A State by State Security Guard License Guide

Security Guard Requirements in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, licenses are issued to security agencies, not to individual security agency employees. However, employees are subject to state mandates. In many cases, these amount to only basic eligibility requirements, designed to screen out truly unsuitable candidates. Actual standards set by employers may be much higher.

Security guards who carry firearms are legally held to higher standards. They must hold licenses: not security licenses per se but firearms licenses. In order to qualify for a firearms license, an armed security guard must meet general eligibility requirements and training requirements.

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Unarmed Security Guard: Legal Mandates

By state law, individuals are not eligible to work for security agencies if they have been convicted of felonies or if they have held a license and had it revoked. Employees are required to provide their employers with information about their occupation during the prior three years. They must provide statements that they have not been convicted of felonies or crimes of moral turpitude. According to state law, the employer will retain the employee statement and provide it to the state police upon request (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/law-enforce-and-cj/law-enforce/prof-stds/cert-unit/ch-147-sec-22-30.html).

Massachusetts law does not mandate that security guards have reached the age of majority unless they will carry firearms.

Unarmed Security Guards: Employer Expectations

Employers are often far more selective than they are required by law to be. Age 18 is the generally accepted industry-wide minimum around the nation; some employers place the minimum higher: age 21. Many employers require that individuals have high school diplomas or GEDs.

Massachusetts security companies/ licensees have a level of financial responsibility for the actions of their employees. They are required to take out $5,000 surety bonds that cover not only their own actions but those of their agents.

There are a number of regional and national security agencies contracted to fill positions in Massachusetts. They often specify that candidates have strong computer and English language/ verbal skills. Some require that their security officers have previous experience in security or a related field (for example, the military). A bachelor’s degree in a field like criminal justice may be accepted instead.

Civil service positions can also set standards quite high. Among the security-related roles cited by the Massachusetts Division of Human Resources are ‘Institution Security Officer I – Institution Security Officer IV’. There is no minimum experience/ education listed for those at the entry level. However, the Division notes that a driver's license may be an expectation. Job classifications at and above the level of Institution Security Officer II require experience in police, law enforcement or security and/ or comparable education. An associate's degree in police science, criminal justice, or law enforcement might be accepted in lieu of experience at the Security Officer II or III level. To substitute for experience at the Security Officer IV level, one would need at least a bachelor's, though an associate's could be accepted for partial credit. Partial credit may also be granted for coursework taken toward a qualifying degree. Actual hiring requirements in the public sector (as in the private sector) will vary.

Armed Security Guard Requirements

A security guard who will carry a gun will need a firearms license. Massachusetts issues multiple types of firearm authorizations. A License to Carry (LTC) is the one that is generally issued for handguns. In order to be eligible for an LTC, an individual must be at least 21 and must meet general fitness requirements. A person will be disqualified from obtaining based on 'confinement' for mental illness unless a physician is able to certify that, despite the history, the individual is fit to carry a firearm. He or she will be disqualified based on a history of substance abuse or drunkenness unless five years have elapsed since treatment or confinement and a physician is able to certify that the condition is cured.

Felonies are disqualifying as are serious misdemeanors (those that can incur a sentence of two years). Certain other crimes are disqualifying, among them, those involving controlled substances.

The following approved courses are listed in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR):

  • Basic pistol course, home safety course, or personal protection course offered by the National Rifle Association
  • Massachusetts Carry Permit Course offered by Smith & Wesson Academy
  • Handgun Orientation Course offered by SIGS Arms Academy
  • Basic Handgun Safety Course offered by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association

The Massachusetts State Police routinely considers other courses; they can be approved following curriculum review. The State Police website includes a list of approved courses (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/msp/archived-stories/2012/approved-basic-firearms-safety-course-list-updated.html).

Firearms application forms are available from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/firearms-reg-and-laws/frb/firearms-forms-and-applications.html); a security guard will check employment as the reason licensing is requested.

All initial firearms applications must be accompanied by certificates documenting completion of firearm safety or hunter safety courses.

Applicants who answer “yes” to potentially disqualifying questions will need to provide supporting documentation.

In many cases, prospective licensees apply to their local police department.

Additional Information

Security agencies are licensed by the Certification Unit of the Massachusetts State Police (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/law-enforce-and-cj/law-enforce/prof-stds/cert-unit/). The Certification Unit can be reached at 978-538-6128.

Information about firearms licensing is available from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/firearms-reg-and-laws/).

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