How can a security guard make more money?

The title of this article echoes the number one question I get from my security guard students every month.  It typically comes in the form of, “I’ve got a wife and kids to feed. How can I make more money?”  Fortunately, the answer is simple.  But, before I lay out the “how to” perhaps I should explain why the security industry just might be the right place for you.

Unless you’ve spent the last several years in a cave, you know that many businesses are cutting back as a result of the sagging economy.  Jobs that were once high paying positions are being eliminated and once productive and busy workers are finding themselves without work.  This is also happening in the public sector.  Our governments (Federal, State and local) are broke and can’t figure a way out of their financial messes. Government jobs which were once considered “safe” are not “safe” any longer.  Social workers, teachers, government office staff and first responders are all feeling the pinch.  The first responders are what concern us in the security industry.  As budgets for police departments shrink, there are fewer police officers available on the street.  People get nervous when police budgets cause cut backs, so something has to fill that gap.  That “something” is private security.

Make no mistake, there is a reason why private security officers patrol and protect the San Diego Trolley system, transport prisoners for the U.S. Border Patrol, protect Department of Defense sites and stand ready to repel terrorists at our nation’s nuclear power plants.  Likewise, there is a reason why the number of security personnel at large events such as San Diego’s Del Mar Fair increases when the number of police officers at such events grows smaller. It is a simple fact that when the government cannot provide protection, private companies step in to fill the void.

But… you ask, “What does that mean for me and how do I make more money?”  The answer is simple and has three parts: experience, training and focus.  Let’s take them one at a time.

Experience: As the old saying goes, “experience is the greatest of all teachers.” Unfortunately, experience is the most difficult of the three components to acquire.  Still, it is a simple fact that the more experience you have the better your chances of getting a higher paying position. Experience that relates to security comes in many forms.  If you have military or law enforcement experience you are ahead of most folks.  Experience working with people and good public relations skills are also a plus.  Security officers work with the public every day.  The better your public relations skills, the better your chances of landing a higher paying job.

Training:  Security officer training is the first item on a smart security guard’s agenda.  It is the easiest to gather and will yield the quickest benefit.  More advanced security guard training leads to better jobs and better jobs lead to the experience that you need to get even better ones.  So, if you don’t have much experience, then get more training. Even people with experience need training in order to be attractive to employers.  That is where companies like Practical Defense Systems come in.  The more security officer training you have, the higher pay you can expect.  My advice to security officers is to gather every certificate and license they can get.  If the only security license you have is a guard card, you can expect to be stuck at the bottom of the totem pole for a very long time.

Focus: This is the most difficult of the three parts for most people to muster.  You must focus on your goal and work at it.  There are two paths to take in order to make more money as a security officer.  One is to remain a line officer and move up to better and better paying security officer positions.  You might start out as an unarmed guard working late nights making $10.00 an hour and slowly work your way to a position as an armed security guard transporting prisoners for a government agency where you might make $20.00 or even $30.00 an hour. This track will require you to have all of your security guard licenses (guard card, firearms permit, pepper spray, baton, CPR and perhaps TASER).

The other path toward more money is management.  You may start off at $10.00 per hour working in the middle of the night.  But, you can work your way up to shift supervisor, site supervisor or higher.  Setting your sights on management opens an entirely different land of opportunities and sometimes it opens a path to a pay scale that you will never find as a line guard.  I have known management folks at security companies who made $60,000 to $80,000 per year.  This path will also require you to have all the same security guard licenses. But it also requires that you have additional management training.  Some community colleges offer degrees in security management.  That might be a great place to start.

At the end of the day, what my grandmother used to say is still true.  You only get out of something what you are willing to put into it.  Experience only comes with time.  Training you can get as fast  as you can afford it.  Go after both!  Then focus on your goal, work hard, look sharp and keep a good attitude.  If you do all that, you’ll build a great career.  Before you know it you’ll have found the answer to the “How do I make more money” question and your paycheck will show it.

To get started, read the following articles:

“How to get a guard card”

“Which security guard courses should I take?”