A high school diploma is necessary to begin a career as a private security guard, as well as on-the-job training. Certification is optional but may increase job opportunities, and although formal postsecondary training isn't necessary, private security guards with law enforcement experience or computer skills may have the best job prospects.
Private security guards ensure the safety of people, property and places. A high school diploma is typically required, but some employers may require formal training depending on the position. Security guards can also earn certifications to help demonstrate their skills.
|Required Education||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training, optional certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% (for all security guards)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$24,630 (for all security guards)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Private security guards are hired by businesses and individuals to protect people and property from criminal activities such as vandalism, theft and fire. A security guard's specific duties will vary by employer, but typically will include monitoring a specific area at all hours of the day and reporting on any incidents that may take place. Private security guards may wear uniforms or be dressed in street clothes. For example, shopping mall security personnel may wear street clothes while they monitor the mall for shoplifting.
Private security guards look for anyone or anything suspicious in their area of responsibility by monitoring video cameras, scanning crowds, inspecting property and supervising activities. After hours, they regularly check that all windows, gates and doors on a property are secure. They also ensure all security equipment is working properly. Private security guards may also investigate reports of suspicious activities or disruptions occurring on the property.
Some individuals hire private security guards to escort them safely to various places. They may also drive shielded vehicles containing valuable items.
Private security guards may detain individuals who are suspected of a crime on their property until law enforcement arrives. Or, they may escort people off the property and warn them they may face arrest if they return. Some private security guards are trained to respond with physical force and to carry and use weapons, including firearms, batons and pepper spray.
To keep track of each day's activities, security guards write daily reports. Any incidents or suspicious people are recorded for review by security managers. Private security guards are sometimes called on to testify in court.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there are no formal education requirements for private security guards, but they need at least a high school diploma if the job requires that they carry a firearm (www.bls.gov). Some employers require security guards to possess some type of formal training, especially those who will need a high level of security. Security education degree and certificate programs can be found at many universities and colleges. Bachelor's degree programs are available in majors such as security management, criminology, information security and other related majors. Coursework in these programs include emergency planning, terrorism studies, critical thinking, security methods, risk investigation and security ethics.
Certification for private security guards is not mandatory, but helps validate an individual's capabilities and professional experience. ASIS International, a security professionals organization, offers three certifications accredited by the Professional Certification Board. Individuals granted the Certified Protection Professional certification must have at least nine years of security experience that includes several years of security management experience. They must also pass a test demonstrating security solutions and ethical business procedures.
A Professional Certified Investigator certification is awarded to individuals who perform investigations and exhibit adept capabilities. They must have at least five years of investigative experience and must take an exam.
The Physical Security Professional certification is awarded to security professionals who display technical proficiency in security solutions. They must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and five years of work experience in security solutions technology. Candidates must pass an exam before receiving the certification.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 5% job growth for security guards from 2014-2024, which is about average. Those with law enforcement experience or computer skills may have the best prospects, the BLS noted. In 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $24,630, or $11.84 per hour, for security guards.
Private security guards are hired to protect people, places or possessions. It is their job to monitor and patrol an area they've been hired to oversee, or to provide personal security for an individual or group they've been hired to protect. They must be observant, as their job involves being alert and looking for anything out of the ordinary that may suggest an imminent threat.