Become a Security Officer: Occupational Outlook

Apr 27, 2020

Learn how to become a security officer. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in security.

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Security Officer Career Info

Degree Level None; undergraduate degree for some positions
Degree Fields Criminal justice or police science
Licensure and Certification Many states require licensure; armed officers must be licensed; voluntary certification is available
Training On-the-job training common
Key Skills Decision-making, communication, and observation skills; familiarity with database, spreadsheet and word processing software, such as Microsoft Excel and Word; able to use first aid kits, fire extinguishers, handcuffs and possibly firearms; be physically fit and strong; possess a driver's license
Median Salary (2019) $29,680 (for security guards)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Security officers patrol and protect property and monitor any potential criminal activity. Their specific job duties vary depending on their employer, which might include schools, museums, shopping malls and offices. For example, a security officer may be on his or her feet all day or may sit in a guardhouse. This occupation can be very routine, but it can also turn hazardous quickly. Security officers have the power to detain individuals suspected of criminal activity and in some cases may carry a firearm. They should have quick decision-making skills, as well as observation and communication skills. They should also be physically fit and be able to use first aid kits, fire extinguishers and possibly firearms. In general, security guards in the United States earned a median annual pay of $29,680 in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Take Postsecondary Courses

Most security officer positions don't require postsecondary education. However, some employers look for applicants with higher education. Completing a program in criminal justice or police science may allow a security officer to advance in his or her career to a supervisory position. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice are available at community colleges and 4-year universities. Students in these programs take a variety of courses that cover a broad range of topics. Coursework may include criminology, criminal investigations, victimology, criminal procedures, juvenile justice and cultural anthropology.

Because a security officer is responsible for enforcing rules and deterring criminal activity, it's important that an individual in this job doesn't break the law. Employers look for security officers who have and maintain clean criminal records. Internships or co-ops are offered by some colleges and universities and are opportunities for students in criminal justice programs to gain hands-on experience. Working alongside law enforcement or security professionals can help provide insight into the field and add depth to a student's resume.

Undergo Training

Employers want to make sure their security officers have the necessary knowledge to keep both property and people safe. Thus, after they've been hired, security officers typically receive on-the-job training in areas such as crime prevention and emergency procedures. Those hired as armed security guards generally go through weapons training as well.

Get Licensed

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require licensure for security officers. Requirements vary but generally include passing drug and background checks, being at least 18 years old and completing classroom instruction in relevant subjects. Security guards who carry handguns must obtain a firearms license through their governmental authority and are subject to comprehensive background checks.

Consider Certification

Security officers can earn voluntary certification through ASIS International, a professional organization for security workers. Certification isn't a requirement. However, security guards who hold the designation of Certified Protection Professional may have a competitive edge in the job market. Certification may also help with advancement opportunities. To be eligible for certification, a security officer must have 9 years of experience or a combination of experience and education.

Once again, while security officers might not always be required to have postsecondary education or training, some employers look to hire officers who have some knowledge and understanding of criminal justice or police science. Licensure and certification might be desirable to employers as well.

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