How to Craft a Successful Security Guard Career

security guard career

If you’re interested in becoming a security guard, then you likely have a desire to protect and a taste for adventure. But, how exactly do you go about planning a future security guard career?

No matter your previous experience or training, the following step-by-step guide will help ensure you chose a career path that’s not only rewarding, but capable of propelling you into your desired specialization.

Steps Towards a Security Guard Career

Taking the first steps toward a long-term security guard career isn’t always easy or straightforward. But, this effective guide will help simplify what’s often a confusing and misrepresented career.

Step #1 – Choosing the Best Training Program

For many aspiring security guards, the confusion starts right at the beginning. Because the security guard industry is regulated on a state-by-state basis, it’s difficult to identify specific training requirements. While one state may require a specific type of schooling and training hours, other states simply require on-the-job training.

So, how do you go about training for this in-demand career when information comes across as conflicting and vague?

To begin, contact your state licensing board. This organization oversees all regulated professions for the state. From here, it’s relatively easy to uncover training and work requirements for security guards. In many cases, these requirements are listed under different titles. For example, some states categorize security guards under the umbrella term, “Security Enforcement Officers” or “Investigative Professions.”

If you aren’t sure, simply call the licensing board customer service line.

When choosing a training program, look for one with the following qualities;

  • State-Approved Curriculum – If your state requires a specific type and duration of training, confirm this program is accredited and approved to qualify security professionals.
  • Classroom and Practical Training – The most effective security guard training programs combine both classroom-based theoretical lectures and hands-on physical training. Even if your state doesn’t require both forms of training, this mixture of mind and body coursework is imperative for success in this field.
  • Certification – Does the training program offer a certificate of completion? Is the program an accredited certifying institution? For example, certain programs offer a certificate of completion, but this doesn’t mean you’re a certified security guard. If you’re interested in earning an official designation, you’ll need to enroll in a certification program, not just a training program.

Step #2 – Prepare for Continuing Education

Continuing education, which are professional courses designed to build upon already established knowledge, is a requirement for much of the United States. For example, in California security guards must complete 16 hours of continuing education within the initial 30 days of starting work in your first security guard position, which doesn’t include the 8 hour Power to Arrest initial training requirements. In the next six months, new security guards are then required to complete at least 16 more hours of training.

Each state features different continuing education requirements, but even in those without such mandates, regularly completing security-related courses is paramount in today’s competitive marketplace.

Instead of simply enrolling in classes to satisfy a statewide requirement, create a roadmap of specific courses and certifications. While you may not know how you wish to work in the security industry in 5 or 10 years, you should constantly evaluate your opportunities and their requirements.

The quickest way to become obsolete in this constantly evolving industry is to avoid specialization and/or continuing your education. Remember, simply because you’ve mastered one topic doesn’t mean you’re a master of all.

Step #3 – Earn Required Designation

Once you’ve completed state required training, you then qualify to apply for a security guard designation, which is typically a license or official certification.

To obtain a security guard license, you must meet state-specific security guard license requirements. While these requirements can vary, the majority of regions throughout the United States require security guards to hold the following qualifying factors:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of application
  • Completed required training modules/curriculum
  • Pass a physical fitness aptitude test
  • Pass a criminal background investigation and FBI fingerprinting
  • Pass a multi-panel drug screening
  • Qualify for license renewal, which typically consists of specified continuing education hours
  • Pay a licensing fee and agree to professional code of conduct

Step #4 – Apply for Appropriate Jobs

Once licensed, you may be so eager to begin employment that you’ll take any security guard position that crosses your path. While this isn’t a terrible decision, if you can afford to be selective, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Not all security guard jobs are created equal. This is especially true for those wishing to specialize in a specific industry or type of security. Just like choosing where to train is an important component of your future career opportunities, so is your initial employer.

Look for an employer that’s experienced with newly licensed security guards, but also one with a proven record of promoting from within. The goal when first embarking in a security guard career is to secure employment that catalyzes your freshly refined skills, while simultaneously offering unique training opportunities.

If a position is a dead-end job, continue working, but begin formulating your next step. The worst decision a novice guard can make is becoming stagnant. Actively think about your next move and how to accomplish these goals.

Step #5 – Become Certified in a Specialty

It seems no industry is sparred from the current trend of specialization. While generalists will always have a home in a variety of industries, better pay and job security only comes from becoming a specialist.

In the security guard realm, there’s a myriad of unique certification programs. These certifications require specific training and experience, but are often worth every dime and hour of investment.

The cool aspect of becoming a certified security professional is the future career opportunities catalyzed by your decision to undergo additional training and testing. For example, earning a criminal justice certification may be ideal for those looking to eventually branch out into law enforcement or legal system employment.

While your state may offer unique security guard certification designations, national certifying organizations offer programs suitable for guards living in any state or region. Some of the most influential certifying institutions include:

  • AEGIS Guard Card Certification Program
  • International Foundation for Protection Officers (IFPO) – Certified Protection Officer (CPO) Program
  • International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) – Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA) Certification (basic, advanced and supervisor)
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