How to Become a Security Guard in 3 Simple Steps

Security professionals have a specialized skill set suited for securities operations.

Security guards must have knowledge of security protocols, law enforcement tactics, and legal knowledge related to the profession.

The educational path to becoming a security guard is very flexible and can be molded to an individual’s preferences.

There are no general education requirements for becoming a security guard, but that does not mean pursuing a formal education won’t help your chances of landing a job.

We are going to cover some of the education options open to aspiring security officers.

Steps to Becoming a Security Guard

Here is a quick step by step guide on how to become a security officer.

Step 1. Attend a Training Program

You can either independently attend a security officer training program or you will be required to take one upon being hired as a security officer.

Most training programs can be completed in as little as a month. Security guards will usually receive on the job training that is geared towards the specific properties or things they will be protecting.

Step 2. Get Your License

Security guard licensure requirements differ heavily depending on the state and locale.

Some states merely require a simple training program while others require more intensive instruction. Generally, there are separate licensing procedures for unarmed and armed security guards.

Step 3. Maintain/Renew Certifications

Depending on the kind of security license you have, you may be required to renew said certification.

Renewal requirements may be simply a renewal fee or may involve taking further training courses.

Again, the requirements for license renewal differ heavily depending on your state and locale.

Becoming a Security Guard

Security Guard Education Requirements

There are no general education requirements for becoming a security guard as the majority of the training occurs on the job.

Most security guard positions only require you to hold at least a high school diploma/GED.

Depending on the specific employer, some post-secondary or certificate programs may be required. While on the job, security guards will receive education and training in preventing theft, vandalism, and other harmful scenarios.

Security guards will most likely receive some instruction in combat and may receive firearms instruction. Some positions, such as in casino management or investigation, may require a postsecondary or certificate.

Having a past in law enforcement or the military will make you a more attractive candidate.

Most states require security guards to have a license to work. Exact details vary from state to state but most require applicants to be at least 18 years of age, have a clean criminal record, and pass a drug screening.

Licensure varies according to the type of property guarded and whether or not you will carry a firearm.


Since there are no “security guard” degrees, there are no accredited programs for security guard instruction. However, several organizations offer certification courses that offer specific training in security officer operations. Some states may require these certification courses prior to licensure.

Training Information & Types of Security Guard Degrees

Since there are no general education requirements for being a security guard there are very few security guard degree education programs.

That being said, there are many degrees you can choose conducive to becoming a security guard.

For example, a degree in political science, criminal justice, or a related field can prepare you for training as a security guard and may make you a more attractive applicant to employers.

Security guards who specialize in digital infrastructure and information protection can pursue degree programs in Cybersecurity and Information Security.

In general, there is a lot of flexibility in how you can approach your education.

Some institutions offer certificate level courses meant to train a person in the basic conduct of securities operations.

These courses introduce students to emergency response procedures, crime scene prevention, report writing, fire prevention, and laws surrounding the profession.

What You’ll Study

What you will study varies significantly depending on your choice of degree program.

If you pursue a criminal justice degree, for example, you will take courses covering crime and society, criminal investigation, legal procedures, and law enforcement strategies.

Students who pursue a degree in political science might take courses covering political and legal administration and law enforcement structures and operations.

If you opt to take a security officer certification course you will cover basic techniques for dealing with emergencies, such as crowd control, proper floor planning, and security protocols.

You will also cover topics related to the legal operation and authority of security guards. Generally, security guards have to take a separate certification course to be registered to use a firearm. Firearms courses cover the basic operation of firearms, safety procedures, and the legal and liability aspects of firearm usage.

While on the job, training will depend heavily on what kinds of things you are protecting. Guarding a warehouse is very different than performing security for events, for example.

Security Guard Training

How Long Does it Take to Become a Security Guard?

It depends on the program you follow. If you opt for a traditional associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, political science, or some other field, it will take you anywhere from 2-4 years to complete your degree.

Again, you do not have to get any degree to work as a security officer.

You could start working as one tomorrow if you went out and got a job right now. Granted, you may have to go through some training before you are allowed to work in a full capacity.

Otherwise, most certification courses only take around 45-80 hours of total instruction and can be completed in as little as three weeks or as long as 6 months. You can finish these training courses while you are working.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Security Guard?

The typical cost for a security certification training program can be anywhere between $700 and $2,000. Higher cost training usually leads to better quality training and better employment options. Some websites offer “free” courses in security training but these are usually not reputable programs and will not adequately prepare you for employment.

Option 1: Security Guard Training Certificate

Although many employers provide newly hired guards with training, most states have formal educational programs through vocational institutions.

Several institutions offer security training certificate programs which are meant to familiarize newcomers with the field and prepare them for employment. These courses cover the basics of securities operations including crime scene conduct, legal responsibilities, ethics, public relations, and access control.

These programs are designed to be completed on your own time and normally have few mandatory prerequisites.

Security training programs are ideal for newcomers to the field, training to increase individual expertise and refresher courses for currently employed officers.

Generally, basic level security training courses do not include firearms instruction and students have to take a specific firearms-related course to become registered to patrol with a firearm.

Admission Requirements

Most training programs only require applicants to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. Depending on the program, you may have to pass a physical fitness exam or pass a physical examination.


Training programs rarely consist of courses and instead have separate units that cover different areas of securities operations. Some topics covered in a training course might be:

  • How to know when a crowd is turning hostile
  • How to ensure traffic moves smoothly
  • How to de-escalate confrontation
  • Proper report writing and protocol
  • Legal obligations and powers of security officers
  • Situational awareness and investigation techniques

Option 2: Associate’s Degree (Criminal Justice, Poli Sci, etc.)

While most employers only require their guards to have a high school diploma and offer training on the job, some higher-security institutions like hospitals may prefer candidates who have some college education at the associate’s level.

The two-degree paths most conducive to working as a security guard are criminal justice and political science. Both criminal justice and political science programs will give you a look at the inner workings of law enforcement and criminal procedure and law; subjects that security guards should know.

Some associate’s programs in criminal justice may offer some security training with local law enforcement agencies. This training involves incarceration methods, evidence handling procedures, and criminal procedure.

Admission Requirements

Most associate’s level programs require students to have at least a high school diploma/GED. You will also be required to send in standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) and some criminal justice programs require applicants to pass a background check upon acceptance.


Some courses covered in a political science or criminal justice program may be:

  • Criminal procedure
  • Public Administration
  • Introduction to Criminology
  • Intro to US Legal Systems
  • Composition
Security Guard

Online Security Guard Programs

There are several online security training programs that you can complete at your own pace. These programs use the latest online modules and technologies to instruct students on securities operations. Online programs are a great option for non-traditional students, distance learners, or employed security professionals who want to brush up on the fundamentals of the discipline.

There are, however, no online security officer firearm training programs. Firearms training programs are in-person and require you to submit to a criminal background check and fingerprint identification.

How to Get Your Security Guard License

Security guard licensure requirements varies depending on the state. Generally, most employers will require you to complete some sort of training certification program and some states mandate that employers train new hires.

Other states license security officers at the local or regional level. There are some states in which security officers do not require a license. Further, individual locales may have several differ security officer designations. For example, in St. Louis, MO, there are 4 legally recognized types of security professionals, watchmen, couriers, security officers, and corporate security advisors.

Each kind of security profession has distinct licensing requirements and procedures. Make sure you are familiar with local licensing for security professionals.

In general, there are separate licensing procedures for unarmed guards and armed guards. The licensing requirements for armed security guards are understandably higher than unarmed.

License Renewal

Depending on the kind of security license you hold, you may have to periodically renew your credentials. Agan, renewal requirements vary significantly depending on the state and local legislation.

Some areas only require a renewal fee while others may require professionals to complete a certain amount of training. In general, if you wait too long after your license expires to renew, you will have to apply for your license again.

Security Guard Job Outlook & Growth

Security guards face decent starting salaries and fast growth potential.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for security professionals was $28,530 ($13.72/hour).

The top 10% of earners made an average salary of more than $55,520 and the bottom 10% of earners made less than $23,090. Security officers employed in state government positions saw the highest average salaries at $60,,700 while those employed in investigative, guard, and armored care services saw the lowest salaries at $27,100.

The profession is expected to grow by 4% from 2018-2028, about the national average. Security officers see generally stable job prospects due to the constant need for protection and security in society.

Security guards usually work in 8-hour shifts that rotate between nights and days. Some positions may require guards to work as much as 12-hour shifts and often work through the night.

Associations, Groups & Resources for Security Guards

What is a Security Guard

As funny as it is, Mall Cop doesn’t really tell the whole story on exactly how to become a security guard. In fact, it doesn’t nearly tell the half of it.

A security guard is an important member of the law enforcement team in any location that has the responsibilities of:

  • Communicate closely with other law enforcement and emergency personnel
  • Keep an accurate record of daily occurrences
  • Monitor all of the security components of their location, including alarm systems, doors, and windows, to ensure proper security
  • Interview witnesses and/or serve as a court witness if needed
  • Patrol property regularly to ensure a proper level of security

Most guards work 12-hour shifts either throughout the day or overnight. Most teams are multi-manned but certain locations may only require one security professional.

The individuals may work in a variety of locations, including casinos and gaming resorts, law enforcement facilities, museums, college campuses, and more.

What Does a Security Guard Do?

With such an important role in protecting the general population adequate training and preparation is essential for security guards, according to the National Careers Service. While it’s important for any security professional to be mature and trustworthy, individuals who want to progress in the field must possess these five essential characteristics or skills to be successful.


Security guard is responsible for overseeing the safety of an entire facility, including the people and belongings inside. As such, it’s essential that these professionals stay focused and alert as much as possible or else they risk missing something. An officer who is unobservant runs the risk of missing a criminal in action.


A good security office must be full of integrity – someone who can be trusted and who will do the right thing in the heat of the moment. These individuals are responsible for securing access to buildings and protecting a business or facility against crime and theft. If an officer is not integrous and honest, he or she might put the company at risk or worse steal or damage the company in some way.

Physically Fit

Being physically fit is another important characteristic of an officer. An unfit guard may not be able to effectively perform the job, such as pursuing a potential criminal. According to research, being in good physical condition also enhances overall mental alertness as well. A security officer must also put forth a clean, professional demeanor, so being fit helps establish that level of professionalism as well.

Effective Communication Skills

Being an effective communicator, both in oral and written communication, is another important characteristic of a security guard. A security guard is responsible for keeping accurate records of daily happenings to keep track of anything that may be of importance. Being able to communicate effectively is an important component of that task. Likewise, a security guard may be responsible for serving as a witness or communicating to other law enforcement professionals in a number of different capacities, which makes effective oral communication important.

Detail Oriented

Being detail oriented and able to perform a variety of tasks is also essential for security professionals. These individuals are responsible for carrying out a number of different tasks to keep the business or other location secure, so having acute attention to detail is a necessity.

Security Guard Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for explaining that we’ll need official training to become a security guard. My brother told me he’s interested in becoming a security guard. I’m excited to help him find the right training program so he can reach his goal!

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