How to Become a Private Security Officer In 8 Steps

There are a number of different career options available for private security officers.

Private security officers may be in charge of protecting a celebrity or work in places such as department stores or banks.

Private Security Careers

The job outlook for private security officers is diverse, which means that the educational requirements are as well.

The requirements to become a private security officer will depend on the type of personal security you want to offer.

Some positions will require you to go to a law enforcement training school or to work in law enforcement for several years to gain the necessary experience.

Degree Requirements

It is recommended that a person who is interested in becoming a private security officer first obtain at least an associate’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice.

To increase your chances of obtaining a job in this field it is recommended to pursue a bachelor’s degree in one of these subjects.

While pursuing a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement a person can expect to take courses in private security, business security, terrorism, public safety, loss prevention, corrections, and security management, as well as other courses of a similar nature.

There are some security officer positions that only require experience working in a similar field or that a person goes through a law enforcement training program.

However, to increase the chances of gaining employment a degree is recommended.

Most individuals who work as private security officers start out in other areas of law enforcement and then move into these positions.

What Does a Security Guard Do?

A security guard is a person who is hired to protect a property or people in any number of situations.

You can find them patrolling grounds at night, checking IDs to allow access to courthouses and other government buildings, protecting famous people, and even in schools and hospitals.

Some security guards protect money being transferred between banks or the valuable displays in museums and art galleries.

It is their job to make sure no illegal activity occurs that will put a person or property at risk.

They protect against things like vandalism, fire, theft, terrorism, and anything else that may pose a danger.

These security guards are given the authority to detain and arrest violators.

Security Jobs

Job Duties

The duties of security guards vary depending on where they work.

Some of their duties include:

  • Monitor and patrol an area
  • Do crowd control and maintain order
  • Manage access to buildings
  • Stay visible to act as a deterrent
  • Take quick action if danger is present
  • Identify suspicious behavior
  • Get help when necessary

How Much Does a Security Guard Make?

A security guard is not among the highest-paid individuals.

On average, the security guard makes $34,770 a year.

Those in New York can earn as much as $51,600 a year and those in Florida only earn $34,770 a year.

The amount of money earned is based on where the security guard works.

For example, a government position will pay more than one patrolling the grounds of a closed plant at night.

The pay rate is also higher for armed security guards than it is for those who don’t carry a weapon.

Certification is also a factor in the amount of pay a security guard can earn.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
District of Columbia14,440$52,940$25.45$74,260$37,070
New Hampshire2,700$38,210$18.37$47,960$27,690
New Jersey37,940$37,870$18.21$51,570$28,010
New Mexico6,610$32,280$15.52$43,460$23,920
New York115,130$41,690$20.05$57,160$30,310
North Carolina26,110$32,300$15.53$45,530$22,600
North Dakota1,410$36,790$17.69$48,160$25,490
Rhode Island3,010$37,030$17.80$44,660$29,100
South Carolina13,430$29,480$14.17$39,180$21,440
South Dakota1,350$33,470$16.09$42,870$24,850
West Virginia6,250$25,030$12.03$34,530$18,200
Puerto Rico27,480$18,730$9.00$19,580$17,680
Virgin Islands1,170$30,540$14.68$37,940$21,840

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $52,940.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $52,940
  • Maryland - $44,070
  • Alaska - $43,750
  • Washington - $43,750
  • New York - $41,690
  • Idaho - $41,290
  • Massachusetts - $40,760
  • Virginia - $40,620
  • California - $39,120
  • Colorado - $38,750
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Security Guards, OCC Code 33-9032, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How To Become a Security Guard – Step-by-Step

The requirements for a security guard position vary from one state to the next and from one environment to the next.

There are some general steps involved, however.

  1. Earn your diploma. The first thing you need to do is earn a high school diploma or get your GED. In many cases, this is the only education you will need to get an entry-level security guard position. While in school, it helps to hone your communication skills and do activities that show your dependability and integrity.
  2. Consider getting a degree. While not necessary, many security guards realize an increase in pay when they complete a degree program. Criminal Justice is the best course if you choose the degree path. Make sure you also hone your computer skills as many security guards need to monitor electronic surveillance equipment.
  3. Stay physically fit. A security guard may need to run or may end up in a physical confrontation with a criminal. It is important to get into good physical shape and stay there. A regular workout schedule will help out a lot in this regard. Avoid drugs and alcohol and don’t smoke. Get adequate sleep and maintain a healthy diet.
  4. Improve your communication skills. This is a necessity. In many cases, you will need to work with the public and will need to communicate verbally as well as in writing. You will need to get good at conflict resolution and learn how to de-escalate an explosive situation at times. You will also need to be able to follow orders and must be able to understand what is expected of you. Regulating emotions is also something that needs to be done in order to communicate effectively in all manner of situations.
  5. Pass background and drug checks. Nearly every position will require you to undergo a background check and drug testing. Maintain a good record and don’t venture into any activity that could lead to trouble. If you will be working near money, such as in a bank or as an armored car driver, you may also be subject to a credit check.
  6. Receive on-the-job training. Each position will have its own regulations and duties so you will undergo on-the-job training. This may be as little as a couple weeks or several months, depending on the amount of responsibility you will be given. During this time, you will also be rated on dependability, honesty, the ability to follow directions, and the ability to work independently and think quickly. You may also be required to take a first aid course or CPR training.
  7. Get a license to carry a firearm. While many security guard positions don’t require you to carry a firearm, others do. Having a license to carry a firearm will increase your chances of gaining employment as it opens up positions you may not otherwise qualify for.
  8. Get certified. Again, states vary on whether or not you will need to be certified but getting certified from a nationally recognized organization will increase your chances at higher positions, including those with greater pay. Joining a professional organization will also help you with networking and being recognized as competent in your field.

