Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Security guards play an important role in maintaining the safety and, of course, the security of buildings, facilities, communities and other locations. They serve to protect the inhabitants and place itself. While it can be dangerous, the profession is often rewarding; you're tasked with keep communities safe and giving them peace of mind. Thinking of becoming a security guard? Keep reading for a rundown of the main responsibilities of and training requirements for the profession. 

What is a security guard?

First and foremost, security guards serve as deterrents to crime and criminals. While law enforcement professionals respond to crimes when or after they occur, security guards work to prevent such incidents from taking place from the beginning. They do so by patrolling and closely guarding their assigned properties, often serving as the first contact between people looking to enter, including employees of the facility, and the location itself. If you’re visiting a certain building, for example, you might be required to show your ID to a security guard before being able to enter the facility. In other cases, they protect the properties of individuals who are concerned about their well-being.

What are the main duties of a security guard?

The tasks and responsibilities of a security guard vary from employer to employer. Some of the most prevalent duties include:

1. Patrolling facilities, maintaining visibility.

2. Enforcing procedures and rules as established by the employer.

3. Being on the alert for suspicious activities through observation and close monitoring.

4. Properly using and monitoring equipment related to the security of the premises, such as alarms.

5. Receiving guests and preventing unwanted visitors from entering the premises.

6. Reporting and documenting suspicious activities to supervisors, employers and law enforcement should the situation call for it.

7. Collaborating and communicating with law enforcement and other emergency personnel. 

8. Exercising good judgment during crises.

9. Educating others on proper safety protocol.

Some employers may require other responsibilities, depending on their needs. 

What types of companies employ this position?

Many businesses, organizations and other establishments have the need for security guards. Some of the more common ones include:

• Retail stores

• Hospitals and other medical organizations

• Office buildings

• Individual businesses and companies

• Casinos

• Museums

• Courthouses

• Other government facilities

• Banks and financial institutions

• Nursing homes

• Schools

• Colleges and universities, especially dormitories

• Bars and nightclubs

• Marijuana dispensaries

• Construction sites

• Individual residences

High-profile individuals, such as celebrities and government officials, may hire personal bodyguards who are usually armed to protect them. Although these professionals serve somewhat different functions, they often have overlapping responsibilities and may work closely with one another to protect their employer and her property. In some cases, an individual may hire both security guards and bodyguards.

What qualifications do I need to be a security guard?

The first step to becoming a security guard is to complete the education requirements. In most cases, that means having a high school diploma or GED. In some cases, earning an associate’s degree can also give you a leg up in the hiring process.

Many states also require security guards to be licensed. The training necessary for licensure varies from state to state. For example, in California, security guards must undergo 40 hours of education through a certified facility or private patrol operator, with at least eight hours completed prior to receiving an assignment, 16 hours completed within 30 days and another 16 within six months. Training must address topics such as terrorism awareness and the power to arrest, and candidates must sit for and pass an exam. 

In most cases, you’ll also need to submit to a background check and drug testing. When applying for a job, the hiring process differs from employer to employer according to their priorities. In general, they’ll look for the following skills and qualifications:

• Good character

• Good judgment

• Common sense

• Quick thinking

• Communication

• Integrity and honesty

• Attention to detail

• Ability to learn quickly

• Customer service

• Prior law enforcement or security guard experience

Once you’re hired, you’ll most likely receive on-the-job training on topics such as first aid, response basics, patrolling, when to use force and more. Training is usually regulated by the state and, again, will vary depending on the state laws. 

If you’re an armed security guard, you’ll need to receive additional training on how to use firearms properly, as well as pass an exam and have a permit. Armed guards usually have higher earning potential than unarmed guards, given their additional skills and the higher threat level.

Is security guard a good job?

Whether or not the position of security guard is a good one for you depends on your own needs and wants. It’s not the highest-paying job out there; PayScale reports a national average rate of $11.78 per hour. Still, many people enjoy the work.

Different settings will offer different advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you work in an office building, you’ll probably encounter fewer obstacles than a security guard who works at a liquor store, where they’ll likely encounter intoxicated people and may have to refuse entrance or break up fights routinely, in some cases calling law enforcement to step in. However, the work of sitting at a desk and check IDs, among other somewhat monotonous tasks, can get a bit dull. No matter where you work, being a security guard always carries the potential for danger, since your job exists to ward off threats. 

However, many people find the responsibility of protecting others rewarding. Some security guards work the job on a part-time basis while attending school or receiving training for other law-enforcement positions, such as that of a police officer. The skills you learn on the job can be applied to a wide range of industries, too, so you may find yourself a more marketable candidate if you choose to change fields down the line or take on additional positions. Moreover, you’ll gain important life skills — not to mention a heightened awareness of danger and the ability to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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