Security Guards


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Security guards must be high school graduates. They usually receive on-the-job training in security procedures and technology. Recommended high school classes include physical education, mathematics, government, psychology, and computer science. You should also take English courses to develop your reading and writing skills. You should be able to read manuals, memos, textbooks, and other instructional materials and write reports with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You should also be able to speak to small groups with poise and confidence. Computer science classes are also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

Many companies that hire security guards have their own techniques and procedures. Training often covers topics such as emergency procedures, crime prevention, and proper communication. Security guards usually receive eight hours of pre-assignment training, which is followed by eight to 16 hours of training while on the job, and then eight hours of training each year, to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. Security guards may receive instruction in protection, public relations, report writing, deterring crises, first aid, and specialized training as it relates to their assignment. Armed guards receive rigorous training because they must know how to properly use weapons. They are periodically tested in the use of firearms.

Other Education or Training

ASIS International offers continuing education classes, workshops, and webinars that may be helpful for security guards. Topics covered may include enhanced violence assessment and management, asset protection, security procedures for high-rise buildings, safe school procedures, and other topics. Contact the organization for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Many security consultants earn the certified protection professional designation, which is awarded by ASIS International. To be eligible for certification, a consultant must pass a written test and have nine years' work or a combination of a bachelor's degree and work experience in the security profession. ASIS International also offers the professional certified investigator and physical security professional certification designations.

Other Requirements

Virtually every state has licensing or registration requirements for security guards who work for contract security agencies. Registration generally requires that a person newly hired as a guard be reported to the licensing authorities, usually the state police department or special state licensing commission. To be granted a license, individuals generally must be 18 years of age, have no convictions for perjury or acts of violence, pass a background investigation, and complete classroom training on a variety of subjects, including property rights, emergency procedures, and capture of suspected criminals. Some jobs may require drug testing as a condition of employment, and may also perform random drug testing during employment. Some jobs may also require that security guards have good eyesight and be in good physical shape.

Guards employed by the federal government must be U.S. armed forces veterans, have some previous experience as guards, and pass a written examination. Many positions require experience with firearms. In many situations, guards must be bonded.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Although there are no specific educational or professional requirements, many security guards have had previous experience with police work or other forms of crime prevention.

General good health (especially vision and hearing), alertness, emotional stability, and the ability to follow directions are important characteristics for security guards. Military service and experience in local or state police departments are assets. Prospective guards should have clean records. Some employers require applicants to take a polygraph examination or a written test that indicates honesty, attitudes, and other personal qualities. Most employers require applicants and experienced workers to submit to drug screening tests as a condition of employment.

For some hazardous or physically demanding jobs, guards must be under a certain age and meet height and weight standards. For top-level security positions in facilities such as nuclear power plants or vulnerable information centers, guards may be required to complete a special training course. They may also need to fulfill certain relevant academic requirements.