What Does a Security Guard Do?
Security guards monitor, patrol, and control access to private or public spaces, including retail establishments, office buildings, banks, factories, gated neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and government buildings. Security guards are assigned to watch for, and respond to, suspicious behavior, illegal activity, unwanted intruders, or other problematic or unexpected developments. Security guards may be hired by contract security companies, which then assign them to particular clients. Or, they may be hired directly by private businesses.
Some security guards work at night, when buildings are locked or businesses closed. Others are deployed during daytime or working hours, where they can track the behavior of customers, employees, or visitors. Many are assigned to secure entrances, allowing individuals to pass (on foot or by vehicle) only if they have the proper credentials. Depending on their training and the requirements of specific employers, security guards may or may not be armed.
While on active duty, security guards may spend much of their time monitoring video surveillance feeds and electronic alarm systems. They may also be required to patrol both indoor and outdoor areas on foot or by vehicle, checking directly for signs of disturbance or illegal entry. When intruders are detected, or when sanctioned visitors are causing difficulties, security guards may summon the police if the situation seems dangerous, or respond to the trouble themselves if doing so is a part of their job duties.
You might also be interested in a career as a mediator, learn exactly how to become a mediator.
How Much Does a Security Guard Make?
In the United States, security guards earn less than the average for all types of employment. In 2019, the median pay for security guards was $29,710, as compared to an average median wage of about $40,000 annually for all occupations combined.
The demand for security guards is expected to rise by three percent between 2019 and 2029. This is slightly below the average growth rate for all employment categories as a whole. Security guards can find opportunities for employment in all states and in most municipalities, although jobs for security guards may be scarce in small towns and rural areas, where security concerns are generally not as pervasive or acute.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Security Guard?
How long it takes to become a security guard depends on a few factors. Many people can start looking for work as security guards immediately. Different states vary on certification, but in most cases you can get hired first and then pursue a security license, often with the help of your employer.
For people who have not finished high school, it can take longer because they will need to do so, or pursue a GED to get their high school equivalent.
And for some, a few months of relevant experience may be needed in order to help them stand out and get hired as a security guard.
So, the answer to how long does it take to be a security guard is anywhere from zero to a few months.
How to Become a Security Guard: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Meet the Basic Qualifications
To become a security guard, you must have a high school diploma. You must also pass a background check performed by a responsible agency, which will specifically look for felony convictions or crimes that involved the illegal use or possession of a firearm. Applicants for security guard positions will not undergo any specific type of physical fitness test, but they generally must be in good physical condition to be considered nonetheless.
While unarmed security guards jobs can be hired at the age of 18, in many states you’ll need to be at least 21 years old if you intend to apply for a position as an armed security guard.
Step 2: Add Relevant Experience and Educational Achievements to Your Resume
Anyone with a high school diploma and a clean record is eligible to be hired and licensed as a security guard. But your chances of finding employment will increase if you have relevant experience and/or appropriate academic credentials.
For example, those who’ve worked as a police officer or served in the military will have an advantage over job applicants without such a background. On the education side, an associate degree in a field like police science or criminal justice can show an aptitude and interest in security-related matters, and could make you a more attractive candidate to a potential employer.
You might not join the military, start a career as a police officer, or study criminal justice in college intending to someday become a security guard. But security guard work could be an ideal choice for career changers who have such qualifications.
Step 3: Secure an Entry-Level Position as a Security Guard
Your entrance into the profession will likely occur through a private security services firm, which supplies trained guards to various clients and has a constant need to expand their roster of available personnel.
An impressive interview will go a long way toward determining your fate. But any experience you have in security-related work or study will count in your favor. While some people land positions as security guards straight out of high school, applicants with a richer profile undoubtedly have a better chance of breaking into the industry.
Step 4: Complete Your Training and Obtain a License
Each state has its own set of licensing and training requirements for security guards, so the answer to the question of how to get security guard license depends on which state you seek employment in. Most make similar stipulations, but no two states are exactly alike, which means you’ll have to do some research on your own to find out more about the specific requirements in your state.
