How to Become a Commissioned Security Officer

Research the requirements to become a commissioned security officer. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in armed security.

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Do I Want to Be a Commissioned Security Officer?

Some states, such as Texas, use the title commissioned security officer to describe security guards with advanced training, especially in firearms. Not all states use this job title, but most have training guidelines that security professionals must follow if they want to carry weapons while on duty. Also known as armed guards, these individuals often protect money, expensive items or high-security locations. Job duties may include walking the perimeter, watching surveillance camera footage, checking identifications and writing incident reports. Potential danger is inherent in this occupation, since the chance of altercations always exists.

Job Requirements

Aspiring armed guards often need at least high school diplomas or GEDs, although employers may prefer job candidates with some postsecondary training, particularly in fields related to criminal justice. In general, security officers must become licensed in accordance with state laws. The following table highlights some of the basic qualifications necessary for becoming a commissioned security officer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required, though postsecondary training is sometimes preferred*
Degree Field Criminal justice, police science or a related subject*
Licensure Security officer license and, in some states, commissioned security officer license**; voluntary certification available through ASIS International*
Experience Previous security experience may be required**
Key Skills Strong sense of integrity, highly aware of surroundings, able to communicate clearly and capable of handling life-threatening situations*
Technical Skills Knowledge of firearms, familiarity with restraining devices and an understanding of security technologies*
Additional Requirements Physical strength, ability to remain standing for extended periods, valid driver's license, clear criminal background and ability to pass drug screenings*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Texas and North Dakota licensing guidelines for commissioned security officers.

Step 1: Meet Eligibility Requirements

Before becoming commissioned security officers, individuals must prove themselves eligible by passing drug tests and background checks. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), criminal background checks may require individuals to submit to being fingerprinted. Background checks may take several weeks to conduct, which can delay individuals from starting work. Other eligibility requirements vary by state, but may include possession of a valid driver's license, per the BLS.

Step 2: Complete Security Officer Training

In most states, individuals must pass general security officer training and gain initial work experience prior to becoming armed guards. Basic security officer training can be completed at junior colleges or other vocational institutions, and those who finish the training usually earn certificates of completion. Common topics in basic security officer training may include report writing, patrol techniques, use of force, emergency procedures, fire control, surveillance, alarm systems and security technologies.

Success Tip:

  • Complete training in your state of employment. Most colleges design basic security officer training programs to meet state licensing requirements, so individuals may want to consider completing training in the same state they wish to work in. People who receive training out of state may have problems obtaining licenses, and individuals may have to complete additional training at their own expense; however, some states may have reciprocity laws that recognize the training standards of other states.

Step 3: Get a Security Officer License

The BLS explains that individuals who complete basic security officer training and meet all eligibility requirements can apply for security officer licenses. Some states may have different license procedures for private security officers versus public security officers. Many states also have an age requirement, which, according to the BLS, is commonly 18 years; however, applicants trying to obtain private security officer licenses may have to be older, depending on state laws. Most states also require individuals to pay licensing fees as well as fees for background checks and drug testing.

Step 4: Complete Commissioned Security Officer Training

Not all states require people to complete basic officer training prior to commissioned security officer training, but several states do use a tiered training process where individuals go through basic training, become licensed and then follow up with additional training for more advanced security officer positions. Commissioned security officer training or armed guard training provides individuals with instruction on using different types of weapons, including pistols, shotguns and handguns. Training may also include discussions about state laws, use of deadly force and tactical procedures.

Step 5: Get a Commissioned Security Officer License

Upon meeting state-mandated training requirements for commissioned security officer status, professionals can apply for the necessary licenses. The BLS points out that armed security officers may have to obtain their security officer licenses through the state and additional licenses for carrying weaponry through various government agencies. Furthermore, part of the licensing process includes background checks and chemical screenings, and these checks tend to be far more thorough for armed guards, according to the BLS. Not only do applicants need clean criminal records, but individuals might also have to prove that they are psychologically capable of handling the stress of the job.

Step 6: Consider Certification

Technically, security professionals are not required to obtain industry certification. Nonetheless, some security officers choose to become certified to prove their level of skill to potential employers. ASIS International offers the Certified Protection Professional credential to applicants with nine years of security experience or, alternatively, bachelor's degrees coupled with seven years of security experience. Candidates must also pass a certification exam.

Step 7: Maintain Licensure and Certification

Depending on state laws, professionals must maintain their security officer licenses as well as their licenses for being armed guards. The BLS points out that it has become commonplace for states to require security professionals to participate in continuing education courses as part of the license renewal process. Professionals also have to pay fees to renew their licenses, and they may have to pass drug tests and background checks as well. Additionally, maintaining certification through ASIS International requires completion of a minimum number of continuing education credits every three years.

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