Become a Security Guard

A security guard is responsible for keeping people and property safe from theft, illegal activity, and harm. He must always be on the lookout for suspicious activity and must act quickly to detain criminals or investigate anything out of the ordinary. Security guards need to have physical strength, patience, quick decision making skills, and strong powers of observation and their work is as rewarding as it is challenging.


Meeting the Requirements

  1. Be at least 18 years of age. In order to be a security guard, you must be at least 18 years old in in the United States. However, the age requirement may be different depending on the country where you're looking for work. For example, you need only be 17 to apply to be a security guard in Hong Kong, but you have to be at least 19 to work as a security guard in British Columbia, Canada. If you'd like a position where you'll be armed, then you typically need to be at least 21 years old in the United States.
  2. Have a clean record. When you put in your application to be a security guard, you will have to pass a background check to more forward in the process. You'll need to take a drug test and have your fingerprints scanned. If you choose a position where you'll need to be armed, then an even more thorough check may be done. The thoroughness of the background check also depends on the state; for example, in Texas, you'll need to prepare for an “FBI style” background check.
  3. Have a high school diploma or a GED. Though all you'll need to be a security guard in most places is a high school diploma or it's equivalent, some companies prefer to hire guards with a two or even a four-year degree in criminal justice or police science. Though getting this degree just for the purpose of being a security guard may not be necessary, having a background in these fields will make you a more desirable candidate.
    • You may also need a bachelor's degree to work at a high-class facility such as a casino.[1]
  4. Have a driver's license to make yourself a more desirable candidate. Though this isn't mandatory and may not apply to you if the work you choose doesn't require you to drive as part of your commute or while on the job, having a driver's license can make you a more desirable candidate and will make you open to more types of positions. Consider procuring a driver's license before you begin the application process, if it's not too much of a challenge.
    • For example, having a driver's license is essential for being an armored car guard.
    • If the workplace where you're seeking employment knows you have a car and a license, you'll be a more desirable candidate because you'll have an easier time getting there than somebody without a car.
  5. Follow the requirements of your country or state. The requirements to be a security guard are different in different countries, and even in different states. Before you apply for this position, you'll need to look into what your country or state require of you before you move forward. Here are some differences to keep in mind:
    • In the United States, for example, you'll need to complete state certified training in Delaware, training at an approved training center in Texas, and on-the-job training in New York. Each state has different requirements, so it's important to know what you're signing up for.
    • For example, to be a security guard in the United Kingdom, you'll need to complete your training to receive a Security Industry Authority License.

Getting Licensed

  1. Apply for a license in your area. Check out the requirements of your state or country to make sure that you meet the age, education, or any other requirements you may need. Once you turn in your application and are approved to begin training, you can move forward. You'll have to undergo a background check before you can be approved to begin training. You'll have to pay an application fee; the cost varies, but it hovers around $50, which is what you'll have to pay to apply in California.
  2. Complete your training. Each state and country has its own training requirements, but it's likely that you'll be training in how to detain suspects, property rights, and emergency procedures. Some states have state-mandated training while others allow training from a third-party company, so it depends on the laws of your particular state. Some will even focus on on-the-job training. In general, training takes about 40 hours, and you'll complete the first 8 hours before starting work, and will complete the 16 more hours after a month of training and the rest after around six months of training.
    • It's typical for employees to provide instruction for newly-hired guards, though the amount of training you'll get on the job will vary.
    • Your training may even include learning about protection, public relations, report writing, and first aid.
    • In many states, you'll also continue to do 8 hours of yearly training so you stay up-to-date.
  3. Complete training for additional requirements, such as carrying a firearm, baton, or tear gas. Some guard duties require you to carry a firearm, baton, or even tear gas. With power comes responsibility, so if this sounds like the right path for you, you'll need to complete additional training — typically at an additional cost — to get licensed to carry these additional weapons. Jobs that require you to carry these weapons tend to offer higher pay. Remember that this license will allow you to carry a weapon on the job, but not to carry a concealed weapon in your daily life.
    • For example, the permit for carrying a firearm as a guard in California costs $80 dollars and you'll need 14 additional hours of training.
    • One career choice can be to be an armored car guard, which is a guard who protects money and other valuables during transit. You'll work with a team of guards to pick up money from businesses and move them to another location. You'll need a firearm and will wear a bulletproof vest, because this can be dangerous work. That said, the pay is higher than it is in other types of guard work.[2]
    • Just know that being an armed guard is not possible in every country. In fact, it's illegal in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, or the Netherlands. However, in some other countries, such as Israel, it is mandatory for security guards to be armed.
  4. Register your fingerprints. After you've completed your licensing requirements and application, you'll be issued a fingerprint card that you'll need to take to an agency-approved fingerprinting site in order to have your fingerprints registered. You'll have to pay a fee, somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, to have them processed. This is an important step that will make your job as a security guard official.
    • Registering your fingerprints will also ensure that it'll be known if you commit any future offenses.
  5. After getting your license, find work in a sector of your choice. The options are almost endless when it comes to finding a place where you can work as a security guard. However, the type of place where you choose to work will greatly affect what your work days will look like, so it's important to consider this when making a choice. Be aware that it can take a while to find a full-time security guard position; however, there are many additional part-time jobs available around the holidays, and some of them can turn into full-time jobs.[3] Still, it will take determination and perseverance to find work. Here are some places where you can seek employment:[4]
    • Retail stores. Security guards in retail stores protect people, records, merchandise, money, and equipment. They may also work as undercover detectives to prevent customers and employees from shoplifting.
    • 'Office buildings, banks, hotels, and hospitals. Security guards in these locations work to keep the customers, staff, and property safe.
    • Museums and art galleries. Security guards in these locations work to protect the paintings and exhibits from the people at the museums. They may also work at a security line near the entrances and may have to look through handbags of patrons.
    • Factories, government buildings, and military bases. Here, the security guards not only protect the workers and the equipment, but they also check the credentials of the people and the vehicles that enter and leave the premises to make sure that no unauthorized people enter these locations.
    • Schools and universities. Here, guards patrol the buildings and the grounds and keep the students safe. They may also work at school events and keep the campuses safe at night.
    • Parks and sports stadiums. The security guards at parks and stadiums control crowds, direct traffic, and help people find their seats.
    • Bars and nightclubs. The guards here make sure people are old enough to enter, turn away rowdy or drunk patrons, and keep people in order.

