What to Know About Security Officer Licensing, Registration and Certification

If you work in the private security industry, chances are good that you will be registered, certified, or licensed. This is not universal, however. It’s largely a matter of what state you live in — and yet not entirely. Also important are your location within the state and the specific duties you perform.

In the security guard arena, state licensure isn’t an either or proposition. Some states have a credentialing process for both armed and unarmed security guards while others credential both. Some states set mandates only for unarmed security guards who work for contract security companies while others also regulate those who work for private businesses; they may take into account the size of the security department. Some states leave the licensing process up to local jurisdictions.

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State licensure isn’t an either or proposition.

It is important to recognize that licensure is not synonymous with regulation. Some states set standards for security guards but place the responsibility on the employer. In some states, there is a post-hire registration process that involves little if any participation from the guard.

Procedures vary a good deal. Pennsylvania, for example, has standards in place, but security guards may have difficulty locating a central authority, particular if they work in an unarmed capacity.

Armed guards may fall under various mandates even if they are not licensed as security guards per se.

Typical State Mandates

Security guard requirements fall into two broad categories: professional fitness and training. Training frequently takes place after hire.

Standards are under state control. However, there are some similarities from state to state. This occurs partly because these states choose to follow recommendations of respected national organizations.

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The following were articulated by industry leader ASIS International in 2004 and are reflected in many state mandates:

A security officer is to be at least 18 years old if working in an unarmed capacity, at least 21 if working in an armed capacity. He or she is to hold a high school diploma or equivalency. The officer is to have the ability to speak, read, and write English. He or she must have a record that is free of felonies or job-related non-felony convictions for, at minimum, seven years.

The following processes, also recommended by ASIS International, are required in some jurisdictions: an employment history, fingerprint-based background check, and drug screening.

In 2004, the organization recommended that unarmed security officers be provided with at least 48 hours of training in their first 100 days, with training addressing the following, among other concepts:

  • Private security role
  • Legal aspects
  • Crowd control
  • CPR
  • Access control
  • Use of force/ continuum of force
  • Workplace violence
  • Theft prevention
  • Note taking
  • Testimony

In most cases, states set training requirements lower for unarmed guards.

ASIS recommendations have since undergone revision.

Working in Less Regulated States

If you live in one of the following states, you may have difficulty locating a centralized licensing authority. Check to see what local mandates may be in place. Some states, like Colorado, have widespread regulation, others very little.

You may find it less important how your state regulates security officers than whether it sets training standards at a high level (or at all). If you live in a jurisdiction where there are few standards, you will want to make sure that you have adequate training. A less competitive employer may offer less. National leaders have expressed that mandates are too low, even in those states that do regulate (http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research and analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/11/10/in many states-security guards get scant training oversight). Occasionally, this can turn into a bad situation. Security guards who are poorly trained are also more likely to quit.

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For gun training, you can turn to national gun organizations. Nonviolent Crisis Intervention is a good option, whether or not you will be armed. College coursework can also be of value. There are a lot of concepts to master to be an effective security guard – even if your state is among those that mandate 40 or more hours!

You can use professional certifications to signal expertise to a potential employer — this is the case whether you live in a regulated or unregulated state (https://www.asisonline.org/About-ASIS/Pages/default.aspx).

The International Foundation for Protection Officers, a professional association for security professionals, can be a valuable resource (http://www.ifpo.org/).