TSA Ready Pool: What Does It Mean & What to Expect

If you’ve made it into the TSA Ready Pool, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back!

As you know, the TSO hiring process is not easy. So, if you’ve made it into the pool, that is great news and a huge step in the right direction to start your new career. Being put into the TSA Ready pool can be exciting but can be a little trying as well.

If you’ve been put into the pool, you know that now you have to wait for a position to open up for you.

Being selected for the next open position is decided by quite a few things. As you may already know, as a newly admitted person to the TSA Ready pool, people are placed into three different levels, based on how the hiring process went.

And your chances of getting the next open position are based on the level you have earned.

This post will take you through what your placement means and how likely you are to receive an offer. But first, let’s recap the TSA hiring process and what you went through to make it into the pool.

Take a look at these Free Practice TSA CBT Test questions.

TSA Hiring Process: Steps to Qualify for the TSA Ready Pool

As we mentioned above, the TSA hiring process is a lengthy one. To be entered into the pool, one must complete and pass several steps.

First, applicants are asked to complete the TSA computer-based test. This test includes an English test and an image recognition test where applicants are asked to view examples of screened images and look for specific objects.

If an applicant makes it through this portion, they are then moved on to an interview. Once they pass the interview, they will be asked for their fingerprints as well as verification of U.S citizenship.

The last step is a medical evaluation where the applicant will be asked to take a drug test and background check.

Now, let’s dive back into more about the TSA Ready Pool!

What Are the Three TSA Ready Pool Qualification Levels?

When you go through the above hiring process, each score on each test will be totaled up to eventually place you in one of the three levels.

So, what are the three levels that you can be placed in?

1. Best Qualified – Being placed in this level means that you scored ‘outstanding’ on your performance on each test and evaluation you went through.
2. Highly Qualified – Being placed in this level means that you scored ‘satisfactory’ on your overall performance.
3. Qualified – Being placed at this level means you barely passed each test and evaluation.

It would seem like the higher category you are placed in, the better your chances would be to be the next hire. Unfortunately, TSA has had some issues meeting standards set by the Office of Inspection General over the past few years.

You’ll see below that things have started to turn around, and it is now more important than ever for each applicant to do their best on each test.

Is There a Systemic Issue With the TSA Hiring Process?

In 2015, a 95% fail rate was exposed after an undercover DHS breach test was performed.

The undercover test showed that many weapons and explosives were left undetected during screenings and searches. Due to this fail rate, the TSA Chief was fired.

In 2017, TSA was not performing much better as they received an 80% fail rate on this test.

After the results from both 2015 and 2017, the TSA realized it was long overdue to turn things around. They now are only taking the most qualified candidates.

As result of their efficient turn-around, the TSA caught nearly double the number of firearms and explosives in 2021.

How Long Will You Be Waiting for a Job Offer?

It can be hard to play the waiting game after a grueling and long hiring process.

It feels like you finally made it when entering the TSA Ready Pool. However, you could be waiting for an actual job offer for a while.

Some applicants get an offer within a few weeks of being entered into the pool, while some don’t get that call until six months.

We know it can be hard to wait, especially with no information being given to you. Just know that if you really want this role, it will be worth the wait for you.

Application Status Delays

If you have been waiting in the Ready Pool for a while, and haven’t heard anything, there may be a couple reasons for this.

Even if your local airport has a workforce shortage, you may think that you will be called right away because of this.

But unfortunately, since bandwidth is low, many airports can only train up to 10 employees every couple of weeks.

Therefore, it may take a while to get new employees up to speed before they can hire and train their next round of applicants.

So, if your local airport seems to have an employee shortage, that could be a big reason why you have not been offered the position yet.

Additional TSA Setbacks

In recent years, the Office of Inspection General released a report showing TSA’s issues with their ability to retain good people, hire qualified candidates and train them correctly.

Regarding the Ready Pool, the report stated that TSA has “no formally documented criteria or clear guidance describing the process it uses to rank applicants.”

In addition to having no process, TSA could also not give a clear answer on how they score candidates in each stage of the hiring process.

The most concerning part are that they could not verify that the program that calculates the scores was programmed correctly.

Due to these findings, one must question if underqualified hires were a primary factor in the failure of the TSA to pass the DHS undercover tests.

It’s also important to mention that some airports admitted deleting some applicant’s files. There were additional airports that could not produce the applicant’s full files as well.

Admitting Failure

After reading this post, it’s clear that one of the biggest problems with the TSA hiring process is the long wait time once a candidate is placed into the Ready Pool.

Unfortunately, the TSA has also admitted that a lot of their well-respected officers are leaving their positions for the private sector.

However, instead of admitting that these officers are leaving because of systematic issues (which is what the report from the Office of Inspection General clearly states), TSA is blaming low-paying wages instead.

Hopefully, TSA can turn things around soon as many great, well-qualified people are eager to work for TSA and help keep our country safe.


In this short article we have gone though the most important aspects of the TSA Ready Pool including the three qualification levels and the factors that can lead to delays to actually getting a job offer.

Additionally, we have looked at the various systemic issues, setbacks, and criticism that the TSA has faced over the years in regard to both its hiring process and performance.

We hope that you found this information valuable to your decision making when deciding if to join the TSA as a security officer.