What are the duties and responsibilities of a security guard?

The term security guard, also referred to as security officer or security agent, covers a wide range of possible occupations, of which each one comes with its own specific duties and tasks. Generally, their primary role is to prevent illegal activities, emergency situations and violation of company rules from happening at the location they are assigned to. This can be done either by patrolling physically or by monitoring security cameras and alarm systems. In case a crime or emergency situation does occur, it’s their duty to contact and inform the responsible authorities, which could be police, medical service providers or fire department.

Security guards can be both armed and unarmed, depending on the nature and potential danger of their job. Although commonly believed, they do not solve crimes neither do they have the same powers as police and peace officers. However, in some states they can be authorized to interview witnesses, make citizen’s arrests or even act as law enforcement officers in case of an emergency, but only when they are requested to do so by a police officer.

So what does this mean in practice? As mentioned before, the most common duty of a security officer is to discourage or stop people who plan to commit a crime or violation of company rules, but it doesn’t stop there. They also report potential dangers such as fire hazards, blocked emergency exits, broken windows or gates and other potentially hazardous situations. Their job description might also include enforcing company rules and policies, for instance asking company employees to show their badges or making sure people pass a metal detector.

Where can security officers be employed?

Security guards can be employed at all kinds of locations and premises, both public and private. They can either work directly for a company or be hired by a specialized agency providing contracted security services to other companies.

Although the nature of their job stays the same, a security officer’s duties and responsibilities can vary greatly depending on the type of company or association they work for. In stores and shopping malls, their primary duty is to protect customers and prevent merchandise and money from being stolen by making their physical presence known. Some shopping malls also employ security officers to monitor CCTV cameras in an observation room and patrol their parking lots.

In bars and night clubs they perform crowd control and collect entrance fees, they try to maintain order and in case of an incident they inform the police and detain the suspects. Hotels and hospitals hire the services of security guards to protect both their residents and their belongings as well as their staff. Casinos are known to employ a small army of security guards, commonly known as gaming surveillance officers to monitor high definition cameras in an effort to detect cheaters and thieves. At airports they check ID’s and traveling documents, control exit points and screen people and their luggage to prevent suspicious packages from entering the country or plane.

While reading this, you might have already noticed that the list of work environments is practically endless. Below we’ve summed up some of the most common types of companies and places where a security guard can be employed:

  • Hotels
  • Airports
  • Casinos
  • Hospitals
  • Government Offices
  • Stores
  • Factories
  • Theme Parks
  • Warehouses
  • Hospitals
  • Office Buildings
  • Apartment Complexes
  • Shopping Malls
  • Financial Institutions
  • Army Stations
  • Power Plants
  • Public Events
  • Bars and Night Clubs
  • Construction Sites
  • Schools
  • Museums
  • Money Transports
  • Parking Lots

Is there a need for security personnel?

In other words, will you find employment easily in the security sector? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the security industry is expected to grow by 14% between 2008 and 2018. Both companies and authorities are becoming more aware about crime and terrorism threats, and they feel the need to invest in security solutions such as alarm systems, video monitoring devices and security guard patrols in an effort to protect their premises and assets. Insurance companies are known to offer discounts to companies whose premises and inventory are protected, and the investment is certainly worth it, considering there’s a much lower chance of theft and emergency situations from occurring.

Below you’ll find a graph we’ve created using crime statistics from the FBI UCR Data Tool (UCR stands for Uniform Crime Reporting). These numbers present the number of reported crimes per 100.000 inhabitants from 1960 to 2009 and include both violent crime rates and property crime rates. Although crime rates have been decreasing in the last decade, they are still high compared to other western countries. On top of that, unfortunately we have to be aware of terrorism threats in the wake of 9/11. We can conclude that there’s definitely a need for security personnel, whether it’s police officers or security guards.

Crime Statistics from the FBI

Although the expected growth of the industry by 14% is only a prediction, we think it’s fair to say that it’s close to the truth. We can illustrate this with a graph from job website indeed.com, which shows the growing percentage of security officer job postings since 2005. To clarify, this graph shows the percentage of job postings for the term ‘security officer’ in relation to the total number of job postings. For a website where hundreds of different jobs get posted, this is a pretty high percentage.

Security Guard Job Statistics

Can anyone become a security guard?

In theory, anyone who is at least 18 years old can start a career in security, there are no restrictions on gender or ethnic origin. However, most states in the US have rules and requirements for anyone who wants to work in the industry. Some states demand that their security guards follow a training course, others require you to obtain a security guard license, also known as guard card. Generally, obtaining such a license includes passing a criminal record verification to make sure you haven’t been convicted of a felony as well as completing a training course to prepare you for the job.

In addition to these requirements enforced by the state you want to be working in, companies can also demand specific skills or education levels. Some companies require their security personnel to have a driver’s license, pass chemical independency tests (drug screening) on a regular basis or have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

To summarize: becoming a security guard isn’t particularly difficult if you have a clean criminal record and the right mindset and skills.