Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Hiring Process & Study Guide

Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Hiring Process

Working at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an unique opportunity to work for a quality government agency with approximately 50,000 employees and more than 450 locations across the U.S. A Transportation Security Officer (TSO) position comes with great benefits including, a 401k, medical and dental insurance, paid overtime on holidays and vacation days.

What Is a Transportation Security Officer or TSA Agent?

The job of a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) is to provide security screening of all passengers, baggage, and cargo, in airports to ensure that dangerous objects don't go onto planes. A TSA officer is responsible for performing screening functions, operating security equipment such as X-Ray machines and advanced imaging technology.

What Does the Hiring Process to Become a Transportation Security Officer Look Like?

The application process is both lengthy and confusing. Don't be discouraged it is normal for the hiring process to take months to complete. Here are the steps involved in the TSO hiring process.

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Find an Open TSO Position

In order to search for positions go to the USAJOBs site. Note you can filter for positions based on pay, department, location, schedule, appointment type and security clearance. There needs to be a need at an airport in order to apply.

Transportation Security Officer Job Board 2021

John Glenn Columbus International AirportRickenbacker International AirportAkron-Canton AirportDayton International Airport
Toledo Express AirportHelena Regional AirportRapid City Regional AirportDenver International Airport
Southeast Iowa Regional Airport AuthorityMinot International AirportWestern Nebraska Regional AirportKearney Municipal Airport
Mid Delta Regional AirportMcCook Municipal AirportEvansville Regional AirportEvansville Regional Airport
Indianapolis International AirportSouth Bend Regional AirportMissoula International AirportBillings Logan International Airport
Nashville International AirportPortland International AirportGreenbrier Valley AirportPullman/Moscow Regional Airport
Logan International AirportSouthwest Oregon Regional AirportThe Eastern Iowa AirportNatrona International Airport
Cheyenne AirportLaramie Regional AirportDes Moines International AirportSioux Gateway Airport
Eppley AirfieldCincinnati/Northern Kentucky International AirportLouisville Muhammad Ali International AirportBlue Grass Airport
Fairbanks International AirportRoberts FieldDubuque Regional AirportMinneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Waynesville Regional AirportEugene Airport / Mahlon Sweet FieldBert Mooney AirportBemidji City County Airport
Oakland International AirportReno/Tahoe International AirportHays Regional AirportTri-State Airport

Submit Online Application

In order to submit an application you must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age, with a high school diploma or GED. Once you have established you are eligible you will be redirected to your TSA candidate dashboard. This will be your home base for keeping track of the progress of your application.

Take a Computer Based Test (CBT)

The tso computer based test takes about 2.5 hours to complete. The TSA assessment is extremely important because it gives TSA more in depth insight into your skills. Candidates will be required to take the test at designated testing centers. Within a few minutes of taking the CBT test for TSO positions you will receive an email letting you know whether you passed. You will then be given a contingent job offer. 

Click here to get TSA CBT test questions, TSA assessment test practice, and a Free Transportation Security Officer Test Study Guide.

Contingent Offer

You will be given a contingent offer for a position pending the submission of some key forms. You will need to submit standard authorization forms for release of documentation. This will allow TSA to run credit check on you. It is important to note that this needs to be completed within 14 days of passing the CBT exam or else your application will become inactive. You will also be required to submit the E86 National Security Questionnaire. When completing this form keep in mind TSA is an anti-terrorist organization and they take the answers to this questionnaire very seriously. The form can take a long time to complete, and may require you to get personal information about past addresses, jobs, family, and friends. Set aside ample time to complete this form and be prepared to gather information you may not have readily available.

Airport Assessment

If you pass all the above mentioned security steps you will be contacted and asked to schedule an airport assessment. This assessment includes:

  • Structured Interview
  • Color Vision Test
  • Fingerprinting

You will also get more detailed information about TSO position at that specific airport including; dress and appearance standards, shift standards, parking and transportation information. This will give you an opportunity to learn about job and see if it is a good fit.

Medical Evaluation

If you excel on the airport assessment, you will need to pass a medical evaluation and drug test. It is important that you complete this medical evaluation in a timely manner. Once you get your medical packet you will need to call TSA to schedule an appointment. Be vigilant and make sure you schedule your medical as soon as possible. The medical evaluation will include a hearing test, physical, and drug test.

Drug Test

The Transportation Security Administration will test for drugs using a five panel urine test. These tests are cheaper to conduct in bulk. That being said, they do conduct occasional hair follicle drug tests and breathalyzer tests.

