Security and Investigation

Security and Investigation

Industry Outlook

Even though crime has been on the decline in the United States for some time, the outlook for the security and investigation industry is generally good. Public-sector budget cutting is curtailing the ability of many state and local police departments to control crime. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic, which started in late 2019, caused many corporations to cut their budgets and reduce staff, including security workers. According to a recent security industry outlook, "the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of technology as a force multiplier." For example, in "potentially virus-ridden environments, systems like video access control and drone surveillance with video analytics can bolster a security force." Security officers will always be needed, but technology can help them with their work.

The accelerated distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 is projected to bolster the economy. As businesses reopen and employees return to offices, there will be an increase in demand for security services. The research group IBISWorld estimated the U.S. security services industry to be valued at $46.3 billion in 2021, with .2 percent growth expected that year, and 3.4 percent annualized growth from 2016 through 2021. As of early 2021, there were 14,760 security services businesses employing 861,045 people in the U.S. The security and investigation services that were furloughed during the pandemic will probably be brought back, and employees will transition back to working on site in offices. Consumer spending is expected to increase post pandemic, which will lead to increased demand for security services in the coming years.

Privatization of prisons has created more job opportunities for security and investigation workers. In addition, the ongoing battle against terrorism has increased the public's desire for security. One market research firm estimated that revenues for the investigation and security services industry grew by nearly 3 percent annually from 2015 through 2020. Projections for the industry in post-pandemic years are yet to be determined, but growth is expected as the U.S. reopens businesses and the economy strengthens. Cybersecurity is expected to continue growing, and Forbes magazine estimates the total revenue for the global cybersecurity sector to reach $270 billion by 2026, rising from an estimated $173 billion in 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4 percent employment growth for security guards and an 8 percent growth for private detectives and investigators through 2028; this compares very favorably to the 5 percent average growth projected for all occupations.

General interest in security will create many new jobs, with additional job openings due to turnover. Competition is expected to be strongest for the higher-paying positions that require more training. For part-time positions, police officers who seek work outside their regular duty hours are likely to have an advantage, provided their department allows moonlighting; employers value their higher level of training and the full police powers that they retain even while moonlighting. Industry leaders are concerned about the level of training that guards receive; not even half the states require all armed guards to be licensed. Guards also work with very little oversight.

In recent years, the armored car services sector has grown only modestly in terms of revenue and has actually seen slight decreases in the number of employees. This trend seems likely to continue, as various forms of credit and electronic payment are increasingly replacing cash for transactions.

Employment of private detectives and investigators in all industries is projected to grow by 8 percent, with approximately 2,600 jobs added by 2028. Some opportunities will arise from computer crimes, such as identity theft and Internet scams. Many workers will be needed to do background checks, largely because of an increased need for caretakers for children and the elderly. The rapidly increasing amount of digital information about people has created many new opportunities for investigation but also has raised the level of skill that investigators need. Although the work is not as glamorous as it is portrayed by Hollywood—it can be stressful and often involves monitoring or contacting people outside of regular work hours—strong competition is expected for job openings, especially from people transitioning from careers in law enforcement and the military. Opportunities are likely to be best in entry-level positions in detective agencies. Investigators who specialize in digital forensic work do not need a license in some states that require licensing for other kinds of private investigators, but a license can still be an advantage because it allows for follow-up investigative work.

Across all industries, employment of security and fire alarm systems installers is projected to grow by almost more than 11 percent, with 8,600 jobs added by 2028. Job-seekers with college training and certification in electronics will have an advantage in finding work.