The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, oversees airport security. Approximately 48,000 TSA security officers work at America's 457 airports as of 2011. These officers check passenger identification, conduct passenger screenings and watch for suspicious behavior. Transportation Security Officers, or TSOs, work part time and full time and are eligible for medical and retirement benefits. They can earn merit pay raises and bonuses based on job performance. Continuing education provides the opportunity to learn new skills and to advance to other positions.
To serve as a Transportation Security Officer, you must be a United States citizen, either born in the U.S. or naturalized as a citizen. You may also fill the position if you're a U.S. national, even if you're not a citizen. A U.S. national is someone who was born in a U.S. territory or possession, such as American Samoa, or someone who's a descendant of a U.S. national.
As part of the hiring process for TSOs, the TSA conducts a background check. A criminal record itself doesn't automatically preclude you from employment. However, a conviction in the last 10 years for a number of felonies disqualifies you from a job with the TSA. These include: carrying a weapon or explosive aboard an aircraft; forging aircraft registration, markings or certificates; transporting hazardous materials in an improper manner; aircraft piracy; committing a crime aboard an aircraft in flight; interfering with air navigation; interfering with a pilot or flight crew in flight; murder; espionage; assault; kidnapping; treason; and other crimes involving air travel or national security.
The TSA also looks at your financial history. If you have unpaid child support, unpaid taxes or delinquent debt of more than $7,500, you can't work for the TSA. Delinquent debt includes foreclosures, unpaid court judgments and other defaults that haven't been dismissed by bankruptcy proceedings.
Working as an airport security officer requires you to communicate with fellow workers and the public. You must be capable of learning the screening procedures, and you must be able to operate screening equipment. You must be willing and able to work with people from a wide variety of background, races and religions.