Security Guards Overview

Favorable job prospects should be expected for security guards, but higher paying jobs will attract more competition. There are limited formal training requirements, although many are increasingly pursing a certificate in security services. Security guard jobs may be hazardous, but are still attractive to individuals because of its flexible educational requirements.

Nature of the Work for Security Guards

Security Guards

Security guards protect properties against theft, fire, terrorism, vandalism and illegal activity by patrolling and inspecting the premises. In some cases, they are armed. Security guards must write reports detailing their activities during their assigned shift. Sometimes, they interview victims or witnesses, testify in court and create case reports.

Security guards basically have the same function at each property, but their job duties vary based on whether they are stationary security or mobile patrol. These two roles differ because a static security officer generally stays in one location for a particular length of time. They must pay close attention to who enters the property and become close acquaintances with the people who use the property. Mobile patrol guards walk or drive from one location to the next, performing routine security checks.

Their job responsibilities also vary from one employer to the next. In some shopping centers and theaters, security guards patrol parking lots to deter car thefts, robberies and assaults. At air, sea and rail terminals guards protect freight, property, equipment and people using metal detectors to screen passengers for explosives and weapons.

Security guards who work in public buildings must watch people leaving and entering the building and inspect packages to determine any suspicious activity. They are also needed for parks, sports stadiums and universities to help perform crowd control and supervising parking and seating.

Those who protect money and valuables during transit are called armored car guards. In addition, they protect individuals that must make bank deposits from injury or theft. They retrieve money or other valuables from firms and transport them to another location. This can be an extremely hazardous job and they are often required to carry firearms and wear bulletproof vests.

Security guards usually spend a lot of time on their feet, either patrolling grounds or standing in one location. They may monitor electronic security or check credentials of people entering the building from a guard desk. They are sometimes stationed at a guardhouse just beyond the entrance to a gated community or facility and may be in contact with the central station by using a cellular telephone or portable radio. Security guards who work day shifts have a considerable amount of interaction with the public.

Typically, security guards will work no longer than 8-hour shifts and may be on call during an emergency. The duties are generally routine, but can sometimes be hazardous to the individual. They must constantly be aware of threats to the property and themselves.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Security Guards

Most unarmed guards are not required to have formal training, however employers prefer armed guards to at least hold a high school diploma. To help their chances of obtaining a job, applicants may complete a security services certificate. In addition, security guards also receive on-the-job training. Armed security guards receive more extensive training because they must learn how to properly use a fire arm. In addition, employers bears the legal responsibility of anyone who uses forces on their property, so they want to ensure all of their guards are well trained. Some employers prefer to hire applicants with an associates degree or bachelors degree in criminal justice or police science.

Recently, many States have been making continued training legally mandatory in order to maintain licensure. They may take training courses in public relations, report writing, crisis deterrence, protection, first aid, or other specialized training that will help them better perform their assignments.

Security guards who are employed at organizations that are in strong need of security, such as a nuclear power plant, undergo an intensive formal training program. This program may last for several months and teaches them how to administer first aid, use an alarm system, firearms, and electronic safety equipment. When the security guard complete the program, they are able to start performing their job, but only under close supervision.

Security guards are required to have licensure in most States. In order to obtain licensure, a person must be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and take training courses on emergency procedures, property rights and retaining a suspected criminal. In addition, security guards usually must pass ongoing and periodic drug testing. Armed guards must have the proper licensure from a government authority and some go on to receive certification as special police officers, which grants them the right to make arrests in some cases. Armed guards must pass a more strict background check before receiving their license.

Although certification is not mandatory, those security guards who want a smooth transition into their next career are advised to obtain it. ASIS International provides the Certified Protection Professional designation to such individuals.

Employers seek out former law enforcement officers and those who have shown responsibility in past occupations. As extensive background checks are becoming common during hiring, applicants should have no serious police record, be in good health and have great character references. They must also be emotionally stable, physically fit and mentally alert. Those who work day shifts or come in contact with the public should have good communications skills.

Armed security guards make higher wages and earn benefits, have more job security and the potential for advancement. Opportunities for advancement are good because most people do not stay in the occupation for a long period of time. Large security guard organizations have a ranking system that is similar to the military and offers the possibility of advancement in salary and position. Security guards who have a postsecondary certificate, associates or bachelors degree should have the best opportunities for advancement and are usually the first candidates for promotions to supervisory positions. In some cases, security guards who have management training start their own contract security guard agencies. They may also switch to a large firm that needs high level of security, offering them a higher pay scale and more prestige.

Top 10 Most Popular Security Services Schools

1. Orange Technical College, Mid Florida (Orlando, Florida)
2. Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, Florida)
3. Lincoln Land Community College (Springfield, Illinois)
4. Hillsborough Community College (Tampa, Florida)
5. YTI Career Institute, York (York, Pennsylvania)
6. University of New Haven (West Haven, Connecticut)
7. Farmingdale State College (Farmingdale, New York)
8. Southwestern College, Winfield (Winfield, Kansas)
9. Gulf Coast State College, Panama City (Panama City, Florida)
10. International Institute of the Americas - Tucson (Tucson, Arizona)

See All Security Services Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Security Services Schools

1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. Kaplan University - Online School
3. ITT Technical Institute Online
4. Walden University - Online School
5. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
6. Capella University - Online School
7. University of Maryland University College
8. Keiser University - Online School
9. Eastern Kentucky University - Online School
10. Thomas Edison State College - Online School

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Employment and Job Outlook for Security Guards

Number of People in Profession

1,028,830

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

Of the 1.1 million jobs for security guards, 55 percent of them are in investigation and security services. These firms contract their security guards out to buildings and other sites. Businesses and governments are also top employers for security officers. Although security jobs are found around the country, most are located in heavily populated, metropolitan areas. A large amount of law enforcement officers work as security guards when they are off duty to supplement their incomes.

Security guards should expect an employment growth of 14 percent in the next decade, which is faster than average. It is projected that over 152,500 jobs will be created as concerns about vandalism, crime and terror increases the need for security. As private security firms continue to provide services at public events and in residential neighborhoods, a demand for security guards will grow. Private firms are also projected to offer more protection to facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals.

Security guards should expect favorable opportunities because of the need to replace experience workers who permanently leave the occupation. It is an ideal job because of the relatively short training period, full-time benefits and flexible hours. Strong competition is projected for the higher paying jobs that are mostly found in high level security areas, such as a weapons installation plant.

Earnings and Salary for Security Guards

The median annual salary of security guards is $23,820 and the middle 50 percent earn between $19,460 and $30,580. The top 10 percent earn more than $40,230, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $16,840. The median annual salary for top employing industries of security guards is:

General medical and surgical hospitals: $29,020
Elementary and secondary schools: $27,980
Local government: $25,660
Traveler accommodation: $25,660
Investigation and security services: $22,170

Annual Salary for Security Guards

On average, Security Guards earn $23,820 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $16,840/yr $19,460/yr $30,580/yr $40,230/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook