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Detailed Guide for

Security Guards in California

May also be called: Security Officers; Campus Security Officers; Bodyguards; Bouncers; Armored Car Guards, and Store Detectives

What Would I Do?

Security Guards watch, patrol, or monitor business premises, private property, or individuals in order to prevent theft, violence, or infractions of rules. They also protect property against fire, vandalism, and illegal entry.

Guards watch for shoplifters and guard the pick-up and delivery of valuables. Valuables guarded can range from cash transferred between locations, to a $2 million diamond necklace loaned to an actress at a film awards ceremony. In industries such as banks and retail sales, Guards drive armored trucks and make sure money or other valuables get to a desired location.

The job of Security Guard is a varied one and the nature of the work depends on the industry where they work. Some Guards carry weapons, such as guns, batons, tear gas, or pepper spray, but are encouraged to only use them in self-defense. They also usually carry handcuffs, a two-way radio, flashlight, and cell phone.

A few Guards act as bodyguards for well-known politicians, business leaders, or film industry executives and actors. They escort individuals in public and guard them against injury or invasion of privacy.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

TaskSkill Used in this Task
Patrol industrial or commercial premises to prevent and detect signs of intrusion and ensure security of doors, windows, and gates.Problem Sensitivity
Answer alarms and investigate disturbances.Inductive Reasoning
Monitor and authorize entrance and departure of employees, visitors, and other persons to guard against theft and maintain security of premises.Monitoring
Write reports of daily activities and irregularities such as equipment or property damage, theft, presence of unauthorized persons, or unusual occurrences.Writing
Call police or fire departments in cases of emergency, such as fire or presence of unauthorized persons.Speaking
Circulate among visitors, patrons, or employees to preserve order and protect property.Social Perceptiveness
Answer telephone calls to take messages, answer questions, and provide information during non-business hours or when switchboard is closed.Active Listening
Warn persons of rule infractions or violations, and apprehend or evict violators from premises, using force when necessary.Public Safety and Security
Operate detecting devices to screen individuals and prevent passage of prohibited articles into restricted areas.Selective Attention
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET) at online.onetcenter.org

Working Conditions

Although the work can be different depending on the assignment, most Guard work is routine, tiring, and a bit dangerous. Some Guards work alone at night while a store or firm is closed to the public. Others work day shifts and protect the safety of workers as well as the building and its equipment.

Guards usually work at least 8-hour shifts for 40 hours per week and often are on call in case an emergency arises. Some employers have three shifts, and Guards rotate to divide daytime, weekend, and holiday work equally. Guards usually eat on the job instead of taking a regular break away from the site. In 2004, 16% of Guards worked part-time, and many individuals held a second job as a Guard to supplement their primary earnings. A significant number of law enforcement officers work as Security Guards when they are off duty, in order to supplement their incomes.

The Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, Service Employees International Union, and the United Government Security Officers of America International Union are three unions currently representing Security Guards.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Security Guard will appeal to you if you have a social and enterprising nature. Social occupations involve working, communicating, and teaching people. Enterprising jobs involve starting up and carrying out projects. They can involve leading people and making many decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Security Guards in California was $33,646 annually, or $16.17 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html Wages do not reflect self-employment.

Hourly Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html. Wages do not reflect self-employment.


The amount of benefits paid to full-time Security Guards varies by geographic area and employer. Companies in larger cities tend to pay more of the cost of medical insurance. Security Guards employed by schools, retail stores, hotels, or government agencies usually receive medical, dental, and vision insurance, vacation pay, and sick leave. Contract or temporary agencies vary in the amount of benefits paid.

What is the Job Outlook?

Opportunities for Security Guards should be favorable in the coming years. This stems from the demand for increased security and from the need to replace those who leave this large occupation each year. In addition to full-time job opportunities, the limited training requirements and flexible hours attract many persons seeking part-time or second jobs.

Competition can be expected for higher paying positions in facilities that require a high level of security, such as nuclear power plants or weapons installations.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Security Guards is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Security Guards are expected to increase by 6.6 percent, or 11,000 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Security Guards
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most employers prefer to hire workers with a high school education or its equivalent because most Guards must be able to read, write, and follow written and spoken instructions.

This is an entry-level occupation. Some jobs require little or no experience, but, as stated above, employers look favorably on previous military police or Security Guard experience, and coursework in law enforcement at the community college level is a plus.

Uniformed contract Guards and armed in-house Guards must be registered with the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services and have a Guard registration card. First round registration requirements include passing a fingerprint and background check and passing an open-book test on the exercise of the power of arrest, given by the employer. Full registration requires completion of a formal, day-long, powers of arrest course at an approved school.

Applicants applying for a gun permit must also complete a 14-hour written and range exam on the carrying and use of firearms. The training must be completed at a Bureau of Security and Investigative Services approved training facility. Applicants with felony convictions may apply if convicted more than seven years ago.

Licensing and Certification

Security Guards who carry a baton, exposed firearm, or tear gas must obtain a permit for each from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Certificate programs exist for Security Guards, usually under the title Protection Officer. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site at www.acinet.org and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" at www.acinet.org/certifications_new/default.aspx and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/resources/training-and-apprenticeships.html

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Security Guards are stationed at factory gates, in building lobbies, shopping centers, television stations, apartment complexes, construction sites, hospitals, museums, or parking lots. For the most part, Security Guards are hired by private security firms, who then place Guards in a variety of locations. The largest industries employing Security Guards are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Investigation and Security Services70.1%
Drinking Places (Alcoholic Beverages)2.1%
General Merchandise Stores1.8%
Full-Service Restaurants1.7%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Most Security Guards work in security-related industries, which can be searched by checking firms listed in the telephone directory yellow pages.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Security Guards.

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, use "Find Employers" on the LaborMarketInfo Web site at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/aspdotnet/databrowsing/empMain.aspx?menuChoice=emp

Where Could This Job Lead?

With more experience and/or education, Security Guards can promote to Security Supervisor or Manager positions, or become an owner/operator of a contract security guard agency.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Security Guards.

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification at www.bls.gov/soc/33-9032
O*NET - Occupational Information Network at online.onetcenter.org/
   Security Guards33-9032.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curRCE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs at nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/cip2000/
   Security and Loss Prevention Services 430109
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs at www.ccccurriculum.info/ (California Community Colleges)
   Industrial and Transportation Security210530

The California Occupational Guides are a product of:
The California Employment Development Department
Labor Market Information Division

Printed on Wednesday, January 26, 2022