How to become an airport security officer (with duties)
Updated 14 August 2023
Security officers are often on the front line of airport operations, dealing with passengers and their luggage. A lot of responsibility comes with a career in airport security, and there are sometimes stressful situations. If you're interested in working as a security officer yourself, it can be beneficial to get a better understanding of what the role entails. In this article, we outline what an airport security officer is and explain how to get a job as one.
What is an airport security officer?
An airport security officer is responsible for maintaining the safety of passengers and staff at airports, plus identifying and mitigating any potential security threats. They may also assist passengers in distress if any problems arise at the airport, such as lost children. The role demands a lot of focus as officers spend most of their time checking luggage and guiding passengers through security to ensure there is no suspicious activity.
Millions of people travel via airports each year. To take care of this amount of passengers, security officers require to be knowledgeable and well trained. They are also quick and efficient.
What are their day-to-day responsibilities?
The primary responsibility of a security officer at an airport is to provide a safe and secure environment for passengers and staff. This involves a range of duties, such as:
checking passengers' travel documents
working with police and immigration officials
performing searches on people, luggage and vehicles
writing up case notes
questioning suspicious individuals
spotting any illegal activity and making sure the relevant authorities handle it appropriately. As a result, you may occasionally attend court as a witness to give evidence against anyone caught performing illegal activities.
How to become an airfield security officer
Here are a few steps that might help you to start your career as an airfield security officer:
1. Complete a college course
Completing a college course such as a Level 3 Diploma in Public Services might help you start a career in security. Having evidence of high achievement at A-Level is also useful for several other routes into airport security. For a level 3 course, the usual entry requirements are 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
2. Undertake an apprenticeship
There are many different apprenticeships in civil service roles that might help you pursue a career in airport security. Apprenticeships directly involved in the industry would be best, but due to the level of responsibility the role requires, there are very few apprenticeships of this kind. To qualify for a civil service apprenticeship, you would require to meet the usual entry requirements of 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or the equivalent, including English and maths.
3. Enter the Civil Service Fast Stream
The Civil Service Fast Stream is an effective route into a wide range of civil service roles for graduates. While you don't get to choose which department you work for when you apply, the program provides valuable experience in various government roles. To take this route, you require a degree of 2:2 or above.
4. Apply directly to the Border Force
Another route to becoming a security officer at the airport is to apply directly to the Border Force. To enter at the officer level, you require at least 2 A levels at grade E or above, or equivalent qualifications. In addition, there are a few requirements to meet to be eligible to work with the Border Force. These are:
be over 18 years of age
be a U.K. citizen
have lived in the U.K. for the last 5 years
pass enhanced background checks
pass security checks
pass a medical check
have a good level of fitness
have a full driving licence
5. Develop the relevant skills
There are several skills that are extremely useful when working as an airfield security officer, including:
Security officers are in constant communication with passengers and colleagues. If a problem arises with a passenger, it's their job to keep them calm and informed. They may also require support from their colleagues, which means accurately reporting on the situation. Communication may be especially challenging when dealing with passengers who don't speak English as a first language.
Your ability to assess situations logically is important as you may make quick decisions concerning suspicious items or behaviour. Working in airport security means being constantly vigilant and making decisions on where you believe risks may arise. The potential repercussions of an officer missing a risk are so high that there can virtually be no room for error.
Patience and composure
The airport can be a stressful environment for passengers, so remaining calm is important. Your ability to stay composed can help reassure the public and make them much more comfortable. It's also important to have patience in situations where passengers are behaving unreasonably.
Basic computer literacy
To properly perform your duties as a security officer, you require at least a basic understanding of computers. As new devices for scanning luggage or checking documents emerge, the role technology plays in security is only increasing. It's important that you know how to operate these devices and understand the insight they provide.
Work-life balance as a security officer at an airport
At many airports, you tend to be on your feet for most of your shift. The work can be physically demanding, and it's not uncommon for officers to work long hours. Security officers are often required to perform routine tasks like bag searches or checking IDs for long periods of time. You may likely encounter stressful situations involving passengers who aren't happy about delays due to security measures. Security officers often work on an annualised hours contract, meaning that hours are guaranteed over the course of a year and may vary from week to week.
Most airports are in operation all hours of the day and rarely close. This means that shift patterns can vary, and you might work night shifts on some occasions. As with most jobs though, the busy and quiet periods tend to balance out, and as such, the amount of free time you're left with may vary. This does mean the job is more suited to those with a flexible lifestyle, which is worth taking into account when considering a career in airport security.
Airport security officer career progression
When you first join the UK Border Force, there is a 6 to 12-month probationary period before you're given the full responsibilities of an officer. After this, you receive regular training updates. Once you've gained experience, there is a range of career progression opportunities available to you as a security officer. These options might include:
National average salary: £28,838 per year
Primary duties: Working as a security officer puts you in a good position to apply for other roles in the security industry. This includes working for residential clients, shopping centres and commercial premises. The duties of a more general security officer include monitoring surveillance cameras, reporting suspicious behaviour, communicating with law enforcement and monitoring public access.
National average salary: £29,324 per year
Primary duties: Working as part of the Border Force stands officers in good stead for moving into other departments, such as the Home Office. Most civil service workers are responsible for implementing government policies and laws, whether working in administration to research and compile reports or in more specialised roles like working as special advisers to government officials. Other key duties revolve around finance, human resources and office management.
Related: A guide to civil service jobs
National average salary: £37,453 per year
Primary duties: After working as a security officer for several years, you may take the opportunity to move up into a leadership role. The duties of senior officers include training new officers, managing department budgets and recruiting team members. They are also responsible for reporting security concerns to organisations such as HMRC, the police and the National Crime Agency (NCA). A team leader or senior role often comes with more responsibility and, as a result, is a higher-paid position.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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