Does The TSA Run Background Checks?

Job searches can be tough. There are often more job candidates than opportunities available.

Since employers have multiple applications for most positions, elimination is the name of the game. One criterion that often affects one’s candidacy is the criminal background. Felons are amongst the most marginalized groups when it comes to employment.

This means having to be more discerning about what jobs and employers to target. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a great place to work. But does the TSA run background checks?

does the tsa run background checks

Keep in mind that it is through background checks that employers can confirm criminal past. This verification has become mandatory for most employers. Especially when it has anything to do with security and federal oversight.

A job at the TSA would give anyone a lot of great benefits. More on this later.

Let’s first learn more about what they do and the kind of work this institution offers.

What Is The TSA?

does the tsa run background check

This is a government agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It oversees the screening of the traveling public.

Best known for checking passengers traveling through airports, they also have other jurisdictions. This includes buses, ports, railroads, and highways.

The work they do involves detecting and preventing threats to passengers. And, minimizing the risk of terrorist actions. This authority was created in response to the 9/11 attacks.

The TSA does not have any law enforcement authority. But should they suspect a threat, they will hand over the person to other agencies. For instance, if they suspect a passenger of being a drug mule, they will call in the DEA.

Much of TSA agents’ work is to detect criminal behavior. By observing and questioning passengers as they are being screened. They are trained to notice behavior that may indicate a threat.

If they notice such behavior, they will take the passenger through additional screening. This may involve a more intensive search of their person and belongings.

The jobs in this agency can widely vary. The most noticed are frontline TSA officers. They are the ones that screen passengers.

There are however other departments and levels including administration, human resources, and legal. This means that with time and additional training you can work your way to better positions. In other departments and management.

So for anyone considering working here, what is there to consider?

Pros & Cons of Working for The TSA

does tsa run background check

One of the best benefits is that the pay is quite good, especially for full-time employees. Part-timers will naturally earn less. However, part-time work can be helpful to those who attend scchool or other obligations.

As a government job, the benefits are also quite generous with health coverage and paid time off. The TSA is an equal opportunity employer. So not discrimination in terms of such factors as race or disability.

In fact, they do have special programs catering to students, veterans, and those with disabilities. If a felon falls under any of these categories, do take advantage.

Another upside is that being such a large institution, there is plenty of room for promotion. The work is also not that difficult to master, so an easy learning curve.

It is also considered a good stepping stone towards better government jobs. If you had an interest in law enforcement jobs like police work, this can be a good alternative. It also involves protecting the country and the innocent.

Entry-level positions like TSA agents have low requirements. Most only need to have a high school diploma or GED. And at least one year’s working experience in security or other related fields.

On the downside, the work is often monotonous. The TSA also tends to get a lot of negative publicity, which can be taxing to employees. Morale can often be quite low due to dealing with uncooperative and abusive passengers.

Overall the TSA is a good employer that does suffer a few issues, as with most other organizations. For felons that prioritize the need for good pay and benefits, this is a good option.

Basic Requirements for Joining The TSA

does tsa run background check guide

There is a strong demand for TSA employees. Especially in frontline roles like screeners.

It is also due to the expanded responsibilities of the agency. This has meant a need for additional employees to oversee security in other areas like highways and bus terminals.

Entry-level jobs are not very demanding in terms of experience and education. A high school diploma or GED with one year’s work experience is often sufficient.

Those seeking higher-level jobs will however likely require formal degrees. These must be from accredited colleges or universities. Some of the common specializations include criminology and sociology.

Other basic requirements include:

  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years’ old
  • Must pass a drug screening and medical exam
  • Pass an extensive background investigation

Those that meet the minimum requirements will then undergo further assessment. This may cover such areas as decision-making ability, English proficiency, and color vision testing.

Those that pass the next round of testing will undergo a standard course of training. TSA training programs are not just done at the beginning. There are also annual certifications that will need to be undertaken on an ongoing basis.

Does The TSA Conduct Background Checks?

As the agency responsible for screening passengers, they will naturally take even tougher steps when screening employees. There are many restricted areas in airports that are only accessible to TSA personnel.

As part of the checkpoint to accessing mass transit vehicles, staff must be properly vetted. This is to avoid compromises in security that may result in another devastating terrorist attack.

The TSA background checks for employees is quite extensive. It includes:

  • Full felony and misdemeanor criminal background check at the county, state, and federal levels
  • Fingerprint checking on FBI criminal databases and terror lists
  • Drug and alcohol charges going back two years
  • Credit check
  • DMV check to reveal any motor vehicle violations and other driving offenses
  • Checking of Federal Aviation Administration and air carrier records to verify any certifications
  • Social Security Number verifications on identity and address information
  • Academic background verification to ascertain candidate has earned the qualifications indicated
  • Reference checks to verify work history
  • Workers compensation history to reveal any history of workplace injuries and settlements

As an added security measure, existing employees are subject to recurring criminal background checks. This is so the TSA can keep better tabs on the activities of their employees.

Job candidates should expect to be thoroughly vetted right from the start. And as part of their ongoing work, if hired.

Does The TSA Hire Felons?

does tsa run background checks guide

Chances are if you are a felon applicant, you will not get the job. The TSA does provide a list of disqualifying criminal offenses. Persons not be eligible for employment may include:

  • Those with extensive domestic or foreign criminal convictions
  • Those convicted of serious crimes
  • Anyone imprisoned abroad or domestically for over 365 consecutive days
  • Those with a history of security-related offenses at airports and other travel terminals
  • Anyone with mental health problems

The third classification is what may exclude felons. Felony offenses are simply categorized as those that attract a penalty of over a year in prison.

Some of the serious crimes indicated for the second classification include:

  • Murder
  • Espionage
  • Treason
  • Terrorism
  • Possession and transport of explosive devices
  • Racketeering

Some offenses may however not disqualify an applicant if more than seven years old. Or if it has been more than five years since their release from prison. These include

  • Extortion
  • Fraud offenses like identity theft and money laundering
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Unlawful possession, transport, or trading in firearms
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault
  • Drug offenses
  • Voluntary manslaughter

So while having a felony record can be problematic, if old enough one may still be hired. Do check with the TSA website on what specific offenses meet the criteria.

The TSA has hired felons and those with misdemeanors in the past. However, their recurring background checks means that one has to remain on the straight and narrow.


Despite being a federal agency that deals in security matters, felons do stand a chance at the TSA. It mostly depends on what type of crime you committed and how long ago.

You would also have to meet the other basic requirements for the job. It may further boost your chances if part of the groups with special programs.

Being a felon does not automatically prevent you from securing government jobs. These jobs are highly sought after because of the job security and benefits attached.

They can be a great steady paycheck and offer plenty of room to climb the career ladder. The flexibility often available in TSA jobs also means an easier ability to pursue higher education.

But your success here stems from keeping a clean record. Since they continually check up on employees, it is vital to steer clear of any criminal offending.

If you think this line of work suits your goals and lifestyle, do make a go of it.

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