Education and Training Requirements

High School

Since bodyguards must be prepared for any possibility, the more skilled and knowledgeable they are in a range of areas, the better the protection they can offer someone. If you are interested in becoming a bodyguard, in high school you should take courses in a variety of subjects, including psychology, English, and especially physical education.

Postsecondary Training

Bodyguards often begin their careers in civilian law enforcement or the military, where they learn the necessary skills of crowd control, use of weapons, and emergency response. Those wanting to become a security professional working for a government agency, such as the U.S. Department of State, will need to complete a bachelor's degree. Generally, bodyguards have some higher education, although a college degree is not always necessary. A well-educated person can often be the most responsive to rapidly changing situations, and, of course, work in crowd psychology, law, and criminal justice can help a bodyguard better understand the demands of the job. On-the-job experience with different types of people in stressful situations is an integral part of the training. Depending on the employer, new hires may also need to complete between several weeks to several months of training covering topics such as criminal law, use of firearms, personal protection techniques, and first aid.

Other Education or Training

ASIS International offers webinars, classes, and other continuing education opportunities on topics such as executive protection, recognizing and assessing suspicious indicators, and nonviolent confrontation management. Contact the organization for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification, while not required, will enhance your professional image in the eyes of potential employers. ASIS International administers the certified protection professional program. Applicants must have a certain amount of education or professional experience and pass a multiple choice exam focusing on seven areas of security management: security principles and practices, business principles and practices, personnel security, physical security, information security, crisis management, and investigations. ASIS International also offers the associate protection professional designation to individuals with one to four years of experience in security management, as well as the physical security professional designation to those whose responsibilities include conducting physical security assessments and developing or working with integrated security systems.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

It will be hard to get actual experience as a bodyguard while you are still in school, but criminal justice classes and internships or part-time jobs in law enforcement will be useful.

Since many bodyguards are former police officers, bodyguards generally must be above the minimum age for police officers. This minimum age varies from 18 to 21, depending on the city or state. If a bodyguard comes from the police ranks, he or she must also have passed a thorough physical exam. Many bodyguards also begin their careers as security guards or as other types of security personnel, for which they receive special training. Other bodyguards come from a military background.

Excellent physical fitness is a requirement for a bodyguard. Despite a popular image of bodyguards as big and tough men, and despite the fact that larger men can serve as deterrents, extreme physical strength is not an absolute requirement and many women have made successful careers as bodyguards. It is much more important that a bodyguard combine intelligence, sensitivity, and bravery with the ability to act quickly and decisively. The ability to blend into a crowd is also helpful.

Many bodyguards receive training in martial arts, and increasingly they are incorporating the study of counter-intelligence operations, electronic security devices, and surveillance techniques. Bodyguards often have training in first aid. Many bodyguards are also trained in specialized defensive driving techniques that enable them to maintain better control of a vehicle in emergency situations. However, being a bodyguard is not carte blanche to engage in action-movie heroics. Bodyguards must understand the appropriate use of force, especially since they can be arrested—or sued—for going over the line.

Bodyguards who travel overseas must be well versed in the language and culture of the host country. Good verbal skills are vital, and a bodyguard must be able to communicate directions to people at all times. A bodyguard must also be aware of what to expect in any situation. That is why an understanding of the customs of areas in which they will be working can help the bodyguard perceive unusual events and be alert for possible problems. Similarly, the legal use, registration, and licensing of weapons differs from country to country, and the bodyguard who travels overseas needs to be familiar with the regulations governing weapons in the country in which he or she is working.

Since bodyguards often work with important people and around sensitive information, they may be required to take a lie detector test before they begin work. Background checks of their work and personal histories may also be required. Bodyguards who work as permanent employees of a client must also exercise discretion and maintain confidentiality. Bodyguards should have a keen eye for detail and be able to spot trouble long before it happens. This ability to anticipate problems is crucial. A good bodyguard should rarely have to stop a kidnapping attempt as it occurs, for example, but should instead try to prevent the attempt from happening, through a combination of careful planning and skilled observation. If action is needed, however, the response must be swift and effective.