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Security Careers - a Primer

Aug 17, 2007
Private security work makes for a good, stable job with low overhead requirements. You can do this fresh out of high school, and many college students work their way through their higher education. But it's not for everyone.

You should have some concept of or interest in law enforcement, some degree of a conservative personality, and not be so far gone that you're going to think wearing a security guard uniform makes you a super-hero. If you like to work night shift (or have to because of school) and like an active job where you're on your feet a lot, and especially if you have good people skills, you are cut out for security.

The range of private security jobs cover a variety of tastes. Some of the most common posts:

* Industrial security - the most common type. This can range from a night watchman position to manning a gate and checking IDs. If you are a rover, you drive around on patrol, respond to alarms, check access points, and monitor activity. Public contact ranges from little to none, except if you control an access point in the daytime and even then you will only deal with employees of the company and vendors coming and going.

* Retail security - a much more active position. You will almost certainly be in a position of loss prevention. Watching for and detaining shoplifters, possibly preventing vandalism or car theft, and other kinds of patrol will all be in a day's work.

* Residential security - very low level, you'll be working apartment complexes and gated communities. Most likely checking passes at a gate and making two rounds or so per night, maybe handing out parking tickets or standing post at the home owner's meetings. One big part of this work is checking for and preventing residential burglaries.

* Hospitality security - This is really very different from retail security, though the two fit in the same category. A retail hospitality business will be a hotel, casino, amusement park, stadium, or other recreational facility. The most stringent degree of this kind of work, requiring qualifications very close to that of a municipal police officer. Also the most busy; you will have to deal with every scenario you can imagine, and will never have a dull day.

* Civilian security - This actually qualifies as "bodyguard" work. You are hired by a private individual, usually fairly wealthy, to protect that person and their interests specifically. Generally regarded as "cushy" work.

Security work comes in a spectrum ranging from unarmed to light arms to heavy arms. Most work is of the unarmed variety, and you might have just you and your wits to keep you safe. Other positions which allow light arms might include carrying mace, pepper spray, a baton, handcuffs, or possibly a battery-powered stun gun. The fully armed positions will be where you carry a real gun or real shotgun. Whatever the device, you will need to take classes in the safe handling of your armaments and stay certified. The various laws from state to state and the needs of that particular post will determine what you carry.

If you work an unarmed position at night, especially by yourself, it is frequently recommended that you carry a "Mag"-style flashlight. These are the durable heavy metal lights you see in the hands of law enforcement professionals everywhere, and while they aren't officially a "weapon", they are hefty enough to come in handy in certain situations.

"Observe and report" is the mantra of most security positions. Under the law, you do not have the same authority as a police officer and you should never forget it. Your job will mainly entail being a professional witness, and secondly to confront people engaged in suspicious activity and telling them to leave, or arresting them and turning them over to the police.

The greatest danger in this line of work is to those who are unsure of their reach of authority. When in doubt, pull back and call the police; you are not the police and you do not have the training nor the authority to be the police. In any situation, seek to de-escalate rather than escalate. Do not turn a conversation into a dispute; do not turn a dispute into a fight. Never take on more than you can handle.

Do by all means behave as a good citizen. The "bad guys" aren't all you have to worry about; you might also be called on to perform assistance to visitors to the business or to employees of that business. It is important that you maintain a conservative appearance and demeanor; take your job seriously and have a highly professional appearance and you will have an easier time of it. Run around with a pierced nose, a ponytail dyed punker green, and pay more attention to your cell phone or headphones that to your job and you will have no respect and possibly no job.

Training can be anything from a short course supplied by the company to career-school training to occupational programs for training in weapons to police-supplied courses. No matter how small, if you carry any kind of armaments, you will need training in their safe handling and application. The low requirements for entry and the relatively low stress of the job make this an excellent temporary career, and even not that bad of a permanent career.
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Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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