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Security Guard Career

Career Description

Security guards, also called security officers,  patrol and inspect property to protect against fire, theft, vandalism,  terrorism, and illegal activity. These workers protect their employer’s investment, enforce laws on the property, and deter criminal activity and other problems. They use radio and telephone communications to call for assistance from police, fire, or emergency medical services as the situation dictates.  Security guards write comprehensive reports outlining their observations and activities during their assigned shift. They also may interview witnesses or victims, prepare case reports, and testify in court.

Common Work Tasks

  • Become closely acquainted with the property and people associated with their station and must often monitor alarms and closed-circuit TV cameras
  • Drive or walk from one location to another and conduct security checks within an assigned geographical zone
  • Detain or arrest criminal violators, answer service calls concerning criminal activity or problems, and issue traffic violation warnings
  • Work with undercover store detectives to prevent theft by customers or employees, and help apprehend shoplifting suspects prior to the arrival of the police
  • Patrol parking lots to deter car thefts and robberies
  • Inspect people and packages entering and leaving the building
  • Perform crowd control, supervise parking and seating, and direct traffic
  • Screen passengers and visitors for weapons and explosives, ensure that nothing is stolen while a vehicle is being loaded or unloaded, and watch for fires and criminals
  • Check the credentials of people and vehicles entering and leaving the premises

Other Job Titles

Security Guards are also known by other titles, including:

  • Police Officer
  • Armored Car Guard
  • Surveillance Agent
  • Gaming Investigator
  • Security Officer

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Many employers of unarmed guards do not have any specific educational requirements.  For armed guards, employers usually prefer individuals who are high school graduates or who hold an equivalent certification.

Many employers give newly hired guards instruction before they start the job and provide on-the-job training. The amount of training guards receive varies. Training is more rigorous for armed guards because their employers are legally responsible for any use of force.  Armed guards receive formal training in areas such as weapons retention and laws covering the use of force. They may be periodically tested in the use of firearms.

Licensure and Certification
  Most States require that guards be licensed. To be licensed as a guard, individuals must usually be at least 18 years old, pass a background check, and complete classroom training in such subjects as property rights, emergency procedures,  and detention of suspected criminals. Drug testing often is required and may be random and ongoing.

Guards who carry weapons must be licensed by the appropriate government authority, and some receive further certification as special police officers, allowing them to make limited types of arrests while on duty. Armed guard positions have more stringent background checks and entry requirements than those of unarmed guards.

  Most jobs require a driver’s license. For positions as armed guards, employers often seek people who have had responsible experience in other occupations. Rigorous hiring and screening programs consisting of background, criminal record, and fingerprint checks are becoming the norm in the occupation. Applicants are expected to have good character references, no serious police record, and good health. They should be mentally alert, emotionally stable, and physically fit to cope with emergencies. Guards who have frequent contact with the public should communicate well.


The median annual salary for Security Guards is $22,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $37,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $15,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of security guards are:

  • Investigation and Security Services - $22,710
  • Local Government - $29,400
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $28,850
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $29,910
  • Traveler Accommodation - $26,200

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  17%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 175,000
  • Employment 2006 : 1,040,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,216,000
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