How to Become a Physical Security Specialist

Watch this video to learn how to become a physical security specialist. Learn about the career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in physical security.

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Should I Become a Physical Security Specialist?

Physical security specialists perform a variety of security-related tasks, which includes providing technical support for camera systems, electronic access systems, equipment maintenance, IT projects and other systems. They also document and report data related to security systems and projects. These specialists may work for public or private agencies or companies, providing safety and security based on the needs of the organization. Travel might be involved, and extensive background checks might be cumbersome.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree typically the minimum requirement
Degree Field Criminal justice or a security-related field (preferred)
Experience Varies; experience in a related area, such as security or law enforcement
Key Skills Written and verbal communication skills, analytical and interpersonal skills, ability to work with a team, knowledge of security processes and guidelines, such as those required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Additional Requirements Some employers require candidates to travel and pass extensive background or clearance checks
Median Salary (2016) $60,326 (for all personnel security specialists)

Sources: O*NET OnLine, PayScale.com

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or security-related field can help aspiring physical security specialists prepare for their careers. A criminal justice bachelor's degree program may provide coursework in law and ethics, corrections and criminology. Other related programs include the Bachelor of Arts in Security Management and Bachelor of Science in Organizational Security and Management. Most schools require students to have a high school diploma or GED as a condition of enrollment.

Success Tip:

  • Look for internship opportunities while completing undergraduate studies. Law enforcement and security agencies, including the DHS, offer internship opportunities. Students can gain experience by completing an internship in a related area, such as federal law enforcement.

Step 2: Obtain Work Experience

Entry-level positions in physical security can provide the necessary skills and experience for a higher-level position. Job duties might include reviewing security clearance information and personnel reports, assisting experienced specialists with inspections, evaluating findings and recommending changes. Researching guidelines and regulations may also be a part of the job.

Once experience is obtained, physical security specialists can seek employment in more advanced positions. Job duties for an experienced physical security specialist might include developing standard operating procedures with senior-level management. Other duties might include assessing threats and risks, testing procedures and performing inspections

Success Tip:

  • Research the necessary requirements. Some positions require passing a background check or security clearance. Requirements vary by position and agency, and prospective specialists should become familiar with any prerequisites before and during their initial job search.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

A graduate degree in criminal justice or security-related field isn't a requirement for all jobs, but it can be beneficial when seeking an advanced position in physical security. A criminal justice master's degree program might include advanced coursework in criminology, terrorism, and forensic science. Programs, such as the Master of Security Studies or Master of Professional Studies in Security and Safety Leadership, may require students to complete a thesis, pass a written comprehensive examination or complete a capstone project in addition to coursework.

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