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How to Become a Security Guard

By Anita Akpuoforba

Published:

In today’s increasingly unsafe world, safety has become a top priority in the minds of individuals. The need for protection extends from personal belongings to public spaces, leading to an increased demand for security guards.

This surge in demand has transformed the role of security guards into an attractive career option for those committed to enhancing safety and security in society. If you aspire to pursue this path, here is everything you need to know about how to become a security guard.

Career Summary

How Much Do Security Guards Make?

Security Guard Salary

One of the most frequent questions asked by interested individuals is, “How much do security guards make?”.

The answer differs based on several factors, like location, experience, and job responsibilities. However, on average, security guards earn a modest income of US$38,266 per year. This amount scales up if you have specialized training, are more experienced, or work in high-demand industries.

According to Glassdoor, the salary scale for security guards follows a trajectory that can be observed below:

  • Entry Salary (US$29k)
  • Median Salary (US$38k)
  • Executive Salary (US$51k)

If you are looking to earn a fortune from working as a security guard, it is highly unlikely it will happen. The upside to these jobs is that you can work for several different businesses to increase your pay and take advantage of overtime opportunities when they arise.

Security Guard Job Description

A security guard’s duties are to protect people, property, and premises from potential threats and unauthorized access. They do this by conducting surveillance checks, controlling access points, and enforcing safety measures.

In some cases, part of a security guard’s job description involves providing customer service by assisting visitors, mediating conflicts, and responding to emergencies. Ultimately, their presence ensures safety and peace of mind for the individuals and establishments they serve.

Security Guard Career Progression

Aspiring security guards can start at entry-level positions and gradually move up to more specialized roles, as listed below.

  • Entry-Level Security Guard: At the entry level, you will learn the basics of security guard duties like surveillance, access control, and incident reporting.
  • Senior Security Guard: With experience, security guards may be promoted to senior positions, where they take on additional responsibilities and may lead a team of other guards.
  • Shift Supervisor: Shift supervisors oversee security operations during specific shifts, ensuring that all tasks are carried out efficiently and coordinating with other security personnel.
  • Security Coordinator: Security coordinators handle the overall coordination of security activities, including scheduling of security guard duties, training, and managing resources at the establishment.
  • Security Manager: Security managers are responsible for overseeing security operations across multiple establishments, developing security policies, and implementing best practices.
Security Guard Career Progression

Pros:

  • Ample opportunities across industries.
  • Minimal education or training is required.
  • Diverse tasks and responsibilities.
  • Various shifts for part-time or full-time work.
  • Contributing to public safety by protecting people and assets.

Cons:

  • Security guard positions often offer lower salaries.
  • Irregular work hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Risk of confrontations with aggressive or unruly individuals.
  • It requires prolonged periods of standing and walking.
  • Handling emergencies and security breaches can be highly stressful.

Security Guard Skills

  • Observation skills to identify threats.
  • Adept at deescalating tense situations.
  • Adaptable to changing circumstances.
  • Physical fitness.
  • Effective communication skills.

Popular Security Guard Specialties

  • Event Security
  • Corporate Security
  • Retail Security
  • Residential Security
  • Hospital Security
  • School Security
  • Transportation Security

How to become a Security Guard

Security Guard 5 Steps to Career

There are several steps you need to follow before you can become a security guard. These include enrolling in a security guard training program, getting licensed, and any other certification requirements.

Enrolling in a Security Guard Training Program

When considering a career as a security guard, it is essential to enroll in an accredited training program offered by either security companies or government agencies. These programs are designed to meet industry standards and regulations, ensuring that you receive proper training and qualifications.

After doing your research, you need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the training program. The requirements may vary depending on the training provider and local regulations. Typically, you must be of a certain age, have a high school diploma, pass a background check, and pass a physical health test.

If everything is in order, you can then proceed with registering by giving any information that is needed, paying the course fees, and then starting the program at the appointed time.

Can I Become a Security Guard Through Online Education?

Most people who pursue a career as a security guard choose training programs that require you to attend in person. But some people prefer to slug it out alone and utilize their own personal equipment for any practical training measures.

Similar to physical programs, you must conduct research. However, this time, you are looking for accredited online programs that can teach you the necessary theoretical knowledge and provide you with a practice test that can be taken at home to help you prepare for the training’s physical requirements.

After learning everything necessary for the job, you would be required to pass a few physical exams to demonstrate your proficiency.

Are There Any Web Resources to Aid My Online Learning?

Beyond what will be provided for you by the online training programs, there are many web resources available to gain additional knowledge.

  • ASIS International (ASIS): A leading organization for security professionals worldwide, offering certifications, research, and networking opportunities.
  • Security Guard Training Central: An online hub offering guides and advice on training requirements by state, as well as general advice for aspiring security guards.
  • Security Guard Training HQ: This website offers comprehensive resources, including training guides, practice exams, and information on state-specific requirements for security guard licensing.
  • Security Today: An online and print publication covering the latest trends and news in the security industry.
  • National Criminal Justice Training Center: The NCJTC provides online courses and resources for law enforcement and security professionals, including security guard training programs.
  • International Foundation for Protection Officers: IFPO provides online security officer training programs, certification options, and resources to enhance your skills as a security professional.
  • FEMA Emergency Management Institute: FEMA provides free online courses on emergency management and disaster response, which are valuable for security professionals.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Compliance with licensing regulations is crucial for both the security guard’s legal status and the protection of the public they serve. Hence, after you have completed your training program, there are a few licenses and certificates you need to have before you can start working.

  • Security Guard License: This is the basic license that allows individuals to work as security guards. It is typically given to you at the end of your training program.
  • Guard Card: Some states issue a guard card as proof of a security guard’s eligibility to work in the industry. It may include the individual’s photo and license number.
  • Firearms Endorsement: If security guards are required to carry and use firearms, they will need a separate endorsement on their license after completing additional training and demonstrating proficiency in firearm handling. However, batons and non-lethal weapons like pepper spray do not require a separate permit to carry and use.
  • First Aid and CPR Certification: Many states also require security guards to have a valid First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification to handle emergencies effectively.

How Much Time Is Required to Get Trained and Licensed as a Security Guard?

The time required to get trained and licensed as a security guard can vary depending on several factors, including the country, state, or province where you are seeking employment, the type of security guard position you are applying for, and the specific training program you choose.

Ordinarily, the training Program will take a few days to a few weeks, depending on the depth and intensity of the training and whether it is physical or online. This is followed by some extra days when a background check will be done before you are given a certificate of completion.

Once the background check is cleared, you can apply for a security guard license. It may take a few weeks to several months to receive your license, depending on the efficiency of the institution that grants such licenses.

You would also need to allocate extra time to complete the necessary training if you are applying for armed security guard positions or specialized roles that require additional certifications (e.g., firearms endorsement, first aid/CPR certification).

How Much Will I Spend from Start to Finish?

The costs associated with becoming a licensed security guard can vary based on several factors, including your location, the specific training program you choose, any additional certifications required, and any fees associated with the license application process. Here’s a general breakdown of the potential costs for each stage:

  • Training Program: Some programs may be relatively affordable, while others may be more comprehensive and, therefore, more expensive. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from US$100 to US$1000+ or more for the training program.
  • Background Check: The cost of a criminal background check can range from US$0 to up to US$70, depending on the type of check and jurisdiction. What is checked during this process includes criminal records, employment history, education verification, credit history, identity verification, reference checks, and the sex offender registry.
  • License Application: The cost of applying for a security guard license can differ from one location to another. Application fees typically range from US$50 to US$300, depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Additional Certifications: If your security guard position requires a firearms endorsement, this would cost US$25 and above, depending on the state. Meanwhile, CPR and first aid certifications cost between US$30 to US$80 for basic training.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Security Guard?

During your training program, the security guard skills you will acquire cover most of what you will need to effectively carry out your responsibilities in ensuring the safety and security of people and property. Some of them are:

  • Surveillance and Observation: Security guards are trained to be vigilant and observant. This includes learning how to monitor and survey areas, identify potential threats or suspicious activities, and report incidents accurately.
  • Security Procedures and Protocols: You will be taught various security protocols, emergency response procedures, and standard operating procedures to handle different situations effectively.
  • Communication: Effective communication is vital for security guards. You’ll learn how to communicate with your team, supervisors, and the public, often using radio communication or other security systems.
  • Conflict Resolution: Security guards need to be able to handle conflicts and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations without resorting to violence.
  • Legal and Ethical Responsibilities: You’ll learn about the laws and regulations relevant to security operations and the importance of conducting your duties ethically and within the boundaries of the law.
  • Physical Fitness and Self-Defense: Some security positions may require physical intervention or responding to physical threats, so you may receive training in self-defense techniques and physical fitness.
  • Emergency Response: Security guards must be prepared to respond to various emergencies, such as fire, medical incidents, or natural disasters. Training will be provided to handle these situations appropriately.
  • Technology and Security Systems: You’ll learn how to operate and monitor security equipment, including surveillance cameras, access control systems, and alarms.
  • Report Writing: Writing accurate and detailed reports is crucial for documenting incidents and activities during your shift.

What’s the Career Outlook for Security Guards?

The career outlook for security guards is projected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations, per the Bureau of Labour and Statistics. 

However, there are still expected to be about 155,900 openings for security guards and gambling surveillance officers each year over the next decade. Some of the factors that are expected to contribute to the growth of this occupation include increased demand for security services, as well as security in public places.

As the world becomes more interconnected and globalized, there is an increased demand for security services. This is due to the growing threat of terrorism and other forms of crime. There is also an increased demand for security in public places, such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings. This is due to the growing concern about mass shootings and other forms of violence.

However, on your own, you can increase your job chances by relocating to an area with a high crime rate or a large population. Additionally, specialized knowledge, such as familiarity with access control or video surveillance systems, has also been noted to be advantageous.

What Are the Job Opportunities for a Security Guard?

Security guards can fulfill various job roles depending on the specific requirements of their employers and the industries they work in.

  • Access Control Officer: Responsible for monitoring and controlling access to a facility, building, or restricted area, ensuring only authorized personnel can enter.
  • Patrol Officer: Conducts regular patrols of the premises to detect and deter potential security threats and suspicious activities.
  • Executive Protection Officer/Bodyguard: Provides personal security to high-profile individuals or executives, ensuring their safety during public appearances and travels.
  • Mobile Patrol Officer: Conducts security patrols using a vehicle, providing a mobile security presence to multiple locations.
  • Armed Security Guard: Carries a firearm and receives specialized training to provide additional security measures in high-risk environments.
  • CCTV Operator: Monitors surveillance cameras and security systems to identify potential security breaches or incidents.
  • Firewatch Guard: Monitors fire hazards in establishments to prevent and respond to fire emergencies.
  • TSA Officer: Check the luggage of passengers about to board a flight to ensure non-lethal weapons are not carried along.

What Types of Companies Hire a Security Guard?

Security guards are hired by various types of companies and organizations to safeguard their assets, people, and premises. Here are some examples of the types of companies and industries that often employ security guards:

  • Private Security Firms: Private security firms provide security services to a wide range of clients, including businesses, government agencies, and individuals.
  • Retail Stores: Many retail establishments, such as supermarkets, department stores, and malls, hire security guards to prevent theft, shoplifting, and ensure customer safety.
  • Corporate Offices and Financial Institutions: Corporate offices and financial institutions employ security guards to protect their premises, employees, and sensitive properties.
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities: Healthcare institutions hire security guards to maintain a safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities often have security guards to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff.
  • Construction Sites: Construction companies hire security guards to prevent theft of construction materials and equipment, as well as to enforce safety regulations.
  • Hotels and Hospitality: Hotels may have security guards to maintain a secure environment for guests and prevent unauthorized access to guest areas.
  • Entertainment Venues: Movie theaters, concert halls, sports stadiums, and other entertainment venues hire security guards to maintain order and ensure the safety of attendees.
  • Airports and Transportation: Airports, bus terminals, and train stations employ security guards to enhance passenger safety and protect transportation infrastructure.
  • Museums and Cultural Institutions: Museums and cultural centers may have security guards to protect valuable exhibits and artwork. This is in addition to having complex security systems in place.
  • Government Agencies: Government institutions, such as courthouses, public buildings, and government offices, often hire security guards for protection and crowd control.
  • Residential Complexes: Gated communities, condominiums, and apartment complexes may employ security guards for resident safety and property protection.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Security Guard?

The work-life balance of a security guard can vary depending on the specific job duties, the employer, and the individual’s preferences. However, in general, security guards tend to have more flexible hours than many other occupations.

This occurs because security guard positions offer shift work, allowing security guards to work different hours each day or week. Some even offer on-call or part-time work, which is a good option for people who want to work only certain days or hours.

Of course, there are also some challenges to work-life balance for security guards. For example, some security guard positions require working nights, weekends, or holidays. This can make it difficult to spend time with family and friends or to participate in other activities that are important to the individual.

Additionally, some security guard positions can be physically demanding, especially ones that involve patrolling the perimeters of an establishment over a given shift.  It can result in fatigue, swollen feet, and sometimes burnout.

Should I become a Security Guard?

Before deciding on whether or not you should become a security guard, there are several factors you should consider.

  • Do you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment? Security guards often have to be on their toes and be prepared to respond to emergencies. If you’re easily stressed or prefer a more relaxed work environment, then being a security guard may not be the right career for you.
  • Are you comfortable working with people? As part of the security guard job description, you would often have to interact with the public to de-escalate tense situations or pass instructions. If you’re not a people person, you would struggle on this career path.
  • Are you physically fit? Security guards sometimes have to perform physical tasks, such as patrolling large areas or restraining suspects. The physical requirements might end up being overwhelming for you if your fitness level is below par.
  • Are you interested in law enforcement? Security guards often work closely with law enforcement, so it’s helpful to have an interest in this field.

If you ultimately decide to choose this path as a career choice,  networking, continuous learning, and a strong commitment to professional development can open doors to advancement opportunities.

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Anita Akpuoforba

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