Employers typically require a high school diploma or a GED for a security guard position, but also expect applicants to complete state-mandated security officer training. Each state has their own security guard requirements. Unarmed security guards help establish an authoritative presence, but do not carry weapons. Armed security guards must have a firearms license issued by their state and can legally make arrests.
Unarmed Security Courses Are a Plus
Some states require employers to hire security guards who are at least 18 years old. Otherwise, there could be legal issues for underage security guards who are assaulted or victimized as minors or engage in misconduct. For example, the College of Central Florida offers unarmed security guard training for students who are a minimum of 18 years old. They must complete a 24-hour unarmed security officer course and a 16-hour unarmed security officer supplemental course to apply for a Class D unarmed security officer license. The state of Tennessee requires unarmed security guards to take a 4-hour course that covers security orientation, legal powers and limitations of security guards, emergency procedures and general responsibilities, according to Tennessee's Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Many employers prefer high school graduates who have completed some coursework in criminal justice, even if they don't have an associate or bachelor's degree. Specialized courses are also required to obtain licensure in order to carry weapons. In Florida, security guards who have their Class D license must pass an additional 28-hour armed security officer course to apply for a Class G armed security officer license. Their training includes hands-on practice and training with guns. In New York, armed security guards must complete a 47-hour firearms training course, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The State of North Carolina requires armed security guards to complete 20 hours of classroom instruction on topics such as legal limitations, handgun fundamentals, safety and operation and night firing.
College Classes Equal Management Opportunities
Some employers prefer to hire security guards with a post-secondary education, such as a police science or criminal justice degree. Programs and courses that focus specifically on security guards are available at some universities. Students might take courses in criminal justice, political science, criminology, forensic science, criminal law or law enforcement. On average, law enforcement associate's degree programs take two years to complete and bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete. Security guards with a college education often enter the field at supervisory or management levels.
Put Your Training Wheels On
Not all employers require security guards to be certified, but some do. ASIS International offers the Certified Protection Professional certification for security guards who want credentials proving their knowledge and experience in the field. ASIS guidelines recommend that security guards have 8 to16 hours of on-the-job training and 8 hours of annual training to receive certification, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Training courses cover topics related to self-protection, public relations, crisis management, administration and first aid. ASIS guidelines also recommend that security guards pass one or more written or performance exams. State-mandated annual firearms training is part of the certification process.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers
- College of Central Florida: Security Officer
- Department of Commerce and Insurance: Unarmed Security Officer/Guard Requirements
- New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services: Security Guard Training
- North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings: Training Requirements for Armed Security Guards
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