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Security Guard Job Description, Career as a Security Guard, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school plus training

Salary Median—$20,320 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Security guards protect people and property from robberies, fires, and other damage. They work in banks, museums, nightclubs, government offices, stores, factories, and office buildings. They are employed by the companies they protect, by building management companies, and by private agencies that provide security services.

The duties of security guards vary according to the size of the building they guard, the number of guards who share the work, and the kind of security system used. In large operations guards generally work under security directors, while in smaller establishments they may work alone. Guards patrol buildings and grounds on foot, in cars, or on motor scooters. They may work with trained dogs that alert them to intruders.

Guards check windows, lights, doors, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler and alarm systems. Sometimes they answer telephones at night, run elevators, control who enters buildings, and check packages of those entering and leaving to prevent theft.

Some guards work with electronic alarm systems, monitoring closed-circuit television screens in a central station. If they see unusual activity, they send a runner to investigate. Such systems are often used on loading platforms of warehouses, factories, railroads, and ports where material or equipment is being prepared for shipment. Guards also protect people carrying jewels or large sums of money. Security guards summon police officers and firefighters when necessary. They may carry guns.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers generally prefer applicants with high school education or the equivalent. Several states require that guards be licensed, which involves passing a background check and completing classroom training in such subjects as property rights, emergency procedures, and detention of suspected criminals. Drug testing often is required.

Previous training in police or military police work is useful. Many employers train guards on the job. Others provide several weeks of formal classroom work, covering alarm systems and first aid and emergency procedures. Armed guards undergo rigorous training in firearm safety, weapons retention, and laws covering the use of force.

A security guard at a central station communicates with other guards in the building to ensure that all areas are properly secured. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to businesses and protective agencies. Those who apply for jobs with government agencies must pass civil service examinations. Part-time or temporary work, such as guarding department stores during holiday periods, can often lead to permanent jobs. Employment agencies, state employment services, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet may offer employment leads.

Most employers require that guards be bonded, or insured. Bonding companies investigate the background and character of security guards, which protects employers against dishonest and unreliable workers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With experience, guards can advance to supervisory positions. Opportunities are best in government agencies, where promotion is based on civil service examinations. In small companies advancement may be limited. Experienced professionals sometimes open their own security agencies.

Employment is expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. New positions will be created because of an increased desire for security. Openings will also occur as experienced guards retire or leave the field. Security agencies are expected to provide most of the new jobs.

Working Conditions

Security guards are on their feet much of the time. Small companies may need guards only for an eight-hour shift at night, while large institutions and companies may need security around the clock. Guards generally rotate shifts.

Security work may be very dangerous, so guards often wear uniforms and bulletproof vests. Some employers provide uniforms or a uniform allowance. Many guards belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
1625 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20036-5687
(202) 429-1000

American Society for Industrial Security
1625 Prince St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-2818
(703) 519-6200

Information Systems Security Association
7044 S. Thirteenth St.
Oak Creek, WI 53154
(414) 908-4949

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary with experience, location, and duties. In 2004 the median salary of security guards was $20,320 per year. Experienced guards earned more than $33,270 per year. Benefits generally include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans. Government guards get benefits similar to those received by other government workers.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service