Security Guard License Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee regulates unarmed and armed security guards. The state also licenses contract security companies and proprietary security organizations. Organizations must have a qualifying agent or manager who meets state requirements.

Tennessee Private Protective Services makes some distinctions between guards or officers who work for security companies and those who work for proprietary organizations.

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Requirements for Unarmed Guards Who are Employed by Security Agencies

Unarmed security guard employees must be at least 18. They must be citizens or resident aliens and must meet character and fitness requirements set by the state.

An applicant cannot be habitually drunk or dependent on narcotics and cannot have a disability that would preclude performing duties.

An applicant is not automatically denied because of past criminal conviction. However, if the conviction is a felony or potentially disqualifying misdemeanor, the individual must have completed his or her sentence or probation no less than five years earlier.

Disqualifying misdemeanors include the following:

  • Shooting of a weapon
  • Violence
  • Sale, manufacture, or distribution of illegal substances
  • Shoplifting
  • Theft of property or services

Training is mandatory. The training may be provided by the contract security company. A prospective student can also find approved trainers by doing a license search through the website of the licensing agency. At least one training hour will be devoted to each of the following concepts:

  • Orientation
  • Legal power and limitation of power
  • General duties
  • Emergency procedures

The student can expect testing. A state certified trainer will provide a certificate verifying completion of requirements.

If the guard or officer will carry a device or weapon classified as “less than lethal”, he or she will need training in the specific device. The instructor must be certified to offer the particular training. Less than lethal weapons include stun guns and chemical spray, among others.

Unarmed employee may be authorized to work temporarily following submission of application and other required materials. Private Protective Services has provided a list of frequently asked questions (

Unarmed registration is renewed every two years.

Requirements for Unarmed Guards Employed by Proprietary Security Organizations

Unarmed guards employed by proprietary security organizations, unlike their counterparts employed by contract security companies, are prohibited from carrying any type of weapon (

According to Tennessee code, it is “desired” that officers who interact with the public have training in emergency procedures and in security guard powers and limitations of power.

Requirements for Armed Guards in Tennessee

Armed guards must be 21 years of age. They have additional training requirements beyond those required for unarmed contract security employees. They will need to take an eight hour course that includes legal limitations of firearms usage, safety, maintenance, and handling. They will also need four hours of marksmanship training. This training culminates in a commissioner-approved target course.

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Unarmed guards will need additional training for weapons or other devices that they may use.

An individual cannot work as an armed guard until he or she possesses, at minimum, a conditional card.

Armed guards must complete refresher/ range training during each renewal period.

The Security Guard Application Process

Application materials can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Commerce and Insurance ( They can also be requested via telephone at 615-741-6382 or 615-532-9130.

The applicant will need to submit three passport-style photographs. Those who answer “yes’ to criminal history questions will need to provide additional supporting information.

You will need to submit fingerprints for a background check.

Unarmed guards currently pay a $50 application fee and $20 registration fee. Armed guards currently pay a $75 application fee and $30 registration fee. An armed guard who needs a conditional permit will remit an additional $15.

It typically takes four to six weeks to process an application.

Requirements for Qualifying Managers and Qualifying Agents

The qualifying manager of a proprietary organization will need a certificate of insurance. He or she will need to provide basic information to the licensing agency.

Requirements are more stringent for professionals who work as qualifying agents for contract security companies. The qualifying agent must be at least 21 and must have, in addition to a certificate of insurance, three credit references. He or she will qualify based on experience or examination. The licensing agency will accept three years of security experience at the supervisory, managerial, or administrative level; the work setting may be a contract company or proprietary organization. The licensing agency can also accept three years of law enforcement experience at the supervisory level; the qualifying experience may have been accrued in the armed forces.

A professional who chooses the examination pathway will be assessed on the following:

  • Physical security, administration, and personnel
  • Rules and regulations
  • Alarms, criminal justice, and procedures (including health and fire prevention)
  • Emergency procedures

The examination is administered by PSI. It is computer-delivered. The minimum passing score is 70%. The fee is currently $125. PSI has published a candidate handbook ( The candidate can use the application form found in the handbook or call (800) 733-9267. There are currently six test site locations: Chattanooga, Jackson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville. Out-of-state candidates may submit a special request; this is found at the back of the candidate handbook.

Qualifying agents submit their documents as part of the agency application process (

The Background Check Process for Security Guard Applicatnts

In 2015, the licensing agency issued a statement requesting applicants use electronic fingerprinting services. The designated vendor is Identogo by MorphoTrust. There are sites throughout the state ( Applicants may schedule online ( They also have the option of calling 855-226-2937. A $38 fee is paid to MorpoTrust.

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Out-of-state applicants will also use the approved vendor. However, they will have their fingerprints made on FD-258 ‘hard cards’, then sent to Identogo for scanning. The applicant may call to request cards. He or she will need ORI number and other agency information. The licensing agency has provided detailed information about fingerprinting requirements (

Additional Information

Private Protective Services ( is under the banner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. The licensing agency can be reached by telephone at 615-741-6382 or by email at ‘Private.Protective at TN.Gov’. Additional contact information is available online ( Rules can also be accessed through the Department website (