What does a Transportation Security Screener do?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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A transportation security screener is responsible for visually and physically checking passengers and luggage of anyone boarding an airplane to ensure that nothing illegal or contraband is brought onto the plane. Typically encountered by the general public as the people stationed at airport security checkpoints, a transportation security screener will check a person’s identification, watch him or her pass through a metal detector, use a hand wand if necessary, and inspect luggage for any suspicious items. Screeners generally work for the United States (US) Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and pass fairly rigorous application and training processes.

Founded in 2001 after the September 11th attacks, the TSA was originally part of the US Department of Transportation, but later became a part of the Department of Homeland Security. The TSA requires that anyone applying to become a transportation security screener must meet the physical requirements needed for working on his or her feet for an extended period of time. A screener also needs the ability to handle the mental stress and requirements of dealing with potentially irate or angry customers and crisis situations. Though it may seem dramatic, there is the very real possibility that a transportation safety screener could come in direct contact with a person or materials intent on committing a violent and deadly act.


To prevent such things from happening, screeners are trained through dozens of hours of classroom and computer training and hundreds of hours of training in the field to search for, locate, and isolate potential security threats. A transportation security screener also typically undergoes continuing education every week and day to learn about the most recent security threats and types of devices he or she may encounter. Beyond the training, a screener will typically spend his or her day cycling between several different roles and jobs while at an airport.

A transportation security screener may start the day at a metal detector, watching passengers come through and hand-wanding them with a handheld metal detector to ensure that no one carries anything dangerous or illegal onto an airplane. The screener might then move to the baggage check where screens are watched as x-ray machines look inside people’s luggage. If anything suspect is found in the images, then the screener will often have to physically open the luggage and inspect it to ensure that no contraband items pass through. A screener will also be stationed at major entrances and exits to ensure no one tries to circumvent the security process. Throughout the day, a single transportation security screener will usually spend several hours at each post and be rotated between them over the course of a single shift.


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