Security Officer Career Training and Qualifications
Generally, there are no specific education requirements for security officers, but employers usually prefer to fill armed guard positions with people who have at least a high school diploma. Gaming surveillance officers often need some education beyond high school. In most States, security officers must be licensed.
Education and training. Many employers of unarmed security officers do not have any specific educational requirements. For armed security officers, employers usually prefer individuals who are high school graduates or who hold an equivalent certification.
Many employers give newly hired guards instruction before they start the job and provide on-the-job training. The amount of training guards receive varies. Training is more rigorous for armed security officers because their employers are legally responsible for any use of force. Armed security officers receive formal training in areas such as weapons retention and laws covering the use of force. They may be periodically tested in the use of firearms.
An increasing number of States are making ongoing training a legal requirement for retention of licensure. Security officers may receive training in protection, public relations, report writing, crisis deterrence, first aid, and specialized training relevant to their particular assignment.
The American Society for Industrial Security International has written voluntary training guidelines that are intended to provide regulating bodies consistent minimum standards for the quality of security services. These guidelines recommend that security officers receive at least 48 hours of training within the first 100 days of employment. The guidelines also suggest that security officers be required to pass a written or performance examination covering topics such as sharing information with law enforcement, crime prevention, handling evidence, the use of force, court testimony, report writing, interpersonal and communication skills, and emergency response procedures. In addition, they recommend annual retraining and additional firearms training for armed officers.
Security officers who are employed at establishments that place a heavy emphasis on security usually receive extensive formal security guards training. For example, guards at nuclear power plants undergo several months of training before going on duty and even then, they perform their tasks under close supervision for a significant period of time. They are taught to use firearms, administer first aid, operate alarm systems and electronic security equipment, and spot and deal with security problems.
Gaming surveillance officers and investigators usually need some training beyond high school but not usually a bachelor's degree. Several educational institutes offer certification programs. Classroom training usually is conducted in a casino-like atmosphere and includes the use of surveillance camera equipment. Previous security experience is a plus. Employers prefer either individuals with casino experience and significant knowledge of casino operations or those with law enforcement and investigation experience.
Licensure. Most States require that security officers be licensed. To be licensed as a security officer, individuals must usually be at least 18 years old, pass a background check, and complete classroom training in such subjects as property rights, emergency procedures, and detention of suspected criminals. Drug testing often is required and may be random and ongoing.
Security officers who carry weapons must be licensed by the appropriate government authority, and some receive further certification as special police officers, allowing them to make limited types of arrests while on duty. Armed security officer positions have more stringent background checks and entry requirements than those of unarmed guards.
Other qualifications. Most jobs require a driver's license. For positions as armed security officer, employers often seek people who have had responsible experience in other occupations.
Rigorous hiring and screening programs consisting of background, criminal record, and fingerprint checks are becoming the norm in the occupation. Applicants are expected to have good character references, no serious police record, and good health. They should be mentally alert, emotionally stable, and physically fit to cope with emergencies. Security officers who have frequent contact with the public should communicate well.
Like security officers, gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators must have keen observation skills and excellent verbal and writing abilities to document violations or suspicious behavior. They also need to be physically fit and have quick reflexes because they sometimes must detain individuals until local law enforcement officials arrive.
Advancement. Compared with unarmed security officers, armed security officers and special police usually enjoy higher earnings and benefits, greater job security, and more potential for advancement. Because many people do not stay long in this occupation, opportunities for advancement are good for those who make a career in security. Most large organizations use a military type of ranking that offers the possibility of advancement in both position and salary. Some security officers may advance to supervisor or security manager positions. security officers with management skills may open their own contract security guard agencies. Security officers can also move to an organization with more stringent security and higher pay.