Going on the Job

  1. Complete your daily duties. Of course, your job description will vary significantly depending on the place where you work. However, there are some duties that many security guards have to fulfill during their time on the job. To be successful at what you do, you have to perform them rigorously while making sure never to take your eyes off the people and property under your protection. Here are the duties you may typically have to do:
    • Monitor alarms and closed-circuit TV cameras
    • Control access for employees and visitors by checking their credentials
    • Conduct security checks at the entrance of a building
    • Write daily or weekly reports of what you observed
    • Detain violators
    • Interview witnesses for court testimony
  2. Have patience. One thing you'll need to succeed as a security guard is patience and lots of it. Much of your job will lie in standing around and looking out for trouble. You may go days, or even weeks, without finding something to act on. Of course, this depends on the line of work — if you have to help people go through security, then you'll have less down time. Either way, you'll have to have the patience to stand around and focus on your job without letting your mind drift.
    • Even if something out of the ordinary or dangerous only happens for five minutes a day, you need to have the patience to stay alert to stop trouble before it gets out of control.
  3. Communicate well. Whether you work with a partner, patrol a store with several other guards, or have to instruct people who go through security at the front of a building, it's important to have people skills to do your job well. You want to be firm without coming off as gruff to help people quickly get through security, and you want to have a good working relationship with any colleagues so you can keep each other in the loop about any potential problems that you've come across.
    • Though much of your job may not require you to talk much, when you do communicate with others, it has to count. If you see a suspicious customer at the other end of the store, you have to make it clear that the other guards should be alert to it.
  4. Be observant. A security guard needs to be extremely observant. You have to be able to watch the world and people around you and to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. You may spot a shoplifter, a brewing fight, or a customer who is obviously drunk and needs to be escorted from the store. If you're an armoured car guard, then you may spot something much worse — a criminal who wants to rob your cash-filled car. You need to have your eyes and ears open at all times and never stop being on watch, no matter how seemingly ordinary your day seems.
    • There's a reason why security guards were formerly called “watchmen.” Your job is to keep watch over the people and property you're responsible for, and not to let your mind drift for a second.
  5. Keep up your physical strength. Security guards need to be physically fit. Not only will your job most likely require standing on your feet all day, but you may also have to move property if your job calls for it. Most importantly, you'll need your strength in case you need to detain a person; you have to be quick and strong so you don't let any criminals slip through your fingers. You should also have physical stamina in order to endure the many hours you will spend standing up; if you're a guard in a museum or another place where you are required to sit, you will also need stamina to stay in this same position, too.
    • Make sure to have at least a few days of cardio training and strength-building exercises each week.
  6. Use quick decision-making skills. When you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you'll need to quickly decide how you should proceed. You may see that a criminal is getting away and will need to determine how he can be most efficiently detained. You'll need to know shortcuts and hiding spots, and you'll need to know when to quickly ask for help from the other guards. You can't dilly dally or you'll be letting a dangerous person get out of your hands, or worse, you could cause harm to yourself, others, and the property you're supposed to be protecting.[5]
    • It's important to be alert during all points of your job, so your mind can quickly come up with a solution when the job calls for it. If you find yourself nodding off while standing up, you won't be able to make a snap decision when you awake to find that a customer is stealing a valuable piece of property.
  7. Advance in your career. If you are an exceptional security guard, you may be able to move up in your career in the future. If you gain many years of experience, you may even become a supervisor of other guards, or even a security manager. If you're armed, then you have a greater chance of moving forward in your career and will also make a higher salary in the process.
    • You may also work at an organization that contains higher levels of security, which will raise your salary.
    • Some guards who have a lot of experience as well as management skills even open up their own security guard businesses.

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