How to Become a Personal Security Guard: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a personal security guard. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as a personal security guard.

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Do I Want to Be a Personal Security Guard?

Personal security guards, also known as body guards, protect people and property from criminal activities and threats. They may escort individuals to and from locations or monitor activity from a stationary position. In order to ensure that an area is safe, they may conduct surveillance or watch closed circuit TV monitors. Any time criminal activity occurs or a threat is imminent, security guards may contact local law enforcement for assistance. Potential danger is inherent in this occupation, and personal security guards must always be on the alert.

Job Requirements

A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement to become a security guard, and a state license is necessary in most states. Security guards who carry a firearm will need additional training and registration. Typically, body guards and security guards are held to the same licensure standards. The table below includes the requirements to become a security guard.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma**
License Licensure requirements vary by state, commonly including security guard and firearm licensure***; certification is also available*
Experience On-the-job training is required*
Key Skills Observation skills, strong decision-making and good judgment**
Additional Requirements Physical strength to handle confrontational situations*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Job Postings on Monster.com (October 2012), ***I Have a Plan Iowa

Step 1: Prepare for Security Guard Licensure

Many states require personal security guards to be licensed, and classroom training may be required as part of the licensing process. The classroom training may last anywhere from 8-16 hours, and individuals will also be expected to participate in field training. Topics like law enforcement communications, use of force, report writing, evidence handling and crime prevention are all addressed in the training.

Step 2: Obtain the Proper Licensure

In some cases, a security guard will not need to obtain a specific license, but a security guard license is require in many states. This license is usually granted upon passing an examination, but exact requirements will vary. Additionally, if a personal security guard is required to carry a firearm, a firearm permit or license will be required.

Step 3: Consider Voluntary Certification

Organizations such as ASIS International offers voluntary certifications and classes for security guards. The certifications, including the Certified Protection Professional and the Physical Security Professional, are not associated in any way with the state licensing process. However, certification may improve a security guard's employment prospects.

Step 4: Look for Employment

Security guards can obtain employment with any number of organizations, individuals and businesses. While the overall objectives will be similar, the specific duties can vary. Personal security guards could be assigned to protect people or property and make work individually or with a group of other guards. Background checks are commonly required for this position. The screening process includes a fingerprint check, drug test, criminal background check and reference verification. Any outstanding issue on one's criminal record can negatively affect employment chances.

Step 5: Maintain the Skills Needed for this Position

Personal security guards need to maintain excellent endurance and athleticism to meet the demands of this job. Danger can strike at any moment, so a personal security guard needs to be able react quickly and to the best of his or her ability. Maintaining keen observation skills and noticing important details can help personal security guards prevent dangerous scenarios before they occur. In some cases, security guards will need to complete continuing education requirements to maintain state license. This ensures skills are up-to-date and knowledge of new laws and policies are understood.

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