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Security Guard Career Guide

A security guard patrols and monitors for any incidents of theft or violence in the building or in the area in which he or she has been assigned duty, answers alarms, and apprehends individuals who pose a security threat. Many large organizations hire both security guards and a security director, the latter of whom manages the guards and the security system. A security guard provides safety for the employer by guarding against any law violations and disturbances that could result in a loss to the client.

Security Guard Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Depending on the setting, a security guard’s duties may vary significantly. In some instances, a security guard remains static or stays in the same location, monitoring the security cameras’ closed-circuit monitors. A security guard may also monitor employees as they enter and exit at the entrance to the building. In mobile security positions, the security guards may patrol and monitor on foot or in cars.

Security guards:

  • Communicate closely with law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency medical personnel
  • Document, usually daily, the activities, including disturbances, that occurred. Clients then use the reports to assess potential damage from the disturbance.
  • Ensure alarm systems, doors, and windows are all secure and properly working
  • May be armed or unarmed
  • May interview witnesses and/or testify in court
  • Must be legally allowed to carry a handgun, if the position requires use of a firearm
  • Notify authorities, such as law enforcement or the fire department, in the case of an emergency.
  • Patrol and inspect property to protect it from fire, theft, vandalism, or other criminal activities

How to Become a Security Guard: Requirements and Qualifications

Most security guard jobs are entry level and typically require a high school diploma. Individuals seeking an edge in hiring can pursue additional education such as an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Security guards must also:

  • Be able to communicate effectively orally and in writing
  • Be able to think quickly and critically
  • Be mindful of customer and public service
  • Exercise good judgment in potentially explosive situations
  • Have knowledge of public safety and security
  • Possess knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern the security field
  • Work independently and with others

Security Guard Job Training

Security guards generally must complete training upon hire. Training typically varies depending on the state and the position. Armed security guards usually require more extensive training due to firearms use. The armed security guards may also have to regularly pass a firearms exam. While training varies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that security guards typically complete pre-training, on the job training, and ongoing training each year.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Those candidates with an associate’s degree or higher or who have a knowledge of a second language may have a hiring advantage. Previous law enforcement or military experience may also be advantageous.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Protection officer
  • Security officer

Career Opportunities and Employers

Most security officers work for the private sector. Many businesses employ security guards, including banks, museums, hospitals, companies and industries, office buildings, nightclubs, and stores. The type of security guards include retail loss prevention, armored car guards (who protect money and valuables transported from one location to another), gaming surveillance officers, and bouncers. Some security guards go on to become police or law enforcement officers and study while working full time by pursuing an online associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Security Guard Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that security guards earn a median annual wage of $24,020 per year.1 As a security guard gains experience, he or she may earn a higher position, such as security director. Those seeking such advancement often have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. The BLS projects jobs for security guards will grow 12% from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as average for all occupations.1

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

What kind of schedule does a security guard typically work?

Security guards often work in shifts of a minimum of eight hours and should be prepared to work a rotating schedule.

Are there many risks of working as a security guard?

Prospective security guards should be prepared for the possibility of injury as they may deal with unpredictable, emotionally charged individuals at times. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) asserts that security guards face a higher occurrence of illness and injury than most occupations.

In what industries do security guards most often work?

The overwhelming majority (56 percent) of security guards, according to the BLS, work for companies that specialize in armored car services, investigations, and security guard services.

Is drug testing required as a condition of employment as a security guard?

It depends on the hiring organization. Some organizations do require drug testing as a condition of employment.

Additional Resources

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Related Careers

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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm