The World of Security

Career options are limitless. Our protectors must be ethical and place the protection of others above their own interests - at all times.

Physical Security is the heart or keystone of Security. It involves the employment of barriers, locks, access control systems, surveillance systems, intrusion detection, patrols, etc. as countermeasures against intrusion, burglary, robbery or other loss events. Physical Security must first be understood on a conceptual level: layered protection/defense-in-depth; Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and the like. The technical aspects of various countermeasures can then be studied so that appropriate and cost- effective options are utilized.

Physical Security is a process. Anyone serious about a career within the industry must have a working knowledge of it.

ASIS International, the world’s largest organization of Security Managers, offers books, webinars, etc. on Physical Security.  There is also a professional certification for Physical Security Professionals (PSP).

Note: ASIS is an incredible network to belong to with over 250 chapters worldwide. Student memberships are also available to full-time college students (graduate & undergraduate) at a greatly reduced rate. Students belonging to professional organizations have a decided advantage in the job market: something is added to their resume, they are in the pipeline of knowledge and they stand out from the rest of the pack.

The International Foundation for Protection Officers also offers student memberships. IFPO members receive discounts on all Foundation learning and certification programs. There are also discounts on an array of different products & services. This benefit list is constantly being added to!

All organizations (corporate, government, military & non-profit) need to protect their assets. They may or may not have a security department or security force.  Most small organizations do not. They may contract out security and investigative services as needed.

Security Services have a long history in our society: the Pinkerton National Detective Agency dates back to the 1850’s and there were contract security services long before that. They continue to play a major protective role and have expanded into new and diverse areas of service.

As contract security is used in some manner by virtually every organization; learning about it makes sense from a career perspective.

Getting started in security services is generally quite easy. Part-time jobs are usually available. Once employed, the security officer may have the opportunity to work in different environments. This is one of the advantages of contract security careers. Another is that there are often opportunities to move into supervisory and managerial positions.

As there are all manner and levels of security service firms in operation; some career mobility is present: one can start with a small firm and move to a larger or more prestigious organization after gaining experience. Having credentials such as certifications helps. So too does being licensed. Armed persons are paid more than unarmed. The wise course of action is to acquire as much professional education, training and certification as possible.

The IFPO offers several educational programs that are used by security service firms as well as individuals wishing to advance their careers. Key points to bear in mind are that one must learn continuously (“learning never stops”). And one cannot expect their employer to provide all the professional education necessary.

There are numerous employment opportunities with firms which provide remote monitoring of alarms. These positions may be a way to get one’s foot in the door. There are also communication centers operated by guard service companies. This is more common in Europe than the US where guard and alarm service firms are generally separate.

The Security Industry Association (SIA) represents electronic and physical security  providers as well as systems integrators. The SIA offers membership to students and faculty, seminars and  professional development options.

Cash-in-Transit, or CiT, has a rich history in the United States with the two most iconic companies being Loomis, made famous with the Klondike gold rush, and Wells Fargo that services the expansion westward. Today this tradition has evolved to provide central vault and money room services for banks, as well as being the primary provider or ATM replenishment services. Opportunities in this industry range from messengers, guards, drivers, and vault custodians for traditional CiT operations, and now ATM service technicians, cash services tellers, and the management structure to ensure the protection of the world’s cash supply. Since this industry is rather unique, it is not uncommon to find top management that started their careers moving cash over the pavement. In addition, the understanding of the strong controls necessary for these operations open up opportunities in unexpected industries as jewelry manufacturing, dental suppliers, and any enterprise engaged in the processing, storage, and transport of precious metals and stones.

Persons with a perfect driving record may be able to start employment with an armored car company. One nice career move is for the officer to then be sent for armed certification after a period of employment. Being licensed to be armed is a worthwhile career attribute.

Personal Protection Specialists (PPS)
are tasked with planning travel for those they protect (advance work), providing close protection and 24/7 security of hotel rooms, estates, etc. Much of the work in this sector is obtained through networking. Prior security, law enforcement or military experience is desirable. So too is certification in emergency medical care, weapons & driving. An increasing number of service firms provide VIP protection. Positions are also available within proprietary organizations (US Secret Service, etc.).

A key consideration with VIP protection is that many, if not most, security professionals provide this function at some point in their career. For this reason the International Foundation for Protection Officers has included a segment on Executive Protection in our Entry Level Protection Officer program.  There are also text chapters covering it in the Certified Protection Officer (CPO) program.

The International Security Driver Association
is an established organization which provides outstanding career guidance, membership, training, and opportunities.

Starting a Career in Executive Protection? Join ISDA Today

Armour Agent
administers an international recruitment and placement service for personal protection specialists.
Armour Agent - Private Security Jobs and Professional Contractors

Consulting is very competitive as there are large firms which do it. There are also all manner of people posing as security consultants who really aren’t competent. They talk a good game, take a portion of the business and do a disservice to clients and the public. There are also “consultants” who are merely selling a particular product or service. They aren’t giving independent, objective guidance to clients.

A consulting career is best pursued after several decades of relevant security experience, management experience, advanced education and professional certification. Consultants also need to develop specialties; much like a medical doctor who is board certified in a specific area.

Often consulting begins not with the consultant but the client who requests the service. It starts as an occasional, part-time endeavor that grows over time.

The International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) is open to membership by all full-time, independent security consultants.

