A security guard’s post isn’t for the faint of heart. Employers hire security officers to help protect against fire, theft, vandalism, terrorism, and other illegal actions. Security guards ensure safety by actively patrolling or using security systems to keep a watchful eye over a facility. Like police officers, a number of security guards are armed with a weapon. Responsibilities vary depending on the setting—transportation guards use detectors to screen passengers, while security guards at casinos survey for cheating and underage gamblers. Although movies frequently depict security guards sleeping on the job, there’s little down time in this line of work, as guards must remain alert to monitor for any suspicious activity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a steady job growth of 18.8 percent for the profession between 2010 and 2020, as concern about crime, vandalism, and terrorism continue to increase the need for security. During that time period, 195,000 jobs will be added.


According to the BLS, in 2011, security guards earned a median average salary of $23,900. The best-paid earned about $41,860, while the lowest-paid made approximately $17,260. The highest earners worked in the metropolitan areas of Ithaca, N.Y., San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Amarillo, Texas.

Salary Range

75th Percentile – $31,150
Median – $23,900
25th Percentile – $19,600


While no universal set of qualifications exists for security guards, many employers prefer to hire individuals with a high school diploma. Previous law enforcement or military experience is definitely a plus. Employers frequently run background checks on potential candidates, so a clean criminal record is important. Employers may also conduct drug tests before hiring a candidate. New employees receive an on-site orientation from their employer about their role and responsibilities. Armed security guards do require the proper certification for carrying a weapon and undergo more thorough on-the-job training. States possess different weapon policies, so be sure to get the proper license to retain your weapon. Additionally, state governments have begun to register security guards. This licensing procedure usually involves a background check and some classroom training independent of your employer.

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