Loss Prevention Specialist: Career Guide

In a nutshell, loss prevention specialists specialize in minimizing theft. Also called retail loss prevention specialists and managers, loss prevention specialists most commonly protect the merchandise in malls and big box stores, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and other large retail chains, but they are also sometimes employed by smaller retailers. Loss prevention specialists conduct surveillance, may detain people who are attempting to shoplift, call local authorities when such activity is observed, and watch for theft or inappropriate behavior by store employees. Loss prevention jobs can be found in virtually all large retail chains as well as in malls, outlet centers, and large warehouses. This guide provides information about what loss prevention specialists do, requirements for the position, and the career outlook for loss prevention specialists.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Loss prevention specialists watch suspicious behavior both in person and through closed-circuit television cameras. They may spend part of their day in a room watching cameras, zooming in on customers who appear to be engaging in possible theft. A loss prevention specialist will also spend time “on the floor,” dissuading would-be shoplifters by making the store's security presence known. Loss prevention specialists may also:

  • Audit departments throughout the store
  • Ensure store personnel do all they can to control theft
  • Grade department personnel on their ability to control shrinkage (loss of merchandise)
  • Train staff on loss prevention strategies
  • Write reports
  • Testify in court as needed

Steps for Becoming a Loss Prevention Specialist

While the minimum educational requirement for entry-level loss prevention specialists is a high school diploma or GED, the most competitive prospective retail loss prevention specialists should consider an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, especially if interested in career advancement. With an associate's or bachelor's degree, advancement to supervisory positions managing other personnel is common. Loss prevention specialists might be required to undergo a background check. Applicants must generally be able to work during retail hours, which often include evenings and weekends. To become a loss prevention specialist, the process will be similar to the following:

  1. Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for an open position.
  3. Be interviewed for the position.
  4. Get hired as a loss prevention specialist.
  5. Receive retail loss prevention on-the-job training once hired.

*A degree and/or previous experience may not be required; check position descriptions for more details on norms in your local area.

Loss Prevention Specialist Job Training

Much of the training to be a loss prevention specialist will take place on the job. Once a specialist is hired, he or she will typically be placed alongside another, more experienced loss prevention specialist. The trainee will shadow the trainer, learning what he or she does on a day-to-day basis along with store routines, policies, and procedures. After a few days or weeks of shadowing more senior employees, new loss prevention specialists will be ready to complete these tasks on their own.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Loss prevention specialists should possess strong observation abilities, sharp critical thinking skills, and effective communication skills. They must be able to identify suspicious behavior and other actions by patrons that can indicate theft, taking careful note of anything out of the ordinary. They also must be able to effectively communicate and interact with store managers, supervisors, and other employees in the store, informing them of risks and keeping them up-to-date on any suspicious activities. It also helps for loss prevention specialists to have an authoritative demeanor, but with an even temper. They should be able to calmly confront people who may be putting the store at risk, and able to react calmly when faced with difficult situations.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Asset Protection Associate
  • Loss Prevention Associate
  • Loss Prevention Specialist
  • Retail Asset Protection Specialist
  • Retail Loss Prevention Specialist

Loss Prevention Specialist Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for a loss prevention specialist in 2017 was $30,240, according to O*NET OnLine.1 The job outlook for loss prevention specialists is influenced by the economy, as economic upturns and downturns have a strong impact on the incidence of theft in retail establishments. O*NET OnLine predicts average employment growth (between 5 and 9%) for loss prevention specialists through 2026.1

Related Careers

Interested in a career similar to a loss prevention specialist? Check out these related careers:

  • Security Guard
  • Fraud Investigator
  • Private Investigator
  • Information Security Officer
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Question: Do I need a degree to become a loss prevention specialist?

    Answer: A college degree is not typically needed to get a job in loss prevention, although people with bachelor's or associate's degrees might have more opportunities for earning positions in management or for advanced careers in the security industry as a whole.

    Question: What kind of hours do loss prevention specialists work?

    Answer: Loss prevention specialists typically work in retail stores, so their hours follow suit. Retail hours, especially for big chains, may include late nights, third shifts, and weekends.

    Additional Resources

    1. O*NET OnLine, Retail Loss Prevention Specialists: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-9099.02

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