How to Become a Security Officer

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

Career Information At a Glance

Security officers guard and protect premises against potential thefts, robberies, and other unlawful activities. Critical thinking and observation skills are the most important skills required to succeed in this profession. Check out the following table for more details.

Common Education High school diploma or equivalent
Key Skills Good judgment, patience, monitoring, and communication skills
Training Required Short-term on-the-job training
Licensure/Certification Vary by state
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% (security guards)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $28,490 (security guards)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Security Officer Do?

Security officers are responsible for protecting people and property against any illegal activity through patrolling and monitoring the premises, but responsibilities may differ from one workplace to another. In some workplaces such as retail stores, security officers patrol parking lots, protect the people and merchandise, and prevent thefts by customers and employees. In other workplaces such as offices and apartment complexes, security officers guard workers, residents, and equipment through monitoring vehicles and persons who enter and leave the premises. Other day- to-day activities include securing the entrances and exits of buildings, responding to and investigating emergencies, and writing daily reports of usual and unusual occurrences.

Do I need a Degree?

There are not usually specific education requirements to become a security officer. However, most security officers need a high school diploma or equivalent to secure a job. Some may continue their education to complete a post-secondary course to improve their investigation skills.

What are the Training Requirements?

Most employers provide on-the-job training to their security officers. The training of newly hired security officers usually lasts for a few weeks where they are trained in proper communication, first aid, emergency procedures, and detention of suspected criminals. Security officers may also receive specialized short-term on-the-job training annually related to their assignments. Armed security officers are provided more extensive training related to firearm safety, as they carry weapons.

Do I need to be Licensed or Certified?

Nearly all states require security officers to be registered with the state. The requirements vary from state to another, but essential qualifications include being at least 18 years old, passing a criminal background check, and completing training. Some states also require security officers to possess a valid driver's license. Armed security officers are additionally required to possess a valid firearm license and to complete specialized armed security guard training.

What are the Job Prospects and Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, security officers, or guards, earned a median salary of $28,490 annually, in 2018. The job outlook for security guards is good, as they are continuously in demand for protection from crime and vandalism. Between 2016-26, the estimated job growth of security guards is projected at 6%. Even with ample job opportunities, there is likely to be strong competition for high paying jobs.

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