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How to Become a Security Contractor: Education and Career Info

Research the requirements to become a security contractor. Learn about the job duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in security contracting. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Be a Security…
  • 1:25 Career Requirements
  • 2:12 Earn a Degree
  • 2:50 Gain Relevant Experience
  • 3:30 Apply for…

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Video Transcript

Should I Be a Security Contractor?

Security contractors are hired to protect individuals, convoys, bases, buildings, and infrastructure, as well as to train local authorities. They are also known as private military contractors (PMCs) and often work for private companies contracted by the U.S. government. They may provide security for military personnel and for civilians working in areas of conflict. Security contractors also may often be employed in domestic situations where they provide protection for specific individuals, agencies, and corporations.

Security contractors may be exposed to high-risk and dangerous environments and circumstances. They must be well-trained in weaponry and comfortable with potential conflict. Some security contractors perform surveillance from a safe distance; there is less risk of personal injury in these positions than those who work in the field. Due to the wide variety of assignments and the secretive nature of some companies, there are no firm salary statistics for security contractors. According to the private overseas contractor's group, contractors working abroad may make between $80,000 and $250,000 a year. While their pay may be considerably higher than that of regular military personnel, security contractors as independent contractors don't receive the same healthcare, retirement, or tax benefits as enlisted personnel.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree may be required
Licensure Requirements Registration or licensure as a security professional required on a state-by-state basis
Experience 3-5 years of experience in security or law enforcement may be required
Additional Requirements May have to pass background and drug tests; may need liability insurance
Key Skills/ Technical Skills The ability to stay calm during stressful situations; good listening, observational, and critical reasoning skills; ability to use handguns, night sticks, handcuffs, and other weaponry, as well as emergency medical equipment

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois Department of Employment Security, ONet Online.

Earn a Degree

An associate or a bachelor's degree is not necessarily required for individuals to work as private security contractors, but it may be a requirement for individuals who wish to gain experience by first working as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers. Also, a degree is usually required to enter military service with the rank of officer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of the undergraduate degrees held by those with law enforcement and security career backgrounds include criminal justice and police science.

Gain Relevant Experience

Many private security or military contractors must have practical experience in the U.S. military or at a government agency, such as the FBI or CIA. As previously mentioned, a bachelor's degree is required for FBI positions, while the CIA highly recommends one. Most non-clerical CIA positions require a college degree, if not an advanced degree .

Security contractors may also gain relevant experience by working in law enforcement at the state or local level. Qualifications for law enforcement and public safety careers vary by state and city, but they usually require successful completion of a police, peace officer, or public safety academy.

Apply for Licensure/Registration

To work for a private contractor company as a security professional, workers must earn a private security contractor license or registration with their state. Applicants typically need to hold a certain amount of training or experience and must pass a private security contractor exam. They may also need to undergo fingerprinting, pass a criminal background test, and purchase liability insurance. Any security contractors who carry weapons must also be properly registered with their state.

Remember that security contractors often provide security in high-risk environments, may need a degree to help gain relevant experience, and may enjoy higher pay than enlisted military personnel but without many of the benefits.


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