Become a Security Officer: Occupational Outlook

Learn how to become a security officer. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in security.

Should I Become a Security Officer?

Security officers patrol and protect property and monitor any potential criminal activity. Their specific job duties vary depending on their employer, which might include schools, museums, shopping malls and offices. For example, a security officer may be on his or her feet all day or sit in a guardhouse. Before accepting a specific position, an individual should research different options and determine the right fit. This occupation can be very routine, but it can also turn hazardous quickly. Security officers have the power to detain individuals suspected of criminal activity and in some cases may carry a firearm. The following table contains the core requirements for security officers:

Career Requirements

Degree Level Typically, no postsecondary education is required, but some security officers may need an undergraduate degree
Degree Fields Criminal justice or police science
Licensure and Certification Many states require licensure for security officers, armed officers must be licensed, voluntary certification is available
Training On-the-job training is common
Key Skills Decision-making, communication and observation skills, familiarity with database, spreadsheet and word processing software, such as Microsoft Excel and Word, able to use first aid kits, fire extinguishers, handcuffs and possibly firearms, be physically fit and strong, possess a driver's license
Salary $24,410 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for security guards/officers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine.

Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Program

Most security officer positions don't require postsecondary education; however, some employers look for applicants with higher education. Completing a program in criminal justice or police science may allow a security officer to advance in his or her career to a supervisory position.

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice are available at community colleges and 4-year universities. Students in these programs take a variety of courses that cover a broad range of topics. Coursework may include criminology, criminal investigations, victimology, criminal procedures, juvenile justice and cultural anthropology.

Success Tips:

  • Avoid violating the law. Because a security officer is responsible for enforcing rules and deterring criminal activity, it's important that an individual in this job doesn't break the law. Employers look for security officers who have and maintain clean criminal records.
  • Take advantage of a school's career services. Some schools offer career development services for students to help them prepare and secure employment after graduation. Available services may include career counseling, interview tips and resume guidance.
  • Complete an internship or co-operative learning experience. Internships or co-ops are offered by some colleges and universities and are opportunities for students in criminal justice programs to gain hands-on experience. Working alongside law enforcement or security professionals can help provide insight into the field and add depth to a student's resume.

Step 2: Acquire Job-Specific Training

Employers want to make sure their security officers have the necessary knowledge to keep both property and people safe. Thus, after they've been hired, individuals typically receive on-the-job training in areas such as crime prevention and emergency procedures. Those hired as armed security guards generally go through weapons training as well.

Step 3: Get Licensed

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require licensure for security officers. Requirements vary but generally include passing drug and background checks, being at least 18 years old and completing classroom instruction in relevant subjects. Security guards who carry handguns must obtain a firearms license through their governmental authority and are subject to comprehensive background checks.

Step 4: Consider Professional Certification

Security officers can earn voluntary certification through ASIS International, a professional organization for security workers. Certification isn't a requirement; however, security guards who hold the designation of Certified Protection Professional may have a competitive edge in the job market. Certification may also help with advancement opportunities. To be eligible for certification, a security officer must have 9 years of experience or a combination of experience and education.

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