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How Hard Is It To Become a Security Guard in 2023?

LAST EDIT May 13, 2023

Question: How Hard Is It To Become a Security Guard in 2023?

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As the author of the "Unarmed Security Test Prep Book," I have enjoyed assisting numerous future security officers as they embark on their careers.

In this article, I wanted to share my advice for individuals considering entering the security field but need to know what is expected as they apply for their license. This advice may also be helpful to those concerned about the ever-increasing attempts to regulate security officers.

If you are still working on getting your license, stay tuned to the end of the article for access to some free tools that will be a significant help as you obtain your license, certification, or guard card.

This article is brought to you by The Security Officer Network. It's an amazing tool for building your security portfolio and marketing yourself to employers and clients as a true security professional.

Most states regulate and license security guards. This year, 2023, Maryland became another state to pass a new security guard regulation bill. In the shrinking number of states yet to regulate, discussions are ongoing, such as this example from Nebraska.

We will talk about these regulations in a moment. But before we do, here's my answer to some common concerns you might have.

"Am I going to have to take a physical fitness test?"

Not likely. State regulations don't address security officer physicality. If you lack physical fitness or are not in good shape, security companies might hesitate to place you on assignment at key posts. However, many posts don't have a physical fitness requirement. While this isn't an excuse for being unhealthy, it's not a barrier to becoming an officer.

"So, what about a degree in criminal justice or a related field? Will I need a college degree?"

Your hiring agency may require a GED or high school diploma to hire you, but they are unlikely to require a college degree. In fact, I suggest that an increasing number of savvy employers in the security industry actually prefer candidates without college degrees. These employers have recognized that many degrees are not directly relevant to the security field and that the burden of student debt can make survival on a security guard's salary challenging. It's to their disadvantage to hire employees constantly worried about money and debt. No employer wants to deal with an employee who is always asking for an advance on pay or frequently borrowing money from other officers.

Instead of hiring a debt-ridden, college-degree-holding applicant, your security employer may much prefer an employee who wants to have a laser-like focus on developing expertise in relevant areas, such as communication, conflict resolution, tactical communication, and situational awareness. This willingness to learn and develop in the real world, instead of the artificial world that college creates, should be much more valued by employers.

This potential shift in hiring preferences presents a unique opportunity for individuals without a college degree to break into the security sector and build a successful career.

Perhaps you're worried because you lack military experience. Will this put a cap on your ability to have a well-paying career in the upper echelons of the private security industry?

For example, maybe you're rightly worried that exciting careers, such as joining a Private Military Company (PMC), are out of reach. This is a valid concern, but I suggest that even here, recent changes in the political climate surrounding the military may have influenced the preferences of employers, in this case, PMC owners. Many of the old-guard PMC higher-ups have likely grown increasingly disenchanted with the politicization of the current military and may now favor recruits without a military background, whom they can train according to traditional security principles sans the politics they worry spoil many of the current crop of military newbies.

So, view these changes as encouraging happenings. If you are willing to work hard, learn the industry, develop your conflict resolution skills, and aspire to professionalism, then there's a path for you.

Now, let's consider some of the likely state requirements you will need to meet. At the end of the list, I will provide the link to the list of state regulatory authorities so that you can confirm the specifics in your state.

First things first, are you at least 18? If so, congratulations, you qualify thus far.

Second, do you have a criminal history? If not, then great. If so, it doesn't mean you will be prevented from getting a license. But, more on that in a future article.

Regardless, you will need to undergo a fingerprint submission and a criminal records background check, which can be a bit of a pain.

Then, there's the training. If you're lucky, your training will be provided by your security agency, and they might even pay you while you take the training. However, you might find that you are in a state where you have to pay to go to training at a school or technical center. The subject matter isn't too tough. There might be some memorization of facts, but you shouldn't worry about the degree of difficulty. Topics include the role of security guards, legal and ethical issues, emergency procedures, and report writing. At the conclusion of the training, some states require applicants to pass a written or practical examination to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of security principles and practices.

Then, there are the fees: expect background check and fingerprinting fees, and a fee to apply for the license. This can be a couple of hundred dollars out of pocket.

Don't let these requirements discourage you. In fact, you might find that your employer will pay your fees and help you with the training. U.S. Department of Labor data shows that the industry is continuing to grow and industry reporting indicates security companies are struggling to fill shifts and pay overtime. So, this is an employee's market in which the company is incentivized to go above and beyond to help you meet state requirements.

To sum it up, in 2023, more states are passing regulations and requirements onto private security, but they are not, as of yet, too restrictive or difficult to deal with -- especially if you have a good employer who will hire you first, and then help you navigate the licensing requirements.

As promised, here are the free resources that you need:

The List of State Regulatory Entities:

The Unarmed Security Prep Guide: This book will walk you through what you will be expected to know before taking an unarmed security exam. You can buy the actual book on Amazon or get a free PDF at

The Web's Best Unarmed Security Practice Test: This test will provide a customized study guide to help you address and mitigate your weak points.

And, of course, if you are serious about becoming a private security professional, join us at It's the professional security officer's status symbol of choice.

That's it for now, we will see you next time.

Follow on Twitter at officerhq. This is a great way to stay in the know with the latest going on in the security industry. As a current or future security professional, it's your knowledge of the industry that allows you to stand out above the other security providers.

Join us at It's here where you will build your professional portfolio, take and document your Security Officer Network training programs, and maintain your Network membership; the professional security officer's status symbol of choice.

Are you ready to start thinking about starting your own security company? Check out this 140 page ebook from The Security Officer Network entitled "How to Start A Security Guard Company". Get your PDF copy while it is still free! Or, order the paperback from Amazon.

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