The standard procedure in the security industry is to hire people first, and then help them find (and sometimes pay for) training courses that meet state requirements and lead to official licensing or certification. These courses are available through private security training schools or companies, with specialized instruction provided by licensed trainers with extensive experience in the industry.
In general, you’ll need somewhere between 16 and 40 hours of training to qualify for certification and/or licensing as a security guard. Courses will cover a broad range of topics relevant to security work, mixing classroom instruction with onsite field experience and a decisive final exam.
As far as how to become an armed security guard, if you’ll be working as an armed security guard, you’ll need to complete an additional course in firearm safety and usage, which will include a final exam that tests your skill and proficiency. You’ll then need to obtain a license from the state that allows you to carry your firearm while on duty.
Newly hired security guards receive extensive on-the-job training. But they must be officially licensed as a security guard by the state before this additional training can commence.
Step 5: Seek Further Certification
Naturally, a good work record featuring sterling employer references will help you advance in your career as a security guard. To enhance your resume even further, you can add additional certification that testifies to your experience, skills, and accomplishments in the security field.
A highly respected organization called the American Society for Industrial Security, or ASIS International, awards four types of certification for working professionals in the security industry. In general, only those who’ve served successfully in security-related positions for several years are eligible to take ASIS certification exams. Security guards interested in security management can benefit greatly from ASIS certification, which is recognized as something of a gold standard in the industry.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Security Guard
Pros of Becoming a Security Guard
Security guards make clients, customers, residents, and other constituents feel safe and protected, and most will respond to them with gratitude for services rendered. Security guards can work in a wide variety of locations, many with unique security needs, and their services may be required at any time of the night or day, which gives them more freedom than most to customize their working conditions. Security guards who are polite, personable, and proficient in their duties will quickly gain a good reputation within the industry, which they can leverage to secure better jobs and higher wages.
Cons of Becoming a Security Guard
There is an inherent danger in the work of security guards, which no amount of training or diligence can eliminate. As a security guard, you shouldn’t react to this reality with paranoia, but you also can’t afford to put it completely out of your mind, either. Security guards are often called on to work long hours, including overtime if a guard on the next shift is late or ill (which is not an unusual occurrence). Since many locations require security services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, security guards are often asked to work on holidays, or on other special occasions. If security guards are on duty at night and/or in outdoor environments, they may be exposed to inclement weather (i.e., snow, rain, extreme heat or cold).
Important Characteristics of a Successful Security Guard
Security guards must be alert and ever vigilant, sensitive to the smallest discrepancies, anomalies, or signs of suspicious behavior. At the same time, they must remain calm and in control at all times, to avoid overreaction or paranoia (such a reaction could put themselves or others in danger).
While they may be called on to deal with troublesome situations from time to time, most of the individuals that security guards interact with will be the people they were sent to protect and serve. Therefore, they should be personable, polite, respectful, and helpful when dealing with members of the public, filling the role of the dedicated public servant.
Because of the responsibility their job entails, security guards must be honest and reliable. A security guard who takes advantage of their client’s trust to steal money or goods, or commit other crimes of opportunity, would be violating their sacred oath and putting themselves at risk for termination and possibly arrest. Reliability is another vital characteristic security guards must possess, since those who are inattentive or neglect their duties even occasionally may miss serious security violations. This will ultimately put their careers at risk, as no one will want to hire or work with a security guard who takes shortcuts or is easily distracted.
Here we have looked at how to become a security officer, what it is like to be a security guard, salary prospects and how to get a guard license. For people who do not wish to go back to school or stay in school longer, becoming a security guard can be a good career option. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have steady employment and provide a very valuable service. If you will be armed we have considered how to get armed security guard license but the details vary from state to state, but oftentimes an employer will happily give you all the details you need for this. We hope this article was useful to you and that it helped you to move forward in your decision.