TSA Hiring Process 2024: A Complete Candidate Guide

There is no doubt that the TSA Hiring Process is a long and complicated process that can take up to a full year to finish.

Although this task may seem daunting, we will walk you through the entire process so that you know what to expect and get hired.

Below, we will outline the process and answer the most popular questions so that you can get down to business.

💡Ensure you pass the TSA Test with a high score and avoid waiting for 6 months to retake the test

TSA Agent Application Requirements

While the TSA welcomes applicants from all walks of life, there are a few hard and fast rules that everyone must play by:

  • U.S. resident or national, 18 years or older.
  • A high school diploma, GED, or a certificate or equivalent education.
  • Pass a federal drug screening, medical evaluation and background investigation.
  • Available to work shifts at odd hours, occasional overtime, and have the ability to travel for training.

TSO Hiring Process Time Frame

The time frame for the becoming a TSA agent can range from 6 months to 2 years.

A couple of factors will determine how long the hiring process will take at the TSO.

1. The number of open vacancies.
2. Your score on the TSA CBT Computer-Based Test.

Even after completing the training, time in the “waiting pool” can stretch from a day up to two years, depending on demand.

Additionally, candidates are selected according to their TSA CBT scores when spots open, so it’s crucial to score as high as possible, or you might wait even longer.

With that said, we can now launch into the entirety of the process while answering your questions along the way!

How to Apply

Begin by searching the TSA website for the right position for you, and you will see positions as listed below.

The website has multiple search filters, including:

  • Job Title.
  • City.
  • State.
  • Work schedule (part or full time).
  • Hiring Path (internal or public).

The user-friendly system is designed to help you quickly and seamlessly find a suitable match.

Think you found the right match? Great! But before you get ahead of yourself, you should do three things:

  1. Read the qualification section of the JOA [Job Opportunity Announcement thoroughly.
  2. Ensure all relevant dates and work experiences are listed on your resume.
  3. Review your application to ensure you have not left out any necessary documentation.

Now you are ready to make your USAJOBS account and submit your application. You will then be able to follow your progress via the Candidate Dashboard.

Take a look at these free TSA CBT assessment sample questions.

The TSA CBT test

After correctly filling out and sending in your application, your next major task is to pass the TSA CBT Test, so here is what you need to know.

  • Time: 2.5 hours to complete
  • Topics: X-ray object recognition skills (15 seconds per question); written section (50-60 multiple choice questions); Reading Comprehension (90 seconds per question); Vocabulary and written communication.
  • Results: You will get an email with your results.

Passing the test is your first major hurdle and will lead to a “contingent job offer” and further assessments.

What Is the Contingent Job Offer?

Well, the term job offer is a bit misleading because you still do not actually have a job yet.

However, acceptance into the “contingent job pool” might be a more accurate phraseology.

There are a few additional steps before you can enter the job pool (we will talk about that further below).

  1. Credit Check after completing the standard authorization form.

  2. Fill out the E86 National Security Questionnaire, which will be the basis of your security background check.

    It is essential to note that filling out all details is technically not mandatory;

    it can prevent the organization from completing the background security check.

    Additionally, once you fill out the E86, it will be used for any other governmental position that you may want to hold in the future.

    Please note that the E86 is a long form demanding a wide range of information from previous addresses to names of old friends.

  3. Failure to fill out these forms correctly within 14 days of passing the exam will lead to your automatic disqualification.

TSA Airport Assessment and Evaluations

If you thought the examinations and tests were behind you, then you have another thing coming; you have a long way to go.

We are going to walk you through every part of the fourth stage, including:

If you pass the TSA CBT test and the credit and security check, you will be contacted to schedule the TSA Airport Assessment.

In this stage, you’ll have to go through:

  • Interview.
  • Color Vision Test.
  • Finger Printing.
  • Medical Evaluation.
  • Drug Test.
  • Background Test.

Let’s take a look at each segment to understand the procedures and what is expected of you.
TSA Interview:

  • Questions: 5.
  • Interviewers: 2.
  • Score: Integrity + Competency.
  • Time Frame: 1 hour.

These interviews will be conducted in panel style with two participating airport staff in attendance.

You will be asked five questions that will revisit various scenarios related to your past.

You will dissect each situation and provide in-depth detail as to what occurred, how you handled it, and the outcome.

The purpose is to demonstrate your strengths and general competencies to ensure that you can rise to the occasion in the often-intense atmosphere that TSA life will throw at you.

You will be scored on two metrics:

  • Competencies – a minimum of 3/5.
  • Integrity – Pass/Fail.

Great, now that you passed on competency and integrity, the agency now wants to check your medical state.

Your TSA Medical Evaluation

The TSA Medical Evaluation is comprehensive because the agency must ensure that every employee on the frontline is physically able to carry out his or her task.

The job entails constant high-pressure standing and necessitates the demand for physical exertion if needed.

  1. Hearing Test: The applicant is expected to maintain an average hearing level of 25dB or less in each ear for the following frequencies: 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 Hz.

    In the event you fail, you will be referred to a specialist for additional testing.

  2. Physical examination: This examination focuses on five primary points:

    Vital signs, ENT, Gastrointestinal, Cardiovascular, and Respiratory.

    Additionally, you will also be examined for diabetes, sleep disorders, neurological disorders, and psychiatric.

    The goal of the medical test is to assess your ability to perform job-related functions based on any medical/physical conditions you present.

    On the exam, the doctor will check your general ability to: Lift 50 pounds repetitively; bend, stoop, and squat; stand for 6 hours; and walk up to three hours per shift.

  3. Psychological examination: Past disorders like depression or anxiety or medications that cause sedation, drowsiness, and other symptoms interfere with your ability to function at the highest level.

  4. Drug Test: In this stage, you will undergo a five-panel urine test, which can also include hair follicle drug tests and breathalyzer tests on occasion. You will be tested for THC, cocaine, opiates, and more.

  5. Background Test: The TSA background check is the last stage before getting into the ready pool. Obviously, criminal convictions or delinquent debt is a big no-no in the agency.

Entering the Ready Pool

  • Time Frame: Up to 2 years.
  • Qualification Ladder: Best Qualified, Highly Qualified, and Qualified.
Wow, you have come a long way and gone through many steps to get to this stage!

After finishing your battery of exams, you will have a two-week pause as you wait for the results.

If you pass, you will finally be invited into a TSA ready pool of eligible potential hires. However, now the waiting game begins, which can last (theoretically) up to three years.
In essence, the higher you rank on the qualification ladder, the better your chances of getting hired faster.  

Orientation – Entry on Duty

Congratulations, you are now invited to your official orientation to begin working as a TSA officer.

On the TSA Orientation day, you will receive a lowdown on every aspect of the job, including wages, benefits, work hours, and more.

Additionally, there are a few other elements to the Orientation:

  1. A Day in a Life: A TSA officer will give you a talk about day-to-day life in the TSA, including collaboration, common technical and security issues, and mentoring in the organization, among other topics.

  2. Orientation Test: Sorry, the test is not done. You will need to complete a short 10-minute test, but all you need to do is listen to the orientation to pass.

  3. Paperwork: You will have to fill out a number of forms like OF-306 and I-9 and, in some cases, a GE Form 450 or OGE Form 278.

The TSA College

You thought you were going straight into the workforce? Not so fast! You first need hands-on training.

Those with high scores will be accepted into the two-week TSA academy training program, which occurs at the TSAs new comprehensive training facility in Georgia.

You will go through two phases of training:

  1. The first phase is much more classroom work focusing on audio and visual materials, lectures and discussions, and classroom and homework exercises as they relate to:

    Documentation, security risk evaluation and detection, screening policies, people skills, metal detector training, and more.

  2. The second phase is 80 hours of hands-on instruction with physical demonstrations coupled with classroom lectures.

It is essential to mention that both phases necessitate a minimum passing score of 70.

TSA Canine Handler

Being a TSA canine handler is an occupation that offers the benefits of caring for animals as well as securing the borders of the country.

Such a unique career is in high demand, as well as being highly paid. Candidates with police or transportation security experience are given priority.

It is mandatory for candidates to complete the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Program.

The TSA canine training course includes two different training programs:

  1. There is a conventional explosive detection handler training program, requiring 11 weeks of training.

  2. The passenger screening canine handler training takes 16 weeks and lasts for a bit longer.

Federal Air Marshals (FAM)

Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) are responsible for identifying, preventing, and stopping hostile activity during air flights.

Like any other law enforcement officer, they need to be armed to ensure passengers’ safety.

Federal air marshals fly 15 times a month and 900 hours a year, according to data provided by the TSA.

The Federal Air Marshal Hiring Process consists of seven steps:

  1. Online application.
  2. FAM Assessment Test.
  3. In-person Interview.
  4. Physical training test.
  5. A Background check.
  6. Medical Exam.
  7. The Federal Air Marshal Training Program (FAMTP).

You can learn more about FAM Interviews, assessments, and procedures by visiting the Federal Air Marshals Hiring Process Guide.