The intimidating presence of uniformed security guards in banks, museums, airports and stores helps keep people honest. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, other guards monitor video screens to catch wrongdoers in the act. A guard's precise duties depend the job, and may include keeping a crowd from becoming a dangerous mob.The training requirements for a security guard also depend on the job, but a security guard often needs a state license.
Some security jobs don't require a minimum level of education, but many employers set the bar higher and require a high school diploma or the equivalent. Employers usually provide training for new recruits, although the amount of training provided depends on the employer. Guard training typically covers topics such as how to handle emergencies, detain suspects and communicate effectively.
The American Society for Industrial Safety, or ASIS, has voluntary standards for security jobs. ASIS recommends eight to 16 hours of initial training, covering topics such as first aid and public relations, and eight hours of refresher training each year. You can't snooze through classes if your employer follows ASIS guidelines, because ASIS also recommends exams. ASIS also offers certification at three levels, depending on your education and experience.
Many employers prefer to hire guards who have already received formal training elsewhere, for example in post-secondary criminal justice, police science or security programs. At Portland Community College, for instance, a 10-hour, one-day program leads to state security certification, covering topics such as criminal issues, public relations, legal issues, reporting, observation and fire detection.
Most states require licensing or registration for the job. The laws vary, but usually you must be age 18 or greater, pass a background check and complete some type of training. In California, for example, you must complete 40 hours of training, including eight hours before starting your post and an additional 32 hours within six months. Many jobs also require a valid driver's license and drug testing, including random tests after hiring.
States usually require special training for guards who carry weapons, and ASIS recommendations include annual refresher training. Employers are very selective when hiring armed guards; employers can sued if their armed guards go ballistic. Armed guards usually undergo strict background checks, including fingerprinting, and must meet the firearms licensing requirements of the state, which typically includes yearly firearms testing.
Screeners for the Transportation Security Administration must be U.S. citizens age 18 or older with a high school education or the equivalent and at least one year of related experience. They must undergo a physical exam, drug testing and a background screening. After being hired, they receive both in-class and on-the-job training and must pass a certification test.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Security Guard or Gaming Surveillance Officer
- Ca.gov: Security Guard (Fact Sheet)
- Portland Community College: Become a Security Professional with PCC Certificate Training
- ASIS: Board Certifications