Security guards monitor people and places in an effort to prevent crime. They patrol and inspect residential, commercial, industrial and municipal property against fire, theft, vandalism, terrorism and other illegal activity.
Security guards, also called security officers, work in a wide variety of environments, including office buildings, retail stores, schools and universities, banks, hotels, hospitals, factories, parks and stadiums. Guards also work at government buildings and on military bases.
Security personnel monitor alarms and closed-circuit surveillance cameras. They control access for employees, visitors and outside contractors, and must remain alert for anything out of the ordinary. In emergencies, they may call for assistance from police and fire departments, and ambulance services.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers related to security guard include gaming surveillance officer in a casino, transportation security screener and armored car guard. Some of these positions require the employee to carry a weapon.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Security Guards
There were more than 1 million security guards employed in the United States as of 2016, with a median annual wage for those professionals of $25,840, the BLS reports. The top 10% earned more than $47,260. About 73% of security guards worked for investigation and security services, and average wages were typically higher for guards working for rail transportation, natural gas distribution, and aerospace product and parts manufacturing firms.
The BLS forecasts that employment opportunities for security guards will increase by 5% between 2014 and 2024, compared with the 7% average growth rate for all occupations. Several factors are expected to drive demand for these professionals, including the shifting of some public safety responsibilities from police agencies to private firms and contractors.
Prospects are expected to be better for candidates with law enforcement experience and/or technology skills.
As with other occupations, an applicant’s level of educational attainment and work history will affect employment opportunities and salary potential in the security industry, as will regional market variations.
Education and Training for Security Guards
A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum requirement for employment as an unarmed security guard. However, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice may be required for a position as an armed security guard, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Typically, security guards must be licensed, which often involves undergoing a criminal background check, passing a drug test and completing ongoing training. Guards who carry firearms and/or work for government agencies can expect to face more stringent hiring requirements and additional mandatory training.
Individuals interested in a career as a security guard should possess good communication skills that allow them to interact with the public, suspects and law enforcement personnel. They also should have sharp observation skills and be able to quickly determine an appropriate course of action.
Additionally, security guards must be physically strong in order to handle encounters with intruders and deal with other emergency situations.
Professional organizations such as ASIS International, the National Association of Security Companies and the International Foundation for Protection Officers also provide training and resources for security guards.