Becoming a Bodyguard: Job Description & Salary Information

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Get the truth about a bodyguard's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read about the job's duties and learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a bodyguard.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Bodyguard

To become a bodyguard, you typically must have a high school diploma and a clean criminal record. Learn more about the pros and cons of a bodyguard career so you can determine if it's a good fit for you.

Pros of a Bodyguard Career
Potential to earn excellent salaries (top-earning workers made over $120,000 as of September 2015)*
Can protect and defend people**
May work with many different individuals, including celebrities, athletes and politicians**
May get to choose your own hours and the specific jobs you want to work***

Cons of a Bodyguard Career
Age restrictions (most employers require you to be at least 21 years old)***
Law enforcement or military experience is usually preferred***
Must meet certain physical fitness standards***
Many employers prefer that you receive certification***

Sources: *Payscale.com, **Swarthmore College, ***May 2012 Monster.com and SafeGuard Resources job postings.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

A bodyguard's duty is to protect clients, such as celebrities, wealthy businesspeople, influential speakers or political figures, from threats of assault, kidnap, murder or theft. You may protect your client temporarily for a certain event, such as a concert, or you may offer around-the-clock protection, which could include driving them from place to place.

As a bodyguard, your primary concern is the person you're protecting, which means getting them out of any dangerous situations immediately. You must constantly survey your surroundings and the people around you to identify any potential threats. In some instances, you may need to subdue an attacker or simply use the nearest exit to provide your client with a safe escape.

Career and Salary Information

Payscale.com reported that most bodyguards made varied salaries that ranged from around $41,000-$120,000 per year as of September 2015. Employment outlook information for bodyguards isn't readily available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment would increase 19% for security guards and 21% for private investigators and detectives from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). This rate of growth was about average compared to other occupations.

Education and Training Requirements

You can potentially work as a bodyguard with just a high school diploma. Some states, however, require that bodyguards and security guards earn certification or licensure, so it's important to learn about your state's requirements. Additionally, many employers look for bodyguards who have a military or law enforcement background. Factors that could determine your eligibility to join the military include your age, the scores from a vocational aptitude test, your fitness, your height and your weight.

Before becoming a bodyguard, you might want to earn an associate's degree in law enforcement, criminal justice or protection management. You could also complete police academy training. This training can prepare you to use weapons and familiarize you with the issues that law enforcement professionals face.

Top Skills for Bodyguards

Law enforcement or military training can teach you to shoot, defend yourself, keep note of your surroundings and profile people so you can identify possible threats. Other capabilities that most bodyguards have include:

  • Recognizing signs of a dangerous situation
  • Subduing people who pose a threat to your client
  • Solving problems
  • Communicating effectively
  • Knowing points of exit
  • Acquiring clients' trust

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers typically prefer hiring bodyguards who have a military background or experience in law enforcement. The following job postings for bodyguards were from May 2012.

  • A security company in Milwaukee that outsources security professionals wanted to hire a custom protection officer who was at least 21 years old, had a clean drug test, could pass a background check and held at least a high school diploma. The employer preferred someone who had military or law enforcement experience, but an associate's degree or higher in criminal justice could substitute for this.
  • A Chicago security company advertised for an event security professional who could work part time, usually on weekends, to protect celebrities, athletes and other entertainers. The employer wanted someone who had at least five years of experience in private security, law enforcement or the military, a clean criminal record and good judgement.
  • A protection company in Houston searched for a bodyguard who was at least 21 years old, had a license as a private protection officer, a high school diploma and a clean background. The ideal candidate had at least four years of military, law enforcement or security experience. The employer expected applicants to be able to pass physical and agility tests.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Gaining real-world experience is one of the best steps you can take to make yourself stand out as a bodyguard. This could mean taking a position as a security guard outside of a bank, mall or neighborhood. You could also apply to an internship with a security company.

Get Certified

Although it's not required, many employers prefer that you have certification as a bodyguard, personal protection officer (PPO) or close protection agent. You can earn this certification by completing a short 2-day program at a college or university or by completing training programs through professional organizations, such as the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International, which awards a Certified Protection Professional designation (www.asisonline.org).

To be eligible for the ASIS International certified protection professional program, you must have at least a bachelor's degree and seven years of security experience, or if you don't have a degree, you must hold at least nine years of security experience. The program covers threat assessments, the business aspects of security, security laws, protection techniques and crisis management. Upon completion, you must take an exam to earn your certification.

Alternative Career Paths

Police Officer

If the training and experience requirements of a bodyguard dissuade you, you might consider becoming a police officer. These professionals strive to protect the population at large by enforcing laws, testifying in court, making arrests and responding to calls for service. You must have a high school diploma and attend a police academy for entry-level positions, but if you wish to become a detective or criminal investigator, you need a bachelor's degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. As of May 2011, police officers made a median annual salary of around $54,000, but employment was only expected to increase by seven percent between 2010 and 2020, which was slower than average, according to the BLS.

Security Guard

If you're still interested in a similar role where you can protect an entire business or community, you might consider becoming a security guard. As mentioned earlier, the BLS projected that employment would increase by 19% between 2010 and 2020, which was average growth. These professionals ensure the safety of buildings and property by restricting visitors to those who have clearance and using video surveillance to make sure nothing questionable occurs. The BLS stated that security guards made a median annual salary of about $24,000 as of May 2011. You typically only need a high school diploma and usually must be at least 18 years old, have a clean background and hold a guard license.

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

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Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Certificate in Government Analytics

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Homeland Security
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Security Guard
  • Certificate - Business Security

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Track
  • Post-master's Certificate in Criminal Justice - Behavior Analysis

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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