Becoming a Security Officer: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
A security officer's median annual salary is around $24,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a security officer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Security Officer

A security officer is responsible for ensuring people's safety and making sure rules are followed, as well as preventing violence and theft. Continue reading the pros and cons to help determine if a security officer career is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Security Officer
Job opportunities exist in many different environments, including government agencies, airports, retails stores and hospitals*
Many employers don't require a college education*
Little on-the-job training required for lower-level security positions*
Opportunity to work both full- and part-time*

Cons of Becoming a Security Officer
Low pay for entry-level positions (lowest ten percent of workers earned $17,000 or less in May 2014)*
Higher injury rate than the national average*
May be required to work overnight*
Possible interactions with criminals and lawbreakers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Duties

As a security officer, you're tasked with preventing crime and monitoring your assigned workspace. Your daily routines may include regulating building access points, keeping tabs on building alarms, attending security or perimeter checks, protecting employer assets and preventing thefts. You may also be required to answer incoming telephone calls while working when your employer's business is closed. Correct handling of handcuffs, walkie-talkies and surveillance vehicles may also be required.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this field was expected to grow as fast as average, with an increase of 5% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Private sector positions should see the most potential growth, since the use of security guards has replaced the need for police officers in some areas. Casinos, in particular, increasingly rely on security guards to monitor all activities on the casino floor via surveillance cameras. Security officers with technological expertise should have the best job opportunities. As of May 2014, the BLS estimated that the median salary for security officers was about $24,000.

Training and Licensing Requirements

According to the BLS, most employers don't require a college education for entry-level security officer positions. Many of the required skills are acquired through on-the-job training. Your training may include holding suspects, communicating with witnesses and reacting to various types of emergencies. Depending on your state, you may need to earn licensure to work. Licensure usually requires you to submit to a background check, be over the age of 18 and complete training courses. Additional requirements may vary by state.

Useful Skills

To be successful in this field, you must display personal integrity and on-the-fly decision-making skills to assess dangerous situations. You also need the ability to accurately assess your surroundings and determine if someone is exhibiting suspicious or possibly dangerous behavior. If you would like to work in this field, you may also want to evaluate your physical strength. You might need to overpower perpetrators if they pose a physical threat to you or others. Employers may also require you to have the following traits:

  • Ability to work alone or with a team
  • Good communication skills when interacting with the public
  • Ability to multitask
  • Knowledge of computers or surveillance equipment

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many opportunities as a security officer can be found with investigation and security providers. You may also be able to find positions with hospitals, government offices, casinos and educational facilities. While most employers don't require security officers to have a college education, they often require candidates to have previous experience working in a related field. If your employer requires you to use a firearm, you may need to go through additional training, licensure and a background check. Read about some real job postings from April 2012.

  • A security corporation in Seattle advertised for an officer who would be able to prevent unlawful entry, operate gate controls and run closed circuit systems. Applicants must have a high school education, display good customer service skills and pass a background check.
  • A security company in Rhode Island looked for a security officer with the ability to patrol grounds and compile evening reports. Candidates must have at least six months of prior security experience and CPR certification. They also must be willing to work weekends, submit to a drug test and complete on-the-job training
  • A professional services company in Minnesota sought a security officer who could test emergency equipment and ensure system restoration after power malfunctions. Applicants must have at least two years of postsecondary education or equivalent experience and be able to lift 50 pounds.
  • A security company in New York looked for an officer to report suspicious activity and properly assess visitors prior to entry. Applicants must be willing to work overtime and have good computer and communication skills. Previous security experience is preferred.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Earn Your Degree

Although a college education isn't required by many employers, completing postsecondary education in a related field may increase your chances of employment. The BLS suggested that aspiring security officers earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or police science. Criminal justice programs can teach you about criminal law, court system procedures, law enforcement and criminal corrections. Police science programs can train you in patrol procedures, self-defense and police organization. If you're interested in field-specific training, some colleges offer certificate programs dedicated to security training.

Get Certified

Although it may not be required, experienced security officers can stand out in their field by earning the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification through the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International (www.asisonline.org). To qualify for the certification exam, you usually need to hold a bachelor's degree and seven years of experience. If you haven't earned your degree, you must have nine years of experience. You can expect your written exam to cover topics in security practices, business practices, legal issues, safety, information security and investigation techniques. To maintain certification, you're required to submit activity reports every three years.

Alternative Career Paths

Police Officer

If you would like to work in a related law enforcement field, you may want to consider becoming a police officer. As a police officer, you're tasked with protecting civilians and upholding the law. You're also expected to arrest suspected criminals, respond to service requests, pursue fleeing suspects, administer citations and assemble community crime prevention groups. Employers usually require you to have a high school education and successfully graduate from a police academy. According to the BLS in May 2011, police officers earned a median salary of approximately $54,000.

Private Detective

Private detectives are tasked with gathering confidential information by conducting interviews, following people to determine routines, collecting evidence, assisting in missing person cases and wearing disguises to investigate people while remaining undetected. If you would like to work in this field, some criminal justice courses may be beneficial. Depending on your state of employment, you may also be required to earn licensure. As of May 2011, the BLS estimated that private detectives earned a median salary of about $44,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
      • B.A. - Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Management - Homeland Security
    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
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      • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Emergency Management and Public Health
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
    Master's
      • MBA - Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
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  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Law Enforcement & Corrections
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Public Safety and Emergency Management
  • Storrs, CT

    University of Connecticut

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

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

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

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

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Southwest

  • MBA - Law Enforcement & Corrections

What is your highest level of education?