Do I Need a Degree in Criminal Justice To Work in Airport Security?

Many candidates for jobs with the TSA wonder if they need a criminal justice degree to work in airport security. The simple answer to this question is no. A formal degree is not required by the TSA. It is, however, strongly recommended that candidates have a security or criminal justice background that includes some amount of secondary education or certification.

The Requirements

The TSA outlines only a few requirements for those responsible for airport security, according to Houston Chronicle.

1. You must be 18 years of age and a citizen.
2. You must have a high school diploma or equivalent
3. You must pass a background check drug test, physical examination and certification exam.

It is noteworthy that even the requirement of even this minimal amount of education can be waived with a year of relevant work experience in either security or X-ray technology.

These requirements are exceedingly minimal because nearly all of the skills needed to work as a Transport Security Officer are learned through job-based training programs. All applicants must complete a training program of up to two weeks, with an additional four weeks of on-the-job training, and pass a final examination before they are certified as a TSO.

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How a Degree Can Help

While a degree is not required for the position, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Despite steady growth of security-related professions in general, and a sharp increase in TSA agents after the September 11th catastrophe, the competition among candidates for these positions is very high. The overall lack of a degree requirement actually enhances the need for a degree in order to stand out from the crowd. Everyone with a high school diploma and a clean criminal record can potentially apply for the position. With a median wage of $23,970, the pay is not spectacular, but it is not bad for a position that requires no formal schooling, according to a report in U.S. News and World Report that examined security professions in general. Those who are serious about actually getting hired to be a TSO should come armed with a degree or other qualification that help them stand out from other applicants.

Those other qualifications may also come with their own degree requirements. Experience in x-ray technology is the only skill that is not security related that will help a candidate stand out. Most TSA agents are security screeners that operate the x-ray and magnetic equipment that all passengers must pass through at checkpoints. For this reason, experience with x-ray technology is vitally important for their job. This may mean that a candidate with a medical or radiology background may also be very hirable.

Other qualifications include past security experience or police work. Military experience is also a major plus.

Finally, having a degree also allows for upward career mobility in the future. In most respects, a job as a TSO has very little future prospects. Those who wish to move into a more lucrative career in the field of security or criminology will benefit greatly from a degree combined with their experience as a TSO. You do not need a degree in criminal justice to work in airport security, but your job outlook and career future will be much better if you have one.