Airport screeners are on the front lines of the effort to keep United States citizens safe as they travel by air. Screeners must be able to perform any of several jobs depending on their shift, usually working in teams of three or more at checkpoints. The jobs include monitoring carry-on baggage using an X-ray machine, manually inspecting baggage and performing pat-downs as needed, and ensuring passengers walk through the metal detector properly and efficiently.
At some airports screeners work directly for the Transportation Security Administration, a segment of the Department of Homeland Security with responsibility for security relating to civil aviation and other forms of transportation. Other airports employ private screening companies, but the TSA has oversight of those companies. In either case, the job responsibilities are the same.
The salary for airport security screeners typically begins at $29,000 to $33,000, depending on location. Among 62 job listings for security screeners in May 2010, the highest starting salary was $34,488 in Stockton, Calif. Screeners with more experience can start between $43,500 and $51,000.
Screeners make sure passengers do not board airplanes with anything that could be used as a weapon or made into one. Screeners perform tasks such as hand-wanding, pat-down searches and monitoring passengers as they walk through the metal detector. Screeners must be courteous and professional to passengers in a fast-paced, potentially stressful environment. They must be physically agile enough to conduct hand-wanding searches of passengers from head to toe. Screeners must be able to coordinate with airport police if a situation at a checkpoint requires police involvement.
Screeners make sure passengers do not stash potential weapons in their bags. Screeners must learn how to operate X-ray machines and identify dangerous objects in baggage and cargo. They must be able to perform hand inspections of baggage if necessary. This duty may take place at the passenger security checkpoint or, in the case of checked baggage, at a designated spot near the ticket counter.
Entry and Exit Points
Screeners monitor airport entry and exit points, making sure, for example, that only passengers with tickets get into the gate area.
Being On Call
By rule, Transportation Security officer positions, including airport screeners, have been designated as "emergency/essential." Even in the event of rough weather or another emergency, screeners might be required to report to and continue working at their jobs.