What Education Does a Security Guard Need?

Most security guard positions only require a high school diploma or GED.

It wouldn’t hurt to get a degree in Police Science or Criminal Justice if you would like to rise to a management position or run your own security business eventually.

If you are going to be armed, you will need to take classes in firearms and pass the required licensing tests for that.

You may also consider classes in first aid and CPR as well as negotiation and de-escalation techniques.

A course in Psychology may aid you in recognizing behavior that is out of the ordinary.

Continuing education is important as techniques change and new areas for security open up.

Cyber-security is one area that is increasing rapidly and having the skills for this area will aid you greatly.

Licensing and Certification

Doing some research into the requirements for a license in your state is essential as they vary widely.

Where a license is required, a Class D license will allow you to be an unarmed security guard and a Class G license will be given to those who are allowed to carry a firearm.

A few states have a slightly different classification system.

Certification is almost never a necessity, but getting certified by a nationally recognized organization will give you the edge over other candidates for positions.

One organization that is highly recognized is ASIS International.

ASIS offers four different certifications.

These are:

  • Associate Protection Professional (APP), which requires one year of experience
  • Certified Protection Professional (CPP), which requires at least five years of experience
  • Professional Certified Investigator (PCI)
  • Physical Security Professional (PSP)

All of these require you to be a member of ASIS and to pass a test in addition to a few other requirements.

You will need to be a full-time security employee, have no criminal offenses, and sign an agreement to abide by the ASIS Certification Code of Conduct.

Job Outlook for Security Guards

The projected growth of security guard positions is expected to be six percent over the coming decade.

This is due to people leaving the profession and the increased number of places needing security.

For example, ten years ago, schools did not have security guards, but they are now needed in nearly every school.

Should You Become a Security Guard?

Consider the following factors when making your decision on whether this is the career for you.

Only you can determine which of the factors are most important for your needs.

Overall Satisfaction

A survey of millions of workers found that the overall job satisfaction of security guards is only 2.6/5.

This puts the satisfaction rate in the bottom seven percent of all careers.

This low rating is a combination of pay rate and security guards feeling as though their position isn’t meaningful.

Average Salary

The average salary of a security guard is $34,770 a year.

This is low in most areas and is not thought to be enough to support a family alone.

However, a single person may be able to get by.

There is also the chance to get greater pay with a degree, and experience, moving to a higher-paying location, such as New York, and becoming certified.

Job Growth Outlook

The job growth outlook is slightly higher than most careers.

It is projected to be at six percent, with many of the new positions being in the area of cyber-security.

States with the highest number of positions include New York, California, and Texas.

Education Duration

Very little time is needed in getting an education.

Many positions allow you to get started with only a high school diploma or GED.

Getting licensed to carry a firearm requires taking a class and some positions require first aid and CPR training, both of which take only a few weeks at most.

For those who might like supervisory positions, a four-year degree is a good move.

Ongoing classes to hone or gain valuable skills might help but are unnecessary.

Personal Skills Needed

The personal and professional skills needed to be a good security guard include:

  • Having attention to details
  • Being physically fit
  • Honing de-escalation skills
  • Being a good communicator
  • Having the ability to follow orders yet work alone when needed
  • Be vigilant and hyper-aware of the environment
  • Be reliable
  • Be respectful of all personality types
  • Be adaptable
  • Keeping cool under pressure

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a security guard?

Most security guard positions only require a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Some supervisory positions require a college degree.

Classes in gun safety, self-defense, first aid, and CPR are also good.

Each of these takes only a few weeks at most.

You are looking at maybe three months if you don’t attend college.

How much money does a security guard make a year?

Security guards average $34,770 a year.

The highest-paid positions are in New York, where the average pay is $51,600 and the lowest-paid positions are in Florida, where security guards earn an average of $34,770 a year.

The amount of money you can earn depends a lot on what your duties are, where you work, how much experience you have, whether or not you can carry a firearm, and whether you have a certificate or not.

What kind of education do you need to become a security guard?

Most security guard positions have you learning on the job as each situation has its own set of duties and responsibilities.

Many people become security guards with only a high school education.

Those seeking management positions can benefit from getting a degree in Criminal Justice.

Are security guards in high demand?

Security guards work in nearly every area of life so there is a great need for them, and the need is increasing at a rate of 6 percent over the coming decade.

It is likely that there will never be a shortage of security guard positions.

What skills do you need to have to be a security guard?

A security guard must be able to give attention to the smallest details in the environment, meaning they must be hyper-vigilant at all times.

A security guard needs to be a good communicator and regulate emotions.

They must be able to remain calm under pressure, think quickly, and act quickly.

A security guard must be physically fit and free of drugs.

They need to be respectful, be able to follow orders, and be reliable.

A security guard also needs to be adaptable, as situations can change instantly.

Michael Morales

About Michael Morales

Michael Morales is the Webmaster and Editor in Chief for With a strong background in Web Publishing and Internet Marketing, he currently works as an independent consultant. A former paramedic and ems educator, he enjoys punishing himself doing triathlons and endurance sports. Michael currently lives in sunny Northern California, home of the highest tax rates in the world.

2 Responses to How to Become a Private Security Officer In 8 Steps

  1. Avatar
    Debra Eddington #

    While it can be demanding, the job of a private security officer can be both financially rewarding and personally fulfilling, especially if you have a passion for ensuring safety and security.

  2. Avatar
    John Langston #

    Building strong intrapersonal skills is a bit hard, as you’ll often interact with clients, employees, and the public, creating a positive and safe environment.

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