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Security Guard: Requirements for a Career As a Security Professional

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a security guard. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Only a high school education is needed to become a security guard, as all of the training is provided on the job. Depending on the employer, postsecondary or certificate programs in security training may be required. Most states mandate licensure for security guards.

Essential Information

Security guards monitor sites to prevent theft, vandalism, fire and other harmful situations. They're responsible for maintaining the safety of employees, residents, guests and all people within an assigned location. Security guards may be required to use force against violators, and some guards are armed with handguns, handcuffs, pepper spray and other law enforcement tools.

Required Education High school diploma, postsecondary degree or certificate recommended
Other Requirements State registration, licensure for firearms, on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% (slower than average)
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $28,460

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Security Guard Requirements

Licensure

In many states, security guards are required to obtain licensure. Eligibility varies by state, but most licensure applicants must be 18 or older, have a clean criminal record and pass a drug test. Security guards may be required to complete formal training in a classroom setting. Licensure qualifications are generally stricter for armed security guards, who must also obtain firearms licensure.

Education Requirements

There are no strict education requirements for becoming a security guard. Employers prefer to hire applicants with at least high school diplomas or the equivalent. Some positions, such as those in casino security or investigation, require postsecondary degrees or certificates.

Certificate

Some community colleges and technical schools offer security guard training programs that lead to certificates. Many of these programs are designed to fulfill state licensure requirements, and vary in length according to state regulations. They typically consist of a basic training course that covers first aid, patrol techniques, disaster response, crowd control and ethics, among other fundamental topics. Certificate programs' curricula may also incorporate hands-on, practical training on job sites and yearly continuing education courses.

Undergraduate Degree

Certain employers may prefer applicants with postsecondary degrees. Undergraduate degrees in criminal justice, law enforcement science or other applicable fields may give security guards an upper hand in the search for employment. Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice programs, for example, prepare students for entry-level positions in law enforcement. Courses may include investigation techniques, security management, psychology, juvenile justice and criminal law.

On-The-Job Training

Security guards typically obtain instruction on the job, in which case training duration and depth vary by employer and job duties. They may learn protection and defense methods, as well as how to write reports, deliver first aid and handle emergency situations. Security guards who carry weapons generally complete more exhaustive training than those who are unarmed, and they may learn firearm safety and force laws. Those who work in high-security settings often endure extensive training followed by strict supervision on the job.

American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International Training Guidelines

Some employers implement the training standards set forth by ASIS International, which recommends that trainees receive 48 hours of instruction in the first 100 days of service. Under ASIS International guidelines, trainees must pass examinations that assess proficiency in topics like crime prevention, emergency procedures, evidence management and report writing. They may also be required to complete annual continuing education courses.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that security guards earned an average hourly wage of $13.68, or $28,460 annually. Jobs for security guards were predicted by the BLS to grow 5% from 2014-2024, mainly due to the ongoing need for protection of property and people.

To be a security guard, one should possess physical stamina and quick responsiveness. Security guards receive on-job instruction, so extra training isn't required, although earning a postsecondary degree or certificate is demanded for some jobs. A security guard usually has to be licensed as well.

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