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Transportation Security Officer: Job Duties, Salary and Outlook

Transportation security officers, or transportation security screeners, inspect passengers, baggage, equipment, and cargo at airports, rail stations, or bus terminals following guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Using attention to detail and trained to identify dangerous or suspicious items and individuals, they work at various security checkpoints to ensure public safety.

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Job Duties of Transportation Security Officers

A transportation security officer's tasks include checking luggage or packages manually or screening with x-ray equipment in order to identify hazardous items and keep them from being loaded onto public forms of transportation. They identify potential security risks by observing the behavior of travelers as they move through terminal areas. Responsibilities also include scrutinizing ticketing and identification materials to recognize potential security risks.

Transportation security officers screen passengers going through security checkpoints by using any combination of visual observation, pat-down searches, metal-detector screening, explosive trace detection, and x-ray devices. They report specific findings or incidents to management or law enforcement to help identify weaknesses in established protocol or flaws in terminal and equipment design. Officers need to conduct all duties with a focus on customer service, while assisting passengers who have questions or special needs. Officers working for the TSA especially are expected to display honesty and flexibility, be accountable, work well with a team, and have strong communication skills (www.tsa.gov).

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary earned by a federally-employed transportation security screener was $37,310, as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that there were 45,790 transportation security officers employed by the federal government at that time.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicted employment growth of 19%, which is consistent with the national average, for security guards in general from 2010-2020. The need to continue keeping on the alert for possible crime and terrorism will contribute to this increase. The highest number of transportation security screeners were located in and surrounding New York, NY; Los Angeles, California; and Chicago, Illinois, as reported by the BLS.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics