TSA CBT Hiring Process: Full Overview of Each Step [2024]
Yedidya Lixenberg

Yedidya, Aviation Industry Assessments Expert at JobTestPrep.

Have a question? Contact me at: ask_the_team@jobtestprep.com


The old candidate website is no longer available. To start looking for an open position and submit your application, visit the new TSA Careers Website.

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What Qualifications Do I Need to Apply to Be a TSA Agent?

TSA welcomes and supports candidates from a variety of experiences. However, in order to apply to be a TSA Agent, you must meet a few basic requirements as following:

  • U.S. resident or national, 18 years or older.
  • A high school diploma, a GED, or a certificate of 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.


How long does the TSO hiring process take?

The entire process may take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

The application timeline for the TSA varies in length depending on the number of vacancies in the government department.

You may submit your application online and wait months to hear back from the TSA before a vacancy in your area becomes available. However, you could hear from the department the next day if an opening opens immediately.

The length of the hiring process is also determined by how well you do on the TSA CBT (Computer-Based Test). Candidates with higher scores get job offers more quickly.

So, don't get frustrated, and just be prepared that the process may take longer than you expected.  Now, after we have a better understanding of the overall concept, let’s take a closer look into each step in the hiring process.

#1 Application for a position

To start the application process, go to the TSA website. Then, start to look for a job that suits you.




You can search for a position by the job title and filter results by city or state. You can choose the hiring type path – open to the public or internal to an agency along with your desired work schedule – full time or part-time.




Once you find a position, read the qualification section of the JOA [Job Opportunity Announcement] carefully and list all relevant experience, including dates, on your resume. Double-check if you need to include any extra paperwork before you apply.

Create an account on USAJOBS and submit your application. Then you’ll be directed to the TSA candidate’s dashboard - where you can keep up with the progress of your application.


#2 Taking the TSA CBT test

If you meet the minimum qualifications, you’ll be invited to take the TSA CBT (Computer-Based Test).

  • The new TSA test is a 20-45 min test, involving three types of questions. The most challenging part of the test is 2D to 3D shape questions, which many candidates find extremely difficult to answer.
  • The former test version, which has still been administered throughout the year, evaluates your English and X-ray object recognition skills. It takes 2.5 hours to complete, and its goal is to find candidates who will ensure travelers' safety across the country.

After completing the test, you’ll get the results via email. If you pass - you will be given a contingent job offer and additional assessments.

Prepare and Pass the TSA CBT Test

To give yourself the highest chance to score above other candidates and pass the test, it is highly recommended to practice questions that mimic the CBT exam and its format.

Just starting your TSA hiring process? Take a look at the Free TSA Practice to see what's ahead.

#3 Contingent job offer, credit & security check

Congratulations! You have been offered a job. But do not open the champagne yet, you still have a long way to go. Your acceptance is still conditioned and not final.

There are still a few more requirements before you are ready to be hired. You'll need to fill out standard authorization forms, so the TSA will be able to run a credit check on you. You’ll also need to complete the E86 National Security Questionnaire. This is a U.S. government questionnaire that you fill out so they can gather information for a background check.

It's important to remember that you have 14 days from passing the CBT exam to complete those forms. Otherwise, your application will be deactivated.


Bear in mind that the TSA is an anti-terrorist organization, and the answers to this questionnaire are taken very seriously. The E86 form will take a long time to fill out and may require you to gather personal information such as previous addresses, employers, relatives, and friends.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete this form, and be ready to collect details you do not have on hand.

#4 TSA Airport Assessment and Evaluations

If you pass the TSA CBT test, as well as the credit and security check, you will be contacted to schedule the TSA Airport Assessment. In this stage you'll have to go through:

  • An interview
  • Color vision test
  • Fingerprinting

And after that you'll have few more evaluations to pass:

You’ll receive more detailed information about the TSA position in this airport such as standard shift schedules and parking and transportation options. This is a good opportunity for you to really learn about the job and to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

TSA Interview

5 questions | 2 interviewers | 1 hour

In the standardized interview, you will be asked five scenario-based interview questions and evaluated based on your demonstrated competencies. You are expected to describe the situation you were in, the actions you took, and the outcomes in your answers.

At least two members of the airport staff will take part in this panel. The process takes about an hour or less (depending upon the interviewee). In the end, you'll be given a total interview score and a pass or fail result for your integrity.

To pass, you must achieve a minimum score of three on each competency. If you receive a score of less than a "3" on either of the competencies or a failure on the Integrity competency, you will then receive a failing score on the standardized interview.

At this point, you're getting closer to the finish line but not quite there yet. You still must pass a few more tests, including a medical evaluation, drug test, and background check.

Medical Evaluation

You will be expected to undergo a medical test if you score well on the airport evaluation. The TSA medical evaluation includes:

  • Hearing test
  • Physical examination
  • Psychological examination

Physical examination

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 health: blood pressure, pulse rate, heartbeat, etc. to ensure your physical readiness. They will also ask about your medical history.

They will provide restrictions if you are not able to perform any of the essential job functions, such as:

  • Physical ability to lift or up to 50 pounds repeatedly without assistance.
  • Squat, bend, and stoop to conduct pat-downs.
  • Stand for 6 hours straight.
  • Walk up to three miles during a shift.

Psychological examination

They will check if you currently have or had psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety in the past. They will provide restrictions if you take medications causing sedation, drowsiness, equilibrium disturbance, orthostatic hypotension, vision changes, or behavioral changes.


Drug Test

A five-panel urine test will be used by the Transportation Security Administration to check for drugs. These tests are cheaper to conduct in bulk. They do, however, administer hair follicle drug tests and breathalyzer tests on occasion.

Get more important information about this process on our TSA drug test candidate guide


Background Check

The TSA is prohibited from hiring candidates with certain criminal convictions or delinquent debt, so they run a background check to make sure you are eligible. If you get to this point, it's a positive sign.

Any TSA background check requires financial investment from the organization, so they only run it for the candidates they really want.

Once all the tests have been passed, and background checks have been successfully completed, you’ll be added to the “ready pool”.

#5 Getting into the “Ready Pool”

After step 4, it takes about two weeks for the paperwork to go through. After that, if you passed, you'll be assigned to a pool of candidates who are eligible, the “TSA ready pool.” Your eligibility to receive a job offer will be valid for two years.

It's critical to understand that you will be classified into one of three categories:

  • Best Qualified - indicates that you performed exceptionally well on all aspects of the application process.
  • Highly Qualified - means you passed all of the application phases with a satisfactory level.
  • Qualified - means you met the minimum requirements for all phases of the hiring process.


The candidates that are categorized in the ready pool as "Best Qualified" applicants, will have a better chance of getting the job. 

Want to hear the best tips for solving the TSA CBT and get into the "Best Qualified" category? Watch this short video: 


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#6 Orientation

Those with the best scores in the “ready pool” will be chosen to start working first and will be invited to the TSA Orientation. It takes place at the TSA training facility in Georgia and lasts for 2 weeks.

During the orientation, you will be doing some online learning training. You will discuss the history of TSA and the past incident which resulted in the formation and the current TSA operation (because of 911 and other events).

You will be introduced to the tools and equipment used at the checkpoint. You will also have to make some typical administrative arrangements. Filling out some paperwork, setting up your airport badge, and TSA cards. They should also be getting the order for your uniforms, including measurements.

The goal of the orientation is to prepare you for your new job, and this is not a screening stage.

#7 Entry on duty

Congratulations! You start the very first day of your federal service, which is why it's your "Entry on Duty" date. Depending on which airport you work at, the exact specifics of the job, such as hours, start date, and pay, can vary.


What are the benefits of working for TSA?

Working for the TSA has many benefits such as:

  • Paid Holidays / Vacation
  • Paid Sick Leave
  • 401(k)
  • Life Insurance/Disability
  • Retirement Plan
  • Education/Training/Tuition/Certification Reimbursement
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave for new parents
What are TSA Job Expectations?

As a TSA agent, you can be tasked to work at any point in the screening process: Carry-on Bag Screener, Checked Baggage Screener, Pat-Down Screener, X-Ray Imaging/ Metal Detector Screener, Pre- Airport Arrival Screener, or TSA Pre✓® Screener.

Is it hard to become a TSA agent?

Yes. Although you can apply to the TSA with just the bare minimums, the process can be very competitive. Most TSA agents have more qualifications than a high school diploma, and many have valuable experience to add to their resumes. Also, the TSA CBT test is long and complicated, and you need to score high to beat the competition.


How far back does TSA background check go?

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the agency began demanding stricter background checks. The background checks typically cover five years of criminal and court records, but can go back even further.

It depends on compliance laws and what is being searched.

JobTestPrep's TSA Online Test Preparation Course

Our TSA practice tests are made to mirror the exact questions you'll face in the new TSA exam. Plus, we've got you covered with the older X-ray and English tests that have still been given to candidates throughout the year.

See What Customers Think of Our PrepPack:


I passed the New Format Test

Although these testing materials included the English comp and X-ray practice mostly, it did also have some of the new test materials. I am glad I did it all. This was well worth the money. I went into the test prepared for both. Also, it got me ready for the pressures of testing. I don’t think I would have passed the first time without it. I just got my tentative job offer letter so onward to the next steps! There does need to be a few more practice questions for the new style test however.


 Maia E.


Feel Prepared

Gave me much more confidence on the material that would be on the test, and I did in fact Pass my exam! The practice test are extremely helpful to get in repetitions of what you might find. Just remember, you don’t know what version of the exam you will receive, so studying all they have to give is helpful. I discovered my Version was 2D-3D shapes and speed image matching so I didn’t have any X-Ray or grammar questions, so touching base on all the helpful material is a must.


Connor M.


Great Material

Excellent study guide made everything so much easier.


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