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Become a Professional Bodyguard: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn what it takes to become a professional bodyguard. Research the training, experience, and education requirements for starting and advancing a career as a professional bodyguard. View article »

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  • 0:01 Who Are Professional…
  • 1:23 Obtain a Certificate or Degree
  • 2:15 Gain Experience
  • 3:02 Become Certified
  • 3:45 Advance in This Career

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Video Transcript

Who Are Professional Bodyguards?

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree for career advancement
Degree Field Criminal justice, political science
Experience 4-6 years experience as an entry-level guard may be required for advancement
Licensure and Certification Licensing requires a background check, drug testing and classroom training; certification requires an exam and a mix of education and experience
Key Skills Fitness; driving; firearms
Salary $68,509 (2016 median for bodyguards)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

Professional bodyguards often work in the private sector or government as personal security guards. Bodyguards typically offer protection to clients from a variety of dangerous situations such as assault, theft, kidnapping, or even assassination. Whether they are working for high profile clients such as celebrities or political leaders or protecting private individuals, bodyguards should practice discretion and respect their client's confidentiality. Bodyguards may also need to obtain a security clearance if working for government officials.

While on the job, a professional bodyguard may need to manage crowds, secure areas, and drive clients to different locations. At times, shadowing clients or watching over a certain area may seem routine, but bodyguards must always be prepared to assess a potentially dangerous situation, detain suspects, and use force when necessary. Bodyguards' schedules ultimately depend on their client's needs, but they often have to work flexible schedules that include can nights and weekends.

As of January 2016, the median annual salary for bodyguards was $68,509 according to PayScale.com. Aspiring bodyguards can follow more than one path to reach their goals, but a mixture of education and experience in certain areas can help with starting and advancing in this career.

Obtain a Certificate or Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aspiring security officers and bodyguards are often required to hold a high school diploma or GED and complete on-the-job training. Some schools, for-profit institutions and vocational training centers also offer certificate programs in bodyguard training. These programs can prepare students to work in the fields of personal and property security. A certificate program may cover threat assessment, physical security, and legal and ethical issues.

Additionally, some employers may prefer individuals with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field. These programs often provide relevant courses in criminology, forensic science, and psychology. Completing a degree program can also help aspiring professional bodyguards meet later, higher-level certification requirements.

Gain Experience

Aspiring professional bodyguards can gain experience as a security guard to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for that position. Security guards may have to undergo additional training and education for employment, which can be applied to a bodyguard position. A majority of states require that security guards be registered, which requires a background check, drug testing, and approved training. Having prior law enforcement or military experience can also be advantageous since professional bodyguards often need to possess physical fitness, protective driving skills, and firearms training. A military or law enforcement background can also help mentally prepare prospective bodyguards by giving them familiarity with a sense of duty, active thinking in dangerous situations, and defensive countermeasures.

Become Certified

Most higher level certifications for professional bodyguards require a mix of experience and education. For instance, the American Society for Industrial Security International offers a range of relevant certifications including the Physical Security Professional (PSP) designation. This designation demonstrates experience in risk analysis and security measures evaluation among other areas. In order to qualify, applicants must have either a bachelor's degree and four years of physical security experience, or a high school diploma or associate degree and six years of physical security experience. Applicants must also pass an exam covering security assessment, security systems, and security measures.

Advance in This Career

Just as there are multiple ways to become a professional bodyguard, there's more than one way to advance in this career. In the private sector, clients or organizations that require higher levels of security may offer higher pay. Guards with enough experience and education may also be able to advance to security manager positions. In addition, bodyguards licensed to carry a firearm may have more opportunities for advancement. Licensing requirements, including concealed weapons permits, vary by state.

With enough education and experience, bodyguards may advance to positions of employment with government agencies. The U.S. Department of State offers the Security Protective Specialist position. These professionals provide diplomatic security at embassies, consulates, and regional offices. Security Protective Specialists could also be deployed internationally to areas such as Afghanistan, Israel, and Pakistan. Some of the qualifications for becoming a specialist include at least three years of experience in security, a fitness test, defensive and evasive driving abilities, and knowledge of firearms.

In summary, professional bodyguards usually work in the private sector or government as private security guards, and a combination of education and experience in security, law enforcement, or the military can help in advancing this career.

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