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Careers in Private Security: Job Options and Requirements

Training in private security typically covers property protection and observation. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for private security graduates.

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With a high school diploma or GED it is possible to begin pursuing a career in private security. In some states, a license may be required, and experience or training may be an asset to those trying to find employment in this field. Some career options include working as a security guard, or becoming a private investigator.

Essential Information

Those interested in protecting property and the public may be interested in a career in private security. The type of work performed varies by employer and may range from protecting banks and office buildings to providing personal bodyguard or investigative services. A state license or certification is typically needed to work in private security.

Career Security Guard Private Investigator
Required Education High school diploma; Limited postsecondary education may be required High school diploma
Other Requirements Licensure may be required by the state; prior military or police experience is highly valued Previous law enforcement experience; state licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% for security guards and gaming surveillance officers 5% private detectives and investigators
Average Salary (2015)* $28,460 for security guards $52,840 private detectives and investigators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options

Individuals working in private security may work in various occupations, depending on the needs of their employer. Private security officers and guards are used to patrol shopping malls and office buildings, while others guard private estates and public places, including airports, museums and rail stations. Private security guards may work for an agency that assigns the work, be self-employed or work directly for a business as a full-time employee.

Private Security

Private security professionals are responsible for protecting their clients through lawful practices. A person or entity hires these individuals for a specific purpose, which may include preventing thefts at a store or to protecting personal property after business hours. Depending on the job, private security professionals may work in a specific location or they may patrol a larger area. Some private security positions include security guard, armored car guard or personal bodyguard. According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be 5% job growth for security guards and gaming surveillance officers over the 2014-2024 period. May, 2015 average earnings for these guards were $28,460 annually.

Private Investigation

Another occupation for individuals interested in this field is a private investigator. Private investigators work for clients or agencies and are generally responsible for gathering facts about a specific incident or situation and reporting about them. Private investigators may observe and gather information remotely, in-person through interviews or by other means necessary, depending on the assignment. A private investigator may work for local, state or federal government. Some investigative jobs include forensic investigators, corporate investigators and legal investigators. Private detectives and investigators from 2014-2024 are projected to have 5% growth. The BLS reported May, 2015 average earnings of $52,840 for these professionals.

Requirements

Private security positions require individuals to have a familiarity with the law and meticulous observational skills, but other requirements may vary. Many states require security professionals to be licensed, and additional licensing requirements must be met if security professionals carry firearms. Basic requirements include a background check, references, proof of relevant experience and an examination.

Because private security professionals may be responsible for the safety of others, they must be able to respond quickly to situations and work long or erratic hours. Most private security positions require at least some college education or an associate's degree that includes a focus on criminal justice and law courses. Generally, previous experience in police work or the military is considered relevant experience and is preferred.

Security guards may patrol malls, airports, estates or other locations as required by their employer. Some also work as bodyguards. Private investigators are hired to investigate a specific incident or situation, and may need to perform surveillance, gather evidence and interview witnesses before making a report to their employer.

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