What Does a Private Security Guard Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A security guard
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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 thus 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 any potential threats
  • Deny entry to unauthorized people
  • Provide entry to authorized people
  • Question and possibly detain people who make it onto or into 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 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 not a lot of requirements to get started working in private security. In fact, private security is one of several criminal justice careers jobs that don’t require a college degree.

For lower-paying security jobs, you often simply need 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.

For the more lucrative personal security and corporate security jobs, you need to have relevant experience, either through ​several years of working in various security-related jobs or as a former law enforcement officer or investigator.

Most states require security guards to be registered. If they carry a gun, security guards must be registered to do that as well.

Private Security Guard Skills & Competencies

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

  • Interpersonal skills: Security guards must be able to deal effectively with members of the public.
  • Vigilance: They need to be able to remain alert and attentive for long periods of time.
  • Ability to read and react to situations: Security guards must be able to 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 percent 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 even 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—even 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 their communities.

Work Schedule

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

How to Get the Job


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.


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 considering the following careers. The figures provided are median annual salaries: