What Does a Security Guard Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

security guard
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Do you feel that you have an eye for recognizing unsafe conditions or suspicious individuals? If so, then you might do well as a security guard. Security guards are employed by hospitals, schools, colleges, airports, casinos, power companies, and more. Many guards work for private security firms that contract with high-profile businesses.

Security Guard Duties & Responsibilities

Security guards are often a property’s first line of defense in the event of an emergency. Their duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Screening security documents upon arrival of staff and visitors. Contacting relevant departments to verify the security status of visitors.
  • Developing and maintaining positive working relationships with staff. Eliciting constructive criticism regarding security services.
  • Monitoring the premises and reporting any damage to facilities that might present a safety risk.
  • Rotating through assigned areas on foot or authorized transportation son a regular basis.
  • Detaining any individuals lacking appropriate credentials and notifying campus authorities.
  • Overseeing investigations of events surrounding a breach of security. Providing written reports of those events promptly within a designated timeframe.
  • Escorting visitors and contractors to their destination within the facility as directed by protocols.
  • Assisting police, fire, and EMT personnel that arrive on the scene of an emergency. Securing areas surrounding the incident.

Security guards oversee the safety of personal/business property and enforce company safety standards. They often screen visitors and monitor imaging equipment that detects weapons or simply surveils the property.

Security Guards detain individuals who have committed infractions until the police arrive. They may also interview witnesses to gather information for the authorities. Security Guards sometimes provide testimony in court after witnessing a crime. They complete reports to document incidents.

Security Guard Salary

Most security guards are paid hourly either on a full or part-time basis, but their total annual median pay is listed below.

  • Median Annual Salary: $32,680
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $55,520
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $23,090

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training, & Certification

Most security guards are not required to have a college degree. Many military veterans transition into civilian life via a security job. Others enjoy the day-to-day of security or wish to use it as a stepping stone to get into more serious criminal justice work.

  • Education: Most often, security guards will be hired with a high school degree. Some organizations prefer candidates with an Associate’s degree in an area such as criminal justice or police science. Security guards with some college education or prior experience in law enforcement and military will have the best chance to take on leadership positions within the security industry. Thorough background checksare conducted with candidates for security guard positions, given the sensitive nature of the work.
  • Certification: Guards who carry firearms receive more extensive preparation for handling weapons, such as licensing and proficiency tests.
  • Training: Some states require training before employment, once guards are hired and /or continuing education each year. Training might include topics like crisis intervention, documenting incidents, first aid, and company protocols.

Security Guard Skills & Competencies

Even though security guards are not among the highest-paid professionals, their work can be quite challenging. Here is a list of the top skills required of security guards.

  • Problem Sensitivity: Security guards need to be aware that something is not as it should be. Often, they will be dealing with two people in open dispute or victims of a crime. Guards must able to confront unsafe situations while also deescalating volatile situations.
  • Active Listening: If you are a security guard, you must pay attention to what is going on in front of you. You must be able to carefully follow verbal instructions or take statements from witnesses.
  • High-Stress Tolerance: While security guards spend hours feeling bored, one intense moment can be extremely stressful. They must be able to handle high-stress situations and manage that stress to stay calm during emergencies.
  • Critical Thinking: As a security guard, you must able to distinguish between normal and abnormal. Additionally, you may be regularly confronted by people that are trying to mislead you from the truth.
  • Customer Service: When there are no dangers present, security guards must remain polite and not cause any alarm for visitors. They must seek to deescalate tense situations as they occur.
  • Investigation: When something is not as it should be, you will be expected to inquire into anything that appears suspicious. This includes taking a closer look or learning to ask the right questions when interviewing others after an incident.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of security guards and gaming surveillance workers is expected to increase by 6% from now until 2026 (this is about average). The unfortunate outbreak of mass shootings in schools and other public venues has increased the demand for more security. Security guards with advanced firearms training and certifications are in highest demand. 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Work Environment

Security guards will rotate by foot or vehicle (such as scooters, golf carts, cars, or bicycles) through assigned locations and monitor activity, enforce policies, and regulations as outlined by clients. As a security guard, you may be asked to roam the premises on either day or night shifts.

Other times, you may be required to watch for suspicious activity via camera screens in a security office. Your employer will expect you to keep accurate notes and report any suspicious activity immediately.

Work Schedule

Security guards work all hours of the day or night. Some guards only work nights. A work schedule can include full-time or part-time hours, depending on the nature of the job.

Key Takeaways:

Highlight Your Experience: When building a resume, you want to make sure and highlight any experience you’ve had in security, including transferrable skills from past jobs.

Be Prepared to Share Examples: While most security jobs do not require cover letters, it is a good idea to recall a dangerous situation or two you handled well in a past job and highlight that/those events briefly in a cover letter or in your job interview.

Apply: Most security jobs are posted on job boards. Or, you can apply directly to local security contracting companies that partner with vendors looking for security guards to protect the premises.

Comparing Similar Jobs

There are several careers that revolve around security and criminal justice. Here are a few with their median salaries.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018