Background Check

This is the final hurdle in the application process. It is a good sign if you reach this point. TSA needs to invest money in every background check. They only make that investment in candidates they truly want.

Ready Pool

You will be placed in a pool of eligible candidates, and our eligibility will last for one year. Your local airport will extend the final job offer and schedule your entry on duty date. It is important to understand that candidates who pass all the tests and the previous steps of the hiring process will be categorized into one of three groups:

Best Qualified, this means that you achieved a superior level on all the steps in the application process.
Highly Qualified, this means you achieved a satisfactory level on all the application steps.
Qualified, this means you met the minimum qualifications for all the hiring process steps.

Those that are grouped in "Best Qualified" applicants in the ready pool are more likely to achieve the employment position they desire.


New hire training occurs in Georgia in the training facility. The airport which you will be working at will have further details about your specific training.

Entry on Duty

The exact details of the position including hours, start date, and pay will differ depending on which airport you are working at.


Congratulations to all candidates for passing this grueling interview process!

What Can I Expect to Do as a Transportation Security Officer (TSO)?

As a TSO you can be employed at any point during the security screening process. First and foremost, it is important to understand an individual starts to be screened before they even step foot in the airport. There are multiple different components involved in TSA's security screening process. As a TSA agent you can be tasked to work at any point in the screening process.

Carry-on Bag Screener

TSA screens about 4.9 million carry-on bags daily for explosives and various other dangerous objects.

Checked Baggage Screener

TSA screens about 1.3 million checked bags daily for explosives and other dangerous objects. When you check your bag it will be subsequently given to TSA for screening. Once it has been deemed safe it will be sent on your respective flight then sent to baggage claim upon arrival. Specific bags may be tagged for further physical bag search, in which case you will find a paper notice inside your bag.

Pat-Down Screener

A Pat-down screener is done to check whether prohibited items are concealed on an individual. There are strict procedures for how these pat-downs are conducted. An officer of the same sex will perform the pat-down and an individual can request a private room at any time for the pat-down.

X-Ray Imaging/ Metal Detector Screener

TSA uses state of the art millimeter wave advanced imaging technology and walk-through metal detectors for passenger screening. Millimeter wave advanced imaging technology screens passengers without contact for for metallic and non-metallic harmful items which may be concealed on an individual. Metal detectors screen for any metallic items which may be present on a passengers body.

Pre- Airport Arrival Screener

Secure Flight is a risk-based passenger prescreening program. The program improves on security before passengers even arrive at the airport by identifying low and high-risk passengers by matching their profiles against trusted traveler lists and other watchlists.

TSA Pre✓® Screener

Standard screening requires all passengers to remove all their belongings and place them on the X-Ray belt for screening. Were as TSA Pre✓® applies to certain passengers who pre-applied and achieved this security status. Those with TSA Pre✓® security and don't need to remove their belongings and go through an expedited screening process.

TSA Pre✓® Airports Available

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA)
Tucson International Airport (TUS)
McCarran International Airport (LAS)
Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)
Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ)
Abilene Regional Airport (ABI)
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO)
Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP)
Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
East Texas Regional Airport (GGG)
El Paso International Airport (ELP)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK)
Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE)
Midland International Air and Space Port (MAF)
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (AMA)
San Angelo Regional Airport (SJT)
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Tyler Pounds Regional Airport (TYR)
Valley International Airport (HRL)
Waco Regional Airport (ACT)
Wichita Fall Municipal Airport (SPS)
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport (LAW)
Tulsa International Airport (TUL)
Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)
Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT)
Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM)
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)
Texarkana Regional Airport (TXK)
Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR)
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT)
Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport (PIB)
Meridian Regional Airport (MEI)
Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR)
Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT)
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV)
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)
Huntsville International Airport (HSV)
Mobile Regional Airport (MOB)
Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)
Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS)
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB)
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
Pensacola International Airport (PNS)
Punta Gorda Airport (PGD)
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)
St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)
Tallahassee International Airport (TLH)
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV)
Charleston International Airport (CHS)
Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE)
Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)
Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR)
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO)
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Wilmington International Airport (ILM)
Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO)
Norfolk International Airport (ORF)
Richmond International Airport (RIC)

What Qualifications Do I Need to Apply to Be a TSA Agent?

All applicants are required to be U.S. citizens and have a high school diploma or equivalency, or have at least one year of applicable security work experience. You should also have at least one year of experience in security work or X-Ray technician.

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