Security Guard: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Security guards require minimal formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and job requirements to see if security is the right career for you. View article »

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  • 0:05 Essential Information
  • 1:08 Job Description
  • 1:59 Duties
  • 3:06 Salary and Job Outlook

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

A security guard, a type of public safety officer, surveys assigned areas or properties for illegal activities, suspicious behavior, or dangerous situations. They can work in many venues, including hospitals, power plants, and retail stores. There are no particular education requirements, although a high school diploma or the equivalent is usually required. Training varies with the employer, but most guards undergo a period of instruction after hiring, and armed guards must complete firearms training. Most states require that guards be registered, and this is mandatory in all states for armed positions.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate
Other Requirements Registration in most states; firearms training and state registration for armed positions
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 12%
Mean Salary (2016)* $28,460

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Security guards monitor and protect property against criminal activity and damage. These guards may work at schools, hospitals, and banks, along with such commercial properties as shopping centers, casinos, and sports venues, power plants, and transportation hubs. They monitor the flow of people and employees and respond in emergency situations.

Although some are stationed at desks or in gatehouses, others may patrol on foot or in vehicles, so security guards can benefit from being physically fit. Employers generally look for observant, detail-oriented individuals who aren't easily distracted and can identify threats quickly. Active listening also helps in the field, so security guards can identify complaints and receive information on questionable activity.


In order to adequately protect people and property, security guards must know and enforce rules and regulations to prevent criminal activity before it happens. They may monitor points of access in a building or property to allow entry only to individuals with the correct identification or authorization. In some situations, such as public events or crowded areas, they walk amongst visitors to promote order and provide a visible presence that deters safety issues.

If working after hours, they may maintain surveillance of a property by patrolling the grounds or using closed-circuit monitoring or alarm systems. They'll investigate and report signs of damage or unlawful entry as it occurs. Such issues require that they contact authorities and make written or verbal reports to law enforcement. In emergency situations, they may provide first aid or assistance and alert first responders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics high-risk facilities often require ongoing training as well as the use of firearms.

Salary and Job Outlook

As of March 2016, the BLS reported that security guards earned an average salary of $28,460 per year. The BLS also noted that investigative and security services accounted for the majority of security guard positions during this time, and security guards in that specific industry made an average annual salary of $26,340 per year. Armed security officers who need licensure to carry weapons tend to receive higher wages and have increased advancement potential.

Security guards may be armed or unarmed, and they carry out many different duties including monitoring buildings and grounds, preventing illegal activity, and alerting authorities in the event of an emergency.

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