Generally, security officers are required to be at least 18 years old and have a clean criminal record. Some security firms have little to no minimum educational requirements and provide on-the-job training tailored to the position. However, most states are now requiring security officers complete formal training courses before becoming licensed.
Formal training can be completed through state-approved on-the-job training programs offered by employers or through courses offered at community colleges and local career centers. During their training, security officers develop skills in observation, first aid, investigative techniques, loss prevention and crisis management. Additional training is also needed for security officers seeking employment in specialty areas like airports, nuclear power plants and gaming surveillance.
Offered by community colleges and workforce training centers, formal training programs are usually taught by experienced law enforcement professionals and provide the basic knowledge and skills security officers need in order to become licensed. Although requirements, state-sanctioned training programs require anywhere from 8-16 hours of training. More hours are required for armed security officers.
Basic Certificate Course
This basic course introduces students to emergency response procedures, crime scene prevention, the legal authority of security officers, loss prevention and proper use of force. Other topics include the security code of ethics, fire prevention, report writing and public relations. This course typically requires eight hours of participation.
Armed Certificate Course
Armed security officers are required to complete this course, which provides security officers with instruction in basic firearm safety and marksmanship. Participants learn to use mechanical safeties and become familiar with liability issues while carrying a firearm. This course also introduces students to the legal aspects of firearm usage. Officers become familiar with laws and liabilities associated with the use of a firearm. Participants must demonstrate skill competencies through a live firing exercise at a local firing range and pass a firearm safety exam.
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Courses required for re-certification review skills previously learned such as firearm safety, handgun maintenance, range procedures and liability issues while armed. Passing scores on a written safety exam and live firing exercises are both required to complete the course.
Most employers are willing to provide a certain level of on-the-job training and do not require previous work experience. After completing state-required formal training programs and obtaining licensure, security officers are prepared for entry level positions in the security industry. However, more extensive work experience is often required for high profile positions with large security firms. Managerial positions in the security industry typically require at least two years of work experience as a security officer.
Most states are now requiring security officers to be licensed. Licensing requirements generally require candidates to pass extensive background checks, be at least 18 years of age and complete formal training programs approved by the state. Armed officers are required to obtain addition certification. Candidates should check with the state licensing board for additional requirements that vary by state.
Voluntary certifications not required for employment are available for security officers to improve their knowledge and job marketability. ASIS International, a professional society for security professionals, offers the most popular of these certifications.
There are two ways to qualify for this distinction. Security officers can either have a bachelor's degree and at least seven years of professional experience or have nine years of professional experience with at least three years spent in a full-time position as a security officer. Certification candidates must demonstrate advanced knowledge of the security profession through a 200-question exam.
ASIS International offers a variety of opportunities for security professionals to stay up to date with changes in the industry. Opportunities include online courses, regional workshops and an annual national conference. The ASIS International Annual Seminar offers over 150 breakout sessions in a wide array of topics over a three day period.
Security officers must develop both excellent verbal and written communication skills. Officers are often called upon to communicate with the public and other law enforcement professionals in a variety of situations and must submit detailed reports regarding observations and incidents. Those interested in management level positions in the industry should consider pursuing a formal degree in police science or criminal justice.
The requirements for becoming a security officer vary depending on state, with some having more formal training and licensing standards than others. Those seeking formal training can seek certificate programs within community colleges or workforce training centers, with courses often influenced by the area of security one is looking to enter.