What Does a Private Security Guard Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a big, muscular man standing by the door of an expensive-looking apartment. Text reads:

Image by Jiaqi Zhou © The Balance 2019

Private security guards provide security for people and facilities. They typically deal with issues related to trespassing, burglary, theft, or threats to their clients. Private security guards are not agents or officers of the state and do not have the same arrest and detention powers and authority a sworn police officer has. They may, however, temporarily detain someone on the property they are responsible for until law enforcement arrives to investigate.

Private Security Guard Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following tasks:

  • Make rounds to check doors and other access points.
  • Monitor closed-circuit security feeds to identify potential threats.
  • Deny entry to unauthorized people.
  • Provide entry to authorized people.
  • Question and detain people who enter the property without authorization.
  • Alert the police.

Private security guards are hired to keep away people who do not have an appointment or a prior relationship with their employer. They also keep track of people who have been given access to the property and often give them a badge or some other form of identification to show they are allowed to be there.

Private Security Guard Salary

The salary of private security guards depends on the company or person who hires them, their level of experience, and the geographical area. Hourly wages are based on a 40-hour workweek.

  • Median Annual Salary: $28,490 ($13.70/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $49,650 ($23.87/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $20,290 ($9.75/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

There are few requirements to work in private security. Private security is one of several criminal justice careers jobs that don’t require a college degree.

  • Experience: For the more lucrative personal security and corporate security jobs, relevant experience, either through ​several years of working in various security-related jobs or as a former law enforcement officer or investigator, are needed.
  • Background check: Lower-paying security jobs require applicants to pass a background check, be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and be physically capable of doing the job.
  • Registration: Most states require security guards to be registered. If they carry a gun, security guards must have a license or permit to carry a firearm.

    Private Security Guard Skills & Competencies

    There are certain qualities and skills a private security guard must possess:

    • Interpersonal skills: Security guards must deal effectively with members of the public.
    • Vigilance: They need to remain alert and attentive for long periods of time.
    • Read and react to situations: Security guards must judge whether someone is a threat and how best to address the situation.

    Job Outlook

    The BLS predicts the number of security guards will grow 6% from 2016 to 2026. That's about as fast as the average for all occupations.

    Work Environment

    Private security guards work for apartment complexes, corporations, gated communities, retail stores, shopping malls, private universities, and private residences. Essentially, if a private person, business, or organization feels they need added protection, they might hire security guards to ensure the safety of themselves, their clients, and their assets.

    Public buildings, including those controlled by state and local governments, may also hire security guards rather than rely on sworn law enforcement officers who could instead be put to work patrolling the community.

    Work Schedule

    Private security guards may work steady shifts or according to the needs of their employer.

    How to Get the Job

    WRITE A TARGETED RESUME AND COVER LETTER

    Create a resume that plays up your strengths and sets you apart from other candidates. Write a short but instructive cover letter that makes potential employers eager to meet with you.

    REHEARSE COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

    Many of the same questions come up during interviews with human resources employees and hiring managers. Review these questions and ways to answer them that will impress your interviewer.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    People who are interested in becoming a security guard might also consider the following careers. The figures provided are median annual salaries: