The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) came into being after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Originally part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the TSA was shifted to fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March 2003.
The mission statement of the TSA states the organization's goals and objectives as follows: “The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. The Transportation Security Administration will continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security through its people, processes and technologies.”
More Than Just Screening
If you think that the only job available in the TSA is the job of airport screener, think again. There are plenty of other opportunities within the TSA.
For instance, if you're one of those who believes that a dog is man's best friend, you will be interested to hear about opportunities in the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Program (NEDCP). This program exists to detect explosive devices in the transportation system. It also functions as a deterrent.
The bad guys know it exists, and they are consequently a lot less likely to try to smuggle explosives aboard an airplane or into an airport. As almost everyone knows these days, a dog's nose has the power to sniff out almost anything.
Your local airport and modes of mass transit are increasingly going to the dogs. TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams are stationed at each of the nation's largest airports. These highly trained teams are used several times each day to search aircraft and terminals, to check out suspect bags or cargo, and to deter terrorist activities.
The predecessor of this TSA program has been in existence for more than 30 years. On March 9, 1972, officials received a tip that a TWA flight from New York to Los Angeles had been sabotaged and there was a bomb on the plane. The jet returned to JFK International Airport in New York and was evacuated.
A heroic pooch named Brandy was brought aboard to do her thing. Brandy found the bomb with only 12 minutes to spare. That very day, President Nixon created the Federal Aviation Administration Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. Similar programs now exist just about everywhere — bomb-sniffing dogs are on almost every law enforcement payroll.
The dog breeds used by the TSA are German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labrador retrievers. They are chosen for their agreeable personalities and keen sensory abilities. TSA dogs live with their handlers, and many of them retire to the handlers' homes after 10 to 12 years on the job.
A canine team is comprised of a dog and its handler. Both must undergo 10 weeks of intensive training at the TSA Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Once certified by the TSA, man and beast must have several hours of proficiency training each week in their operational environment.
The dog must get used to various odors, both fair and foul, in a well-trafficked environment like an airport, railway terminal, or subway system. Once deployed and on the job, annual recertification is mandatory.
Job Requirements and Training
Increased security is here to stay, which makes it easier to get a job with the TSA. While there are plenty of job opportunities within this agency, the most common is the position of screener, or transportation security officer (TSO). As a TSO, your responsibilities, according to official TSA guidelines, include the following:
Continuously and effectively interact with the public, giving directions and responding to inquiries in a reasonable tone and manner.
Maintain focus and awareness within an environment containing numerous distractions, people, and noise.
Stand and remain standing for periods up to three hours without sitting.
Lift and/or assist another individual to lift (from the ground) an object weighing at least 70 pounds.
Work within a stressful environment, which includes noise from alarms, machinery, and people, distractions, time pressure, disruptive and angry passengers, and the requirement to identify and locate potentially life-threatening devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction.
Make effective decisions in both crisis and routine situations.
There are both full- and part-time positions available at every commercial airport in the United States. Since an airport never sleeps, you may have to work irregular hours, including nights and weekends. Each individual airport determines the hours its TSOs must work.
The usual governmental rules apply. You must be a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant and have your high school diploma or GED. Your eyesight and hearing will be tested, along with the above-mentioned ability to lift seventy pounds. You cannot be color blind. Given that this is a potentially stressful job, you will be obliged to submit to a physical with emphasis placed on the health of your heart and the measurement of your blood pressure. You will also be subjected to both a drug and an alcohol screening.
If you are interested in this kind of work, you should develop a thick skin. You will be inconveniencing people who have paid good money for a ticket and just want to get on the plane. The work you are doing is necessary to ensure safety, but you must do it with respect, even in the face of hostility.
You will also have to submit to a background check and a credit check. This second requirement is a relatively recent and controversial check in both the public and private sector. People are being denied work for having bad credit. According to the government, this job is “a non-critical sensitive National Security position that requires you to be fingerprinted, photographed, and complete appropriate security paperwork, including a SF-86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions.
If your credit check reveals that you have defaulted on $5,000 or more in debt (excluding certain circumstances of bankruptcy), owe any delinquent Federal or State taxes, or owe any past due child support payments, you will not be eligible for this position.”
You will also have to complete between 56 and 72 hours of classroom training, and 112 to 128 hours of on-the-job training, as well as a certification examination.