Security Guard: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for security guards. Get the facts about education requirements, licensure, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Criminal Justice & Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Security Guard?

Security guards protect people and property in office buildings, apartment complexes and other locations. They are responsible for preventing any illegal activity, including theft or vandalism, to the best of their ability. They will also enforce any rules of the property. Security guards may patrol areas during security checks, or work from a stationary location where they monitor security cameras and/or alarms. They may be required to detain violators, provide detailed reports on their observations of any situations or testify in court. Other duties tend to vary depending on the place of employment, but all security guards must be alert and quick to act in emergency situations. Find out about this career by reviewing the table below.

Education Required High school diploma or GED; on-the-job training
Key Skills Physical strength, alertness, decision-making, problem-solving
Licensure Most states require licensure for security guards
Job Growth (2014-2024)5%*
Average Salary (2015) $28,460*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Security Guard Tasks?

Security guards may be employed in any place where the safety of people and property is important. This can include office buildings, retail businesses, museums, casinos, hospitals, colleges, financial institutions, hotels, nightclubs, sports stadiums and airports. You'll screen individuals entering and exiting secured areas by conducting bag checks and verifying identity. You patrol your assigned areas to deter criminal activity, monitor critical areas by watching closed-circuit television, detain suspects and write detailed reports of all activities that occur.

Some security guards are armed with weapons, but many are not. In some instances, you may be charged with transporting people from one area to another, acting as a personal guard. In general, you'll enforce any rules determined by your employer. Typically, you'll work no more than 40 hours per week covering daytime, evening and overnight shifts.

What Can I Expect from this Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for security guards was expected to grow by 5% from 2014-2024, a fast as average rate for all occupations (www.bls.gov). In 2015, there were over one million people in security guard positions with growth spurred by increasing concerns for security in increasingly high-crime environments. The highest employed industries of this career in May 2015 were investigation and security services and general medical and surgical hospitals.

According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for security guards in the U.S. was $28,460, as of May 2015. The District of Columbia paid security guards the highest average in the nation at $39,010 in May 2015. The states with the highest number of security guards were California, New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois stated the BLS.

What Requirements Do I Need?

Many employers prefer to hire high school graduates for armed security guard positions. If you choose to work security in casinos, you'll need to have at least an associate degree. Consider a criminal justice program, they will provide you with coursework in criminalists, law and corrections. Aside from these specific positions, there are no specific educational requirements for getting a job in this field. Employers usually provide on-the-job training. The amount and content of this training varies by employer and by the type of duties that you'll perform.

Virtually all positions require a criminal background check and most employers require drug testing. In most states, security guards are required to obtain licensure. Voluntary certification can be earned through ASIS International (www.asisonline.org). To be eligible for this certification you must have a bachelor's degree and seven years of experience, or nine years experience as a security guard.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Here we will discuss some alternative career options, all of which require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. One option is to become a correctional officer or bailiff. Correctional officers manage individuals in jail who are awaiting trial or have been sentenced to jail time. Bailiffs keep the courts of law safe and orderly. Another option is gaming services worker. These professionals serve customers in gambling establishments. This may include dealing cards or paying out winnings. Private detectives and investigators are yet another option for people interested in investigating crimes or gathering information about various areas of people's lives.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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