How to Become a Security Guard
When you walk into a business, the first person you might see is the security guard. They’re a key part of the operations at the company, providing both security for the business's assets and peace of mind for the employees and customers. If you’re interested in becoming a security guard, you’ve made a good choice – the security industry is a thriving part of the U.S. economy, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 15% annual growth through 2030.
Not sure how to become a security guard? Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this rising profession, including the average security guard salary, requirements to become a security guard, and more.
Security Guard Duties
In general, a security guard’s duties will revolve around overseeing the safety and security of the establishment where they work. That’s very broad, though, and while job responsibilities may differ depending on the particular position, most security officer jobs require a certain set of essential job duties. Those include:
- Safeguard property and equipment
- Enforce the safety protocol of an establishment
- Provide loss prevention
- Carry out the organization’s legal requirements and standards
- Offer assistance to people in need
Most unarmed security guard positions are entry-level, meaning you can usually find an open position that doesn’t require a lot of experience aside from becoming licensed (more on that later). Then, depending on your career aspirations, you can advance to different levels of security management like Chief Guard or Director of Security. Or, you can branch off into other types of security guard roles if you’re interested in that route. Take a look at some common next steps for security guards below.
Types of Security Guards
If you’re starting out as an unarmed guard, these are some of your future career options:
- Armed Guard – A security guard equipped with a firearm. Requires more training as well as a license to carry.
- Armored Car Driver/Guard – Drivers and guards are in charge of transporting valuables between locations, protecting these valuables in transit, and loading/unloading the armored car.
- Loss Prevention Specialist – These guards are found in retail locations and are dedicated to minimizing “shrink,” which is the disappearance of inventory due to theft, fraud, accident, or abuse.
- Surveillance Officer – Often employed by hotels and casinos to complement their physical security teams, these guards spend most of their time in the security office watching video feeds for suspicious activities.
- Security Consultant/Coordinator – Security consultants are hired by other companies or firms to provide feedback on their security systems or test for weaknesses.
- High School or GED (36.7%)
- Bachelor's Degree (21.9%)
- Vocational Degree or Certification (15.8%)
- Associate's Degree (13.9%)
- Master's Degree (6.3%)
- Some College (3.0%)
- Some High School (1.3%)
- Doctorate Degree (1.0%)
Licensing and CertificationSecurity Guards offer the following licenses and certifications
- - Guard Card
- - CPR First Aid
- - CPR/AED
- - CPR Certified
- - Transportation Worker Identification Credential
- - Emergency Medical Technician-Basic
- - OSHA Certified
- - Top Secret Clearance
- - Security Officer Registration Act (SORA) Certified
- - Certified Emergency Medical Technician
- - Basic Law Enforcement Training
Qualifications / SkillsThe following top skills are often required or desired to land a Security Guard position
Armed Security, Background Investigations, CCTV Monitoring, Closing, Communication Skills, Corporate Security, Criminal Justice, Crowd Control, Customer Service, Driving
- Less than 1 year (43.9%)
- None (38.5%)
- 1-2 years (16.5%)
- 2-4 years (1.1%)
Requirements to Be a Security Guard
A high school diploma or GED is all that’s necessary for most entry-level security positions. However, more lucrative opportunities often demand an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, security management, police science, or similar focus areas. Getting an advanced degree will significantly increase the opportunities available to you.
In terms of training and licensing, those requirements will vary from state to state. Check out this website to see what is required to get a “guard card” in your area. Some general licenses that are good to have include CPR First Aid, OSHA certification, and an active security clearance.
Specialized security areas such as video surveillance or armed protection require further training and wide-ranging certifications. It also helps to have proficient writing skills since a large part of the role is filing reports of your activities.
Finally, almost all employers or security firms will run a background check on you. A clean criminal background and drug test are mandatory for nearly every security guard role.
Security Guard Training
Specialized instruction is often done with private security contractors and consulting groups. This coursework regularly centers on a specific skill (such as conflict resolution) or scenario (such as an active shooter situation). Completing additional security guard training will increase your marketability, but becoming certified and/or licensed will open a lot more doors for your security career.
How Much Do Security Guards Make?
The median annual salary for a full-time security guard in the U.S. is just above $30,000, or about $15 an hour, but some factors could lower or raise that number. Those factors include whether you’re armed, if you’re working the night shift or the day shift, and what kind of employer you’re working for (ex., a bank vs. a school).
- United States
**Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Security guard wages also vary significantly by location, so use our free Salary Research Tool to find the salaries in your area.
When writing a security guard resume, as with any resume, you need to tailor it to the specific job description. That means looking for keywords in the job ad and including them on your resume when applicable. This allows you to get past a company’s automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and in front of a real person.
A key difference that security guards have compared to most other resumes is the need for a guard card, or security guard license. If your state requires you to be licensed, you should make sure it’s clear on your resume that you are licensed. Additionally, if the job requires other certifications, be sure to include those in your training and professional development section as well.
Lastly, because many security guard positions are entry-level, you may not have a lot of prior job experience to list on your resume. That’s ok. You’ll stand out from the crowd if you highlight your training and any related activities or transferable skills you’ve picked up elsewhere. Just remember to look at the job description closely and add any of the keywords and skills that you have to your resume.