How to Become a Security Guard:
The Definitive Guide

In order to keep businesses and homes safe, a Security Guard stands on patrol watching customers and visitors.

You can find them posted up in front of stores, or driving around parking lots at malls.

Depending on the type of facility, a Security Guard may keep employees safe, or keep unwanted guests out, it all depends on the specific job.

All we know is that we are thankful for Security Guards for keeping us away from danger.

What is a Security Guard?

There are many different ways that a Security Guard keeps the public safe.

They can patrol outside of a building in order to keep the people inside at ease, or they can patrol the inside of a building to make sure that no one steals anything, or no other crimes occur.

Some Security Guards are stationed in one area, and others move around in order to watch everything at once.

It can be hard working as a Security Guard, but if you are quick on your feet and know how to deescalate a situation, then this might be just the right career for you.


Most of the time, people think that a Security Guard just stands around and watches people.

While this is true, there are other things that a Security Guard must do throughout the day.

These include:

  • Communicate with law enforcement
  • Document daily activities and disturbances
  • Interview witnesses
  • Testify in court
  • Ensure all safety precautions are done
  • Test and fix security alarms


As a Security Guard, it’s possible to earn around $33,000 a year in the United States.

For those working in large populations, or for bigger companies, it is possible to earn around $50,000 a year or more, depending on the situation.

If you are expecting to make this much money when just starting out, think again because most new Security Guards make around $28,000 a year to begin.

Nowadays, it is important to have experience with computers and technology, even when looking for a career as a Security Guard.

Many businesses are becoming more technologically advanced, and it helps when the Security Guard knows how to maintain all of the equipment.

Having experience and higher education will help you in this career.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $35,830


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$52,840
New Hampshire$38,590
New Jersey$36,240
New Mexico$32,560
New York$41,810
North Carolina$33,340
North Dakota$34,580
Rhode Island$35,630
South Carolina$29,920
South Dakota$33,660
West Virginia$28,290
Puerto Rico$19,150
Virgin Islands$30,710

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $52,840.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $52,840
Alaska - $49,040
Washington - $43,720
New York - $41,810
Idaho - $40,970
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Security Guard

Step 1Meet Minimum Requirements

In order to work as a Security Guard in the United States, you must be at least 18 years old.

Most often, employers will require at least a high school diploma in order to be hired as well.

However, for Security Guards who work in high-risk places like casinos, a Bachelor’s degree is required.

If you are expecting to hold a position and be armed, then you must be at least 21 years old.

It’s also important to have a clean background, as you will undergo a background check before you become employed.

It’s likely that you will also be drug tested and may have to take other tests if you are to be armed.

Look into your state’s prerequisites for employment, because some states require training programs and others do not.

Step 2Gain Employment

After you have ensured that you meet all of the requirements in order to become a Security Guard, it’s time to look for a job.

There are many opportunities for people who are looking to work as a Security Guard.

Some of the job openings that you can expect while searching for a new career include:

  • Commissioned Officer
  • Non-Commissioned Officer
  • Off Duty Police Officer
  • Personal Protection Officer
  • Remote CC TV Monitor

A Commissioned Officer is an armed guard and is expected to have at least 30 hours of firearm training in order to gain employment.

A Non-Commissioned Officer does not have a weapon and may have to take extra training in order to become employed, this is up to state and facility requirements.

An Off Duty Police Officer is someone who worked in law enforcement in the past and has full arrest powers.

Personal Protection Officers protect a victim or several victims from an individual.

Remote CC TV Monitors watch security cameras and footage in order to maintain peace in a building.

Step 3Start Training

After you have gained employment, most companies will provide some type of training program.

These programs may be paid for by the facility, and you may earn a wage while being trained.

This is something that you will need to look into for your individual company.

Some states mandate training and other states allow the company to decide whether to train their Security Guards or not.

Typically, training can take around 40 hours to complete and should take around 8 hours a day.

Some of the things you may learn in a training program include:

  • Public relations
  • Protection
  • First aid
  • Report writing

Yearly training may be required in some areas.

If you are going to work as a Commissioned Security Guard, or one that carries a weapon, then you will need additional firearm training.

Some states require as little as 14 hours of training, and some states require as much as 30 hours of firearm training.

It’s important to find out what your state prerequisites are.

Step 4Become Licensed

Even though gaining licensure is not required in every state, it is still an important part of becoming a Security Guard.

It’s possible you will need to have another background check done in order to become licensed as well.

A typical license for a Security Guard costs around $50.

After your license request is accepted, you will need to have your fingerprints scanned.

This is to make you an official Security Guard, and also costs around $50.

After you gain your license, there are many places to find employment:

  • Retail stores
  • Office buildings
  • Banks
  • Hotels
  • Factories
  • Government buildings
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Parks
  • Theme Parks
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Prisons


With most job opportunities for Security Guards, formal education isn’t necessary.

However, there are Security Guard opportunities out that that require a little bit of learning.

If you are interested in gaining a degree in order to work as a Security Guard, then you may want to earn a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or another related field.

Security Guards who work in high-class facilities like casinos will likely need a Bachelor’s degree.

A typical Bachelor’s degree takes around four years to complete, but some of them online can take as little 18 months.

Some of the classes that you can expect to take for a criminal justice program include:

  • Criminology
  • Ethics
  • Criminal Law
  • Foundations of Corrections
  • Intro to Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Procedure

If you are not interested in working toward a degree in order to become a Security Guard, it’s possible that the employer you work for will provide a training program.

There are several Security training programs around the country, so take a look in your state to see which ones are near you.

Some of these training programs can last around 16 hours and others are as little as 8 hours.

The average cost for a Security training program is around $100.

Often times an employer will pay for training or offer a wage while taking the required training.

An 8-hour training course will likely teach you the basics of becoming a Security Guard.

There is also a 16-hour option that covers a more extensive curriculum.

Some of the things that you may learn in a Security training program are:

  • Arrest procedures
  • Legal rights and limitations
  • Access control
  • Public relations
  • Communications
  • Report writing

After taking the training classes, you will be issued a certificate that will allow you to work as a Security Guard.

Continuing your education and gaining more experience will allow for promotions and raises in the future of this career.

Video About The Career

Certification and Licensing

Some states do not require that a Security Guard become licensed, and others do.

It is up to you to find out what you need to do for the state you work in.

If in fact it is required to become a licensed Security Guard, there are several steps you need to take.

A license is important for any Security Guard who is planning to work for a private company or as an individual.

There are several ways to find out the requirements for licensure in your state, the first way is to contact the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office in your area.

In order to gain a license as a Security Guard, you must first:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • 21 if working with weapons
  • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
  • Ability to speak, read, and write in English
  • Felony free record

You may also have to provide your employment history, fingerprint and background check in order to work as a Security Guard in some states.

If you have all of the requirements, you can apply for a license.

In some areas, the cost is around $100 to apply, and in other areas, it can be up to $250.

Another voluntary credential that some Security Guards obtain is a certification.

There are several certifications that are available to Security Guards.

These are:

  • Certified Protection Professional
  • Professional Certified Investigator
  • Associate Protection Professional
  • Physical Security Professional

In order to become a Certified Protection Professional, you must have 7-9 years of experience and 3 years of management experience.

Passing an exam is the only way to gain this certification, which can cost around $400 to take.

In order to gain certification as a Professional Certified Investigator, you must have at least five years of investigation experience and two years of case management experience.

You’ll need to take an exam for this certification as well, which is around 125 questions and can cost $400.

As an Associate Protection Professional, you will be required to have at least one year of experience, but most suggest at least 4 years.

This certification shows that a Security Guard is knowledgeable in:

  • Security Fundamentals
  • Business Operations
  • Risk Management
  • Response Management

In order to earn this certification, you must pass a 125-question exam.

This is also around $400 to apply.

The last certification for a Security Guard is the Physical Security Professional.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you must have knowledge of:

  • Physical Security Assessments
  • Application, design, and integration of security systems
  • Implementation of security systems

Earning this certification costs around $400 as well, and you must pass a 125-question exam.

Certification Example:

security guard certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 0-1 Year

The length of a training program in order to become a Security Guard can vary based on where you enroll in the program, and how much education you will need.

Many training programs last for 8 hours, and this provides enough education for entry-level careers.

Other training programs can last 16 hours, split into two 8-hour sessions, and covers a wide variety of information.

If you plan to work as an armed Security Guard,  you can expect around 30 hours of training.

Popular Programs

Job Outlook

In the next ten years or so, it seems that the outlook for this career will rise around 4 percent in the United States.

This is about as fast as other careers within the same field.

Due to the need for protection around personal property and businesses, there will likely always be a need for Security Guards.

Those that have experience with electronic video equipment will find the most job opportunities over the next decade.

This is due to the rise in technological advances as well as safety precautions around the world.

If you are interested in working as a Security Guard, places like casinos and other gambling facilities are your best bet.

Employment Growth Projection: 15%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 154,200 jobs.

Security Guard: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Security Guard?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

Working as a Security Guard can be stressful, especially if you are working in a high-crime area.

This is one of the downsides to this career, as many Security Guards report.

There are advantages, though, because there is a lot of room for upward mobility in this career as well as flexibility between work life and home life.

Ex-military and people who have worked in law enforcement usually enjoy this career as well.

People that enjoy high adrenaline careers and have a love for helping others will make the best Security Guards.

Average Salary: Low

Average Salary

All over the United States, there are job opportunities for Security Guards.

On average, you can expect to make around $33,000 a year in this career.

Many people who are just starting out as a Security Guard will likely make less, at around $28,000 a year.

Security Guards who work for large corporations or that work in highly populated areas will likely make more money than those working in smaller venues.

The most a Security Guard can make in the United States is around $50,000 a year.

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Job Growth Outlook

It looks to be that Security Guards will be employed in the near future, and for years to come.

This career is looking to grow around 4 percent within the next decade.

This is right on track with other careers within the same field.

There will likely continue to be a need for Security Guards in places like malls, hospitals, apartment buildings, stores, businesses, and even homes in some cases.

The use of technology and modern software will require more skilled Security Guards in the future as well.

Education Duration: 0-1 Year

Education Duration

In order to work as a Security Guard, a person typically only needs a high school diploma.

However, there are some steps to take if you are interested in earning a degree.

Security Guards that want a higher salary can earn an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice, which can take around two years to complete.

It’s also possible to enter a Security Guard training program, which can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to complete.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

When you think of Security Guards, you probably think of strong, fit individuals who are able to multitask, but there are also other skills that are important in a Security Guard.

These skills include:

  • Alertness
  • Honesty
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to serve the needs of the public
  • Leadership skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Punctuality
  • Understanding of danger
  • De-escalation skills
  • Understanding of everyone’s unique needs
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Good writing skills
  • Memorization skills
  • Stamina

Security Guards are usually on their feet for hours at a time and must stay observant in order to keep the public safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Security Guard?

The salary that you can expect as a Security Guard can vary depending on where you live, and which type of facility you will be patrolling.

On average, Security Guards make around $33,000 a year.

However, those that have a lot of experience, certifications, and provide private security can make more than $50,000 a year.

Just starting out, a typical salary for a Security Guard is around $28,000 a year.

Q. How long does it take to become a Security Guard?

Most Security Guard positions only require a high school diploma or a GED.

However, if you plan to work in high-risk places like casinos, you may have to earn an Associate’s degree.

This can take around two years, but some accelerated programs can take around 18 months.

Most training programs to work as a Security Guard are given by the employer, and these can take around 8 to 16 hours to complete.

Q. What does a Security Guard do?

Typically, you can find Security Guards patrolling areas, watching out for danger, and keeping things calm if there happens to be any chaos.

Security Guards are used to keeping people out of buildings, and to keep the people in the buildings safe.

They may also work in malls, prisons, and other facilities in order to make sure everything stays in order.

Q. What is the demand for Security Guards?

There will likely always be a need for Security Guards, which is good in some ways and not so great in others.

This career is likely to grow around 4 percent within the next decade, due to increased technology and surveillance efforts, there will be more opportunities available.

People that are interested in working as private Security Guards may find more job opportunities in places where there are highly important people.

Schools, hospitals, and homes are becoming more guarded as well.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Security Guard?

It really shouldn’t cost you anything to become a Security Guard, unless you want to earn a degree, license, or certification.

A degree in criminal justice can cost around $15,000 for two years.

A license can cost anywhere from $300-$450.

Certifications typically cost around $150-$300, depending on the certification and where you earn it.

Security Guard Information by State

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