and departing, and the potential dangers that arise. However, there are some universal core duties associated with the job that are generally the same everywhere:
Perform Security Checks
Transportation security officers perform security checks on workers and travelers by checking identification and ticket information, looking inside bags and belongings, and using metal detecting equipment. Sometimes, this includes physically patting down travelers to check for weapons and other contraband.
Transportation security officers remain alert at all times, ready to take action if suspicious activity is seen or heard.
Speak to Violators
Transportation security officers speak to those who violate security, such as telling loiterers to move along.
Write Incident Reports
Transportation security officers log all security violations and write incident reports when security breaches occur.
Patrol Assigned Area
Transportation security officers patrol an assigned area, usually on foot. Sometimes, this includes shifts of watching real-time security camera footage.
Maintain a Professional Appearance
Transportation security officers maintain a professional appearance at all times. By the standards of many employers, this includes being well groomed and wearing no visible jewelry.
Transportation security officers detain offenders found carrying weapons and other contraband.
Respond to Security Alerts
Transportation security officers respond to security alerts and alarms warning of suspicious persons or dangerous situations.
Transportation Security Officer Skills and Qualifications
Transportation security officers put themselves in danger to maintain security among travelers by stopping potential threats. Employers look for transportation security officers who have the essential skills needed to perform this job:
- Physical ability – transportation security officers stand and walk for long periods at a time
- Communication – transportation security officers use verbal communication skills to speak to people on the property, and written communication skills to write incident reports
- Analytical skills – to make decisions regarding potentially threatening passengers and items
- Observation skills – transportation security officers are observant of all travelers at all times, constantly alert for potential danger
- Customer service – transportation security officers regularly interact with travelers, providing directions and leading them through screening processes
- Computer skills – transportation security officers read digital displays on X-ray machines and other security equipment
Tools of the Trade
Transportation security officers regularly work with the following tools and equipment:
- Security equipment (metal detectors, X-ray machines)
- Security tools (hand wands, explosive trace detectors)
Transportation Security Officer Education and Training
Many employers do not have specific educational requirements for transportation security officers, but some do require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED to be considered for this job. Additionally, most employers require transportation security officers to be at least 18 years of age. Among many government agencies, transportation security officers are required to be at least 21 years of age. Because of the nature of the job, transportation security officers must be able to pass a thorough background check. Government agencies have strict requirements for transportation security officers regarding personal debt and put candidates through a more extensive screening process than privately-owned transport hubs.
Because this is an entry-level job, almost all employers provide paid training to transportation security officers. This training program varies by employer but may last for several weeks. Transportation security officers in training work under close supervision from a senior security officer.
Transportation Security Officer Salary and Outlook
According to information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards and gaming surveillance officers earned $12.96 median hourly pay, $26,960 annually, in 2017. Security guards and gaming surveillance officers occupied more than one million jobs in 2016, a number rising by six percent through 2026. This growth rate is about as fast as the national average. Transportation security officers are a type of security guard and perform all the same tasks. PayScale information shows that transportation security officers earn $15.87 hourly median income.
Full-time transportation security officers receive comprehensive benefits packages from employers that include health insurance with dental and vision coverage, life insurance, retirement savings plans, and paid vacation. In addition to their regular salary, many transportation security officers receive a signing bonus upon being hired. Many employers also provide monetary bonuses to security guards as incentives for meeting certain safety standards.
Find jobs for transportation security officers, learn work strategies and tips, read news updates, and use career resources available in these books and websites:
Transportation Security Administration – This is the official TSA website administered by the Department of Homeland Security, and it contains a job board, information about security screenings, and content providing updates and information about modern transportation security.
Transportation Security Officer RED-HOT Career; 2551 REAL Interview Questions – Read this book to learn how to ace the interview to become a transportation security officer. The text includes more than 2,500 potential interview questions.
National Association of Security Companies – Find industry news updates, resources and links for professionals, and upcoming event dates at this website designed for security companies.
The Effective Security Officer’s Training Manual, Third Edition – Read this straightforward, in-depth book to learn the most important aspects of being a security officer in any industry.
ASIS – This association of security professionals provides resources for professional development, certification program information, and career tips.
Basic Security Fundamentals: A Realistic Primer For Security Guards – Learn the fundamentals for maintaining security with the tips and techniques covered in this book.
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