Security Guard License Requirements in Washington: This is How to Become a Security Guard in Washington
Washington licenses both unarmed and armed security guards. Guards must meet eligibility and training requirements.
The Department of Licensing (DOL) also licenses professionals who operate security businesses. The primary responsible party may be termed the ‘qualifying principal’ or ‘company principal’. This may be a high level officer. In some cases, it will be an owner. In the case of partnerships, both partners must meet eligibility requirements for principals.
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- Security Guard Requirements in Washington
- Armed Security Guard Requirements in Washington State
- Out-of-State Licensee
- Requirements for Company Principal Starting a Security Business
- Security Officer Application Process
- Licensing Department and Additional Information
Security Guard Requirements
Unarmed guards must be U.S. citizens or resident aliens, 18 years of age or older. The DOL notes that work authorization is not equivalent to permanent resident alien status and is not adequate.
Security Guards are not actually registered until such time as they have an offer of employment.
Applicants may be denied licensure on the basis of criminal background, though not all crimes are disqualifying. Applicants are referred to the document ‘recommended sanctions’ (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sggetunarmed.html). According to this document, individuals with felony or gross misdemeanor convictions may eventually be considered for professional licensure, though in most cases, the timeframe is seven to ten years.
A security guard must have at least eight hours of pre-assignment training by a licensed trainer. Training may be administered in-house. However, this is not always the case. Pre-assignment training will cover the following:
- Basic security guard principles
- Legal power and limitations
- Accident prevention and safety
- Emergency response
- Report writing
The DOL has provided a study guide (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sgpreassigntrain.html).
An individual with recent experience as a peace officer may be allowed to take the exam without completing the course (https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=18.170.105).
The security guard will need to complete an additional eight hours of post-assignment training. Post-assignment training will cover the following:
- Basic security guard role
- Legal aspects
- Principles of communication
- Access control
- Observation and reporting of incidents
- Safeguarding information
- Evacuation process
- Emergency response
- Job assignment and post orders
- Life safety awareness
Thereafter, the security guard will need to do four hours of refresher training each year.
Security guards may be issued temporary registration cards after they have completed pre-assignment training and made application.
Requirements for Armed Guards
Armed security guards must be at least 21 years of age (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sggetarmed.html). An armed guard will need both an armed guard license and a firearms certificate; these two authorizations are issued by different agencies.
The individual will first apply for an armed license. He or she will then seek out a trainer. A prospective armed guard must earn a certificate through the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC). The WSCJTC has provided a list of instructors who can deliver the required eight hour course (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sggetarmed.html). At the conclusion of the course, the student will take a written test and one or more firearm qualifications. (The security guard will need to qualify with each type of firearm he or she will carry.)
After requirements have been met, the company will submit an application for a firearms certificate. The certificate is agency-specific. There is a $100 fee.
An armed guard who is not a U.S. citizen will also need an alien firearms license (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/firearms/faalien.html).
The armed guard must display continued proficiency with the weapon. Armed guard status is based on annual requalification. The firearms certificate does not require renewal.
A security guard who has a firearms certificate will need an ‘add/ change’ form, however, if there is a change in weapon. An employee who transfers directly from one company to another will also have an ‘add/ change’ form filed on his or her behalf.
The Security Guard Application Process
Security guard employees can expect their employing agency to take an active role in the licensing process.
Prospective security guards must have fingerprint-based criminal background checks. This step is to be carried out before license application. The fingerprint card is to be included in the application package.
An applicant who has been convicted of a crime other than a traffic violation will need to provide court records.
Application forms can be downloaded from the DOL website (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sgforms.html). The company will submit the completed application.
Unarmed security guards have a $111 fee. There is an additional $10 fee for armed status, payable to the DOL. (This is separate from the firearms certification fee).
Requirements for Company Principal
The company principal must be at least 21. He or she can be qualified through experience or examination.
The licensing agency can accept managerial, supervisory, or administrative experience, either in security or a related field. A candidate who qualifies by experience will need fully three years. A candidate who does not have the requisite experience will take an examination.
The candidate will take the examination at a Washington driver’s license office. The fee is $75. Currently, the exam is offered at sites around the state; applicants will mark their first and second choice. A representative will later contact the candidate to schedule. Results will be available approximately ten days later. An unsuccessful candidate will receive information about re-examination.
Some principals also hold firearms certification. A principal who needs verification of firearms certification will pay a $10 fee to the DOL.
All required application materials are available from the Department of Licensing (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/sgforms.html).
When company application and principal application are submitted together, the fee is $350. When an existing company changes principal, the fee is $100.
An out-of-state licensee will submit license verification. The licensing agency will also seek information about licensing and training requirements.
Information about security guard licensing is available from the Washington Department of Licensing (https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/securityguards/). The Private Security Guard Program can be reached by telephone at 360-664-6611 or by email at ‘security at dol.wa.gov’.
Information about firearms certification is available from the Criminal Justice Training Commission. The Criminal Justice Training Commission can be reached by telephone at (206) 835-7300.