How to Become a Security Guard - A Comprehensive Guide

How to Become a Security Guard – A Comprehensive Guide

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the main steps you need to take to launch a career as a security guard. We’ll cover the training and licensing required, how to search for open positions, and tips for accessing interviews. We’ll also provide advice to help you excel once you’re hired. If you’re organized, observant, and calm under pressure, a security guard role could be the perfect way to earn good money while making people feel safe. Read on to learn everything you need to know to get started in this growing and rewarding field.


Completing the required training is one of the first steps to becoming a security guard. While requirements vary by state, most require at least 8 hours of pre-assignment training. This training covers legal powers and responsibilities, emergency response, access control, and patrolling. Your employer may also require additional on-the-job training after you’re hired.

Your state’s regulatory agency usually provides 8 hours of pre-assignment training. For example, in California, you would complete the 8 hours through the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). Some states allow you to complete an approved online training course. Hands-on training may also be required depending on your work setting. For example, if you’re assigned to a retail store, you may need to learn how to deal with shoplifting.

Additional training beyond the state requirement can make you a more attractive candidate and prepare you for the job. Many community colleges and technical schools offer security guard training programs that range from a few weeks to over a year. These programs provide in-depth instruction in security procedures, self-defence, access control, and emergency response. They culminate in a professional certification like a Certified Protection Officer (CPO) or Certified Security Guard (CSG).

Background Checks

You must pass a background check to be licensed as a security guard. The specifics vary by state, but a criminal background check is standard. Most states will not grant a security guard license if you have felonies or serious misdemeanours. Some infractions, like DUIs, may also disqualify you depending on how recent they are.

A drug screening is also a common requirement for licensure. If you have a history of drug-related offences, you may not be able to get licensed. Your financial history may be checked, too, but financial crimes are generally not an automatic disqualification. As long as you are upfront about your criminal record and don’t try to hide anything, a minor infraction doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to work in the field.

Background checks are not only required for licensure – many employers will also run their own during the hiring process. Large security companies like Allied Universal and Securitas use extensive screening. Expect your employment history, education, fingerprints, credit standing, and motor vehicle records to be reviewed.

The best way to pass the background check is to maintain a clean record. If you have anything potentially disqualifying in your past, be honest and provide evidence that you have turned your life around. Getting character references from trusted community members can also help assuage any concerns.


To work as a security guard in the United States, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident. When applying for your security guard license, you must have to show proof of citizenship or legal residency. A birth certificate, U.S. passport, permanent resident card, or certificate of naturalization are accepted documents.

Some states also allow non-citizens to become security guards if they live in the U.S. under a valid visa. For example, California allows legal visa holders like students or temporary workers to get a security guard license. Check your state’s regulations to see if this exception applies.

Any private security company that employs undocumented immigrants can face severe fines. Companies that work on government contracts are legally required to use only U.S. citizens or legal residents. So, while there are limited exceptions, having full lawful status will open up the most job opportunities.


Along with proof of citizenship or legal status, you must show a valid government-issued photo I.D. to get your security guard license. A driver’s license or state I.D. card are the most common options. Some states may also accept military I.D.s or passports.

You will also need to provide your Social Security number to run the required criminal and financial background checks. Failing to provide your SSN or false information can result in your application being denied.

Remember that your photo I.D. is also essential to your professional appearance while on the job. All security guards wear a visible I.D. badge. You want to maintain an orderly, official look to command respect. Make sure your photo ID accurately reflects how you look on duty.

First Aid Training

In an emergency, security guards are the first responders. So, having proper first aid and CPR training is a mandatory requirement for licensure in most states. Exact requirements vary, but training in providing first aid, CPR, and automated external defibrillator (AED) device is standard.

Some states require as little as 4 hours of combined training in these areas. Others require separate certifications for each skill – for example, 4 hours of first aid training, 4 hours of CPR certification, and 2 hours of AED certification. Taking more extensive coursework can further boost your credentials. The American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer training programs and certification.

To maintain your license, you must renew your first aid and CPR certifications periodically, usually every 1-2 years. Completing a refresher course ensures your vital skills will be sharp when needed. Having up-to-date first aid and lifesaving expertise can become one of the most essential parts of your work as a security guard.

SIA Licence

While state-issued security guard licenses are mandatory everywhere, getting an additional license from the Security Industry Authority (SIA) can further boost your career opportunities. The SIA is the regulatory body for the private security industry in the United Kingdom. Earning an SIA license signals that you meet their high standards for practices and training.

Some of the benefits of obtaining an SIA licence include:

  • Access to more job opportunities, especially with larger security firms
  • Ability to work private security jobs anywhere in the U.K.
  • Demonstration of advanced training and adherence to a strict code of conduct
  • Increased trust from employers, clients, and the public
  • Higher pay – SIA licensed guards can earn £1-3 per hour more than those without a license

To be approved for an SIA license, you need to pass a criminal background check and complete designated training modules through an SIA-approved provider. Once licensed, you must comply with SIA standards and codes of practice. Licenses must be renewed every three years. Though optional, earning an SIA license in addition to your state license can be impressive for both U.K. and overseas employers.


Becoming a licensed security guard provides an excellent opportunity to begin a stable, respectable career projected to grow over the next decade. With minimal barriers to entry but solid job security and decent pay, it is an accessible profession for those who enjoy physical work and helping protect people and property. By following the steps outlined here, like completing required training, passing background checks, and getting proper certifications, you will be well on your way to success in the private security industry.


What is the process to become a security guard?

The key steps are completing state-required pre-assignment training, passing criminal/financial background checks, showing proof of legal residency status, obtaining proper I.D., getting first aid/CPR certified, and applying for state licensure. Additional training and SIA certification can also be beneficial.

How long does it take to become a licensed security guard?

If you meet the baseline requirements, it typically takes 2-8 weeks to complete the process from start to finish. The time varies based on your state’s requirements, training course length, and background check processing time.

What disqualifies someone from being a security guard?

Felonies, serious misdemeanours, and recent infractions like DUIs are the most common barriers. Active illegal drug use, poor financial history, and undocumented immigration status can also disqualify applicants.

What are the physical requirements to be a guard?

Guards need the fitness and mobility to stand/patrol for long periods, apprehend suspects if required, and respond quickly to emergencies. Requirements vary, but good health and mobility are essential.

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