How Do I Get a Guard Card in California?

A Guard Card issued in California qualifies you for employment as a security guard on the West Coast.

This is mandatory if you want to apply for a security guard job in California so if you’re considering this profession, we invite you to read our article and find out more about the steps you have to follow before earning your security guard card.


To get this card in the state of California, you have to complete 8-hours of guard training with a certified school.

This training can be completed in person or online but you have to make sure that the training center you choose is approved.

After completing the training you will have to sit for an initial exam.

If you pass this exam, you are ready to be hired as a security guard but you are not yet a registered security guard.

In order to qualify for this credential, you must complete an additional 16 hours of training within the first 30 days after being hired and another 16 hours within 6 months.

In total, you need 40 hrs of training before becoming a registered security guard in California.

security guards

More About Guard Card Training

Introductory Training

The eight hours of training required before you are allowed to apply for a guard card in California includes two modules: one about the Power to Arrest and one about Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Awareness.

The first module covers all the topics needed to familiarize trainees with this field, namely legal aspects, liability, techniques, and company requirements that lead to arrest.

This part includes lectures, exercises, discussion, and role-playing.

The next section helps trainees develop the observation skills needed to identify and report activities that may lead to terrorism.

The Next 16 Hours of Training

The second portion of training, the one that has to be completed within 30 days of hire, is divided into four courses, namely Public Relations, Observation and Documentation, Communication and its Significance, and the Liability and Legal Aspects.

  • The public relations course covers the basic skills and knowledge in performing security guard work.
  • The observation and documentation course teaches future guards how to write a report, patrol techniques, how to ask questions, and other skills that will be useful in day-to-day work situations.
  • The communication section instructs students on how to contact people, how to use radios and monitors, and more.
  • Prospective guards learn more about their BSIS code, and criminal, administrative and civil policies through the Liability and Legal Aspects course.

The third set of courses

The next 16 hours of elective courses include Post Orders and Assignments, Officer Safety Handling Difficult People, and Preserving the Incident Scene.

Steps to Earning Your Guard Card

Step 1

Complete the 8 hours of Power to Arrest training and pass the initial examination.

This exam can be taken in-person or online

Step 2

Submit a security guard application online to the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

Step 3

Submit fingerprints electronically using Live Scan.

For this, you must use the security guard Live Scan forms downloaded from the Bureau’s Website or obtained from the Bureau.

Step 4

After the Bureau receives your application and criminal history clearance you will be included on their website and you can verify if you have been approved by searching in the “Verify a License” section.

You can use the print-screen to prove that you are approved and ready for your interim security guard registration.

Afterward, you can get hired.

The actual registration will be sent to you by mail in 10 to 15 business days.

Step 5

When placed on an assignment, a security guard needs the following documents:

  • a valid security guard registration or the screen print of the approval found on the Bureau’s website.
  • A valid photo identification

online classOnline Training Classes

If you’d like to complete the training classes online, from the comfort of your own home, you have the option of enrolling in an online course.

There are many schools that offer these classes online and some provide them as a package that includes all 40 classes.

The coursework can be completed at your own pace.

For example, you can take the 8 hours of initial training within 3 months after enrolling in the class, so the time pressure is off.

Most classes require only a Flash Player installed to be able to view the materials.

The examination can also be completed online and it can be retaken if you don’t pass the first time.

Regardless of the type of course you choose, you should first verify that the school follows the standards set forward by BSIS to avoid having problems when applying for your guard card.

How Much Does a Guard Card Cost?

The cost varies depending on the method of application you choose.

If you apply online, then the application costs $50 plus a $1 online convenience fee.

In order to submit your fingerprints using LiveScan you also have to pay a $32 fee for the Department of Justice and $19 for the FBI which brings the total to $51.

If you apply in person then you pay the same amount minus the $1 online convenience fee but you will have to pay additional fees to send the forms through the mail.

The 8-hour class costs somewhere in the range of $45.

How to Renew My License

You can renew your security guard certification through the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

The renewal fee is $35 if the certification hasn’t expired yet and $60 if the certification is already expired.

If more than 60 days have passed since the card has expired you have to complete the guard courses again.

Jobs for Security Guards in California

Security guards have many job opportunities in California.

The demand is even higher for armed security guards.

The average annual wage reported by security guards in California was $33,640 as of May 2019 but salaries vary between less than $24,770 and more than $46,410 depending on skills, experience, position, and place of employment.

Armed guards are usually better paid than unarmed guards.

As a security guard in California, you can work in the public or the private sector.

Among the places where you can find employment as a security guard, we mention hospitals, parking garages, schools, airports, hotels, resorts, banks, apartment complexes, elder care facilities, libraries, government buildings, power plants, security companies, and more.

California doesn’t accept licenses issued in other states.

If you want to work as a security guard in California you have to earn a license in this state, licenses or cards earned in other states are not accepted here.

So even if you have worked as a security guard before, if you want to relocate to California you have to complete the training again and get your card.

Your experience will look good on your resume but it’s not enough.

On the other hand, if you have completed training and earned a California guard license this may be accepted in other states but requirements differ depending on the state where you want to practice this profession.

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