How to Become a Security Guard | Requirements & Salary 

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With a security guard career, you have a choice of many types of places and people to protect.

Don’t get the impression from movies or TV shows that you just sit at a desk. As you’ll read on how to become a security guard, this job is not for those who crave sedentary work.

What Does a Security Guard Do?

security license

When you put on the uniform and badge, you become a gatekeeper, watch person, police (of sorts) and sometimes first-responder. Your duties include:

  • Premises patrol
  • Watch the video cameras
  • Monitor and respond to alarms
  • Examine individuals’ authorization or credentials to enter the premises or particular spaces
  • Request that occupants follow rules on the property, expelling the disobedient if necessary
  • Order trespassers or unauthorized entrants to leave property
  • Contact law enforcement or emergency responders
  • Report incidents of or attempts at vandalism, theft or breaking and entering
  • De-escalate confrontations or disturbances involving patrons or visitors
  • Operate and monitor metal detectors and other screening equipment to screen entrants for weapons, contraband and other items prohibited by the property owner or proprietor

Your Work Environment

Generally, security guards work full-time hours. You do have some options for employment as a part time security guard.

Bottom Line: according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), nearly one in every seven security guards log less than 40 hours per week.

Make yourself available for late-night, predawn, weekend or holiday shifts. Many business operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Depending on who employs you, your work environment may include the outdoors as well as inside the building. This means you might encounter temperature extremes, rain, wind and perhaps even ice or snow.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Security Guard?

part time security guard

Be Observant

Even if you sit at a desk, a security guard position is not a job for lazy people. Whether you sit, stand or walk, you must vigilantly watch your surroundings for thieves, vandals or other security breaches.

Being observant helps you catch stealth or intoxicated actors up to no good on the property.

Be Assertive, Yet Restrained

You need the ability to communicate with authority. This means clear words, eye contact and no equivocation in your warnings to rule breakers or trespassers.

However, don’t grasp the need to become an “action hero.” The ability to show restraint helps you defuse potentially volatile, hostile or violent crowds or encounters.

Solving Problems Quickly

A security guard career presents many situations that require you to promptly act and solve problems.

You need to know the location of exits and fire extinguishers. The scenarios may include thefts, assaults among a few patrons, outright mayhem or even potentially events of mass danger.

Have Stamina

Think being a security is a job for lazy people? You might spend several hours standing on or walking the property.

You’ll need stamina, even if you take a part time security guard job, to stand, walk or even sit at a desk. If you’re not careful, being in a chair might lead you to nap just enough for a criminal or other threat to befall the property.

How to Become a Security Guard

By O*NET’s account, nearly nine out of every ten security guards have a high school diploma. Normally, being a high school graduate or GED holder will suffice.

The Training

Most of your education as a security guard comes via training from your employer or from a privately-run security guard training company. You’ll become schooled in functions and situations such as:

  • Crisis management or deterrence
  • Premises safety
  • Public relations
  • Limitations on authority to restrain or use force
  • Keeping records of incidents and security conditions on property
  • Firearms (if you’re becoming an armed security guard)
  • First aid

At a minimum, expect to accumulate eight hours of training before you start work.

The on-the-job part likely will last at least eight to 16 hours, depending on the preferences of the state where you intend to work.

security guard career

Bring Experience From Related Fields

Those with prior experience in law enforcement or the military may find a security guard job on a lateral-entry basis.

If you come from those ranks, you’ll bring physical fitness, the ability to handle and use firearms, other tactical skills and experience handling crises.

Am I Required to Have a Security License?

In most states, the answer is yes. The license requirement goes for armed and unarmed guards alike.

You’re exempted from the mandate if you’re employed directly by the owner or occupier of the property rather than by a company providing security service.

In fact, such security services must normally hold permits and licenses to operate.

How to Get a Security License

The standards vary to some degree across state lines, so you need to consult the private security or protective services licensing agency on how to become a security guard. You’ll generally find these common threads:

The second requirement deserves some special attention. Passing the character test certainly involves you having a clean or very good criminal record.

The second requirement deserves some special attention. Passing the character test certainly involves you having a clean or very good criminal record.

How to Become a Security Guard - The Armed Version?

Armed security guards, even those employed by the property owner, must hold permits to carry firearms.

This requires training and that you’re not disqualified from owning or using a firearm. In this regard, the following will keep from becoming an armed security guard:

  • Felony
  • Misdemeanor assault and batteries
  • Being under a domestic violence restraining order
  • Conviction for a crime of domestic violence
  • A court ruling of the presence of a mental defect
  • Involuntary commitment to a mental institution or psychiatric facility

Check with your state's private security or protective services agency on how to become a security guard if you plan to use firearms.

Where Can You Find a Security Guard Job?

security guard job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that an average 144,000 “Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance” jobs will come open annually between 2019 and 2029.

Search for jobs among establishments that keep money and merchandise and want to keep it from criminals.

These places include malls, other shopping centers, banks, jewelry stores and clothing. Part time positions may come relatively easy to find during Christmas and other times where retail demand runs high.

Bottom Line: hotels, resorts, hospitals, university campuses, commercial offices, apartment complexes, gated communities, industrial plants and sport venues also commonly hire security guards.

Begin your career as a security guard with training, maintaining a good criminal background and a willingness to handle irregular hours and emergency or urgent situations.

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