Are you looking to start a new career in the security profession? The security field is growing quickly, and there are plenty of job opportunities available as security guards and security officers. But what do security guards and security officers actually do and which role is right for you?
What you may not know is that, while the terms “security guard” and “security officer” may sometimes be used interchangeably, there is actually a distinction between these two terms. In this post, we will explore what this difference is, the definitions of security officers and security guards, the responsibilities of each role, and how to find a job in the security industry.
What is the difference between security guards and security officers?
Security guards and security officers both have similar responsibilities to protect people and property from harm and loss. However, a security guard is a rank below a security officer. Therefore the security guard rank translates into limited scope of responsibility. For example, a security guard will often be assigned to a single facility and may perform a limited set of security functions, such as monitoring access to a facility or patrolling a specified area.
On the other hand, a security officer comes with increased responsibilities, such as managing other security personnel, being an escalation point for major security issues, and supervising the completion of security activities at one or many facilities. As a result of this increased responsibility, security officers are generally more highly trained than security guards.
What is a security guard?
Generally speaking, a security guard is responsible for providing security for people and property. Security guards do this in a number of ways, including:
- Patrolling facilities and properties and functioning as a presence to deter criminal activity
- Controlling access to facilities (e.g. badge access, visitor passes, etc.) and assisting people, such as employees or visitors
- Monitoring security systems and cameras and responding quickly to any alarms
Learn more: Duties and Responsibilities of a Security Guard
What is a security officer?
A security officer is a more leadership-focused role that may span across multiple teams and facilities, depending on the specific context. A security officer may also be more likely to be an armed security role with more specialized training and certifications. Security officers also generally perform a much wider range of security functions, such as:
- Supervising all security operations at one or more facilities
- Managing and assigning other security guards to specific duties
- Functioning as an escalation contact for the security team
- Functioning as a liaison with local law enforcement for major security events
- And much more
What training is required for each role?
In most cases, security companies are contracted to manage all of the hiring and training of security guards and officers. Security guards generally receive online or classroom training, in addition to on-the-job training. Training is generally limited to their specific functions and general security protocols, such as patrolling, monitoring security systems, and how to interact with potential security threats.
Security officers, however, have a much higher level of responsibility, which necessitates further training. Training can vary widely depending on the context, but in general, security officers will take courses on how to write security reports, crowd control, explosive device awareness, firearms training, and more.
How do you become a security guard?
There are multiple ways to find a job as a security guard or security officer. It is a growing industry and there are many different types of security guard roles. Here are the three most common ways to find a job in the security field:
- Get hired by a private security contractor. More than likely, there are a number of private security businesses and contractors in your local area. These companies hire, train, and certify security staff and then assign them to security assignments at their various clients’ facilities. This is one of the most common ways for you to get into the industry, and they are always looking for great talent to hire.
- Work for a business or government organization. Local businesses, organizations, and governments also hire their own in-house security personnel at times. The best way to find out who manages a particular business’s security detail is to contact them directly or talk with a security guard or officer at one of these locations. You can also keep an eye open online for job postings for these places.
- Become an independent security guard. Independent private security is also a popular option today. However, this path requires in-depth industry knowledge and an understanding of local laws, regulations, and business requirements.
Learn more: Requirements to Become a Security Guard
If you are interested in learning more about the security profession or are looking for specific training, NITA can help! We offer a wide variety of online security training courses for security professionals that can help you fulfill certification and licensure requirements or simply provide you with best-in-class security training. We can also help guide you on where to look for jobs in the security profession.
Our enrollment counselors are here to answer any questions you might have about our state- and board-approved status, pre-licensing training, or professional development programs.