Investigation is part of protection as all loss events must be investigated. Investigation is done by a wide range of individuals from security officers to specialized investigators. The job opportunities include in – house positions as well as contracted

Entry into investigation may follow from a security officer or police officer position. It may be doing background screening for private firms who contract with government, corporate or educational organizations. Occasional, part-time employment with private investigators is also a common path. So too is Retail Loss Prevention.

Volunteer work or internships also open doors for investigative careers. Coursework in research, intelligence, writing, accounting & IT will also help support an investigative career.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) is a large organization for professionals who investigate fraud. Members include auditors, accountants, private investigators, corporate security investigators, government agents, etc. Fraud has many dimensions and makes a major impact on our businesses, governments and individual lives.

ASIS International has an Investigations Council. Investigation is one of the domains for the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) designations.

Common concerns include rape & assaultive behavior. Sexual harassment, substance abuse, theft and parking along with various safety issues (hazardous materials in laboratories, food safety, etc.). Information protection is a growing concern on college campuses. Student personal information needs to be protected. So too do research studies, etc.

Colleges have various facilities on campus including classrooms, offices, dormitories, cafeterias, gymnasiums, retail stores, restaurants, etc. There are also satellite campuses as well as college owned property which is not a part of the main campus.

Campus Security is a good entry point for a career as schools often have student security officers. This gives one the opportunity to get some training and experience while in college. It also aids in developing a network.

The International Association of Campus law Enforcement Administrators is a professional organization for Campus Directors and Managers.

School Security for institutions below the college level has grown extensively due to incidents of mass violence. This growth will probably continue; however, schools in most locations cannot afford nor necessarily need large security forces. One option for schools is to contract with a service provider.

Another option is to have Protective Service Programs where the students learn about Security, Policing & Emergency Management. Senior year students in such programs can take part in patrolling & monitoring the campus. Many schools with Protective Service Programs utilize the Certified Protection Officer (CPO) designation as a capstone.  The CPO program uses the text The Professional Protection Officer: Practical Security Strategies and Emerging Trends. Students graduate with a meaningful credential in hand so that their career potential is enhanced.

Persons pursuing Education degrees may give  consideration to coursework in Security Management, Physical Security, Safety, etc. An academic minor in Security Management is a good fit. Part-time or summer jobs in security also help build one’s career.

Retail Loss Prevention involves significantly more than the apprehension of shoplifters.  It is a sophisticated, highly dynamic field. “Loss prevention” and “asset protection” is shifting to “asset and profit protection”.  While combatting Organized Retail Crime (ORC), which traditionally has been highly organized shoplifting rings,  is a concern of retailers and law enforcement at every level; the retail scene involves much more. Product counterfeiting, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, information theft, fraud and sex crimes are just some of the things Retail Loss Prevention personnel must deal with. Safety, crowd management and VIP protection are other concerns. Retailers play a key role Homeland Security and supply chain management.  They have warehouses, trucks and distribution centers.

As the retail sector has changed to fully embrace commerce through the world-wide web, so too has those who might prey such opportunities. E-commerce security efforts provide a final assurance resource to preserve the integrity of the buyer and seller relationship. Fraudulent payment methods, phony customer accounts, and vendor product fraud are just a few of the activities that must be interdicted. Fulfillment operations security has developed over the last number of years to ensure the protection of product, process, and employees in sprawling warehousing, order preparation, and shipping operations. The scale of such effort is most readily apparent in light of some fulfillment centers greater than a million square feet with nearly two-thousand employees. This is a rapidly evolving field that offers opportunity for advancement for those with  energy.

Careers is Retail Loss Prevention can be quite rewarding. Those in management above store level (district, region) are well compensated. In addition, retailers often pay bonuses on top of salaries. They also offer substantial discounts for employees. One must, however be ready, willing and able to travel and relocate. More importantly; adapting to rapidly shifting market conditions is a growing concern. One may be laid off if a store chain closes or is purchased.

Part-time or seasonal employment in Retail Loss Prevention is a common entry point. Note that many security, investigative and law enforcement managers began their careers as part-time Loss Prevention agents. Retail is an excellent training ground for investigative skills such as  interviewing, case preparation, intelligence, etc.  There is also increasing use of technology which helps to expand one’s skill set.

The International Foundation for Protection Officers’ Entry Level Protection Officer program covers a range of topics including Retail Loss Prevention.

The Loss Prevention Foundation educates and certifies retail loss prevention and asset protection professionals. It offers two levels of professional certification and has an Academic Retail partnership initiative. publishes position openings throughout the US from major retailers.

Gus Downing publishes an outstanding newsletter concerning the Retail Loss Prevention sector.

Shopping Mall Security is distinct from Retail Loss Prevention in that it’s focus is on protecting the larger mall or strip center which contains the retail stores. Uniformed order maintenance and customer relations are the primary emphasis. Shopping centers are protected by either contract or proprietary security forces. Some locations have police stationed in malls.

Mall security interfaces with Retail Loss Prevention insofar as investigations are involved. Interface is also needed for special events and in the case of fire or disturbance (flash mobs, fights, violent shoplifters).

Shopping center loss events include active threats such as shootings and bomb threats which are receiving greater attention. Crimes such as burglary, robbery, assault along with thefts of and from vehicles are also concerns. Drug dealing and illicit sex are other issues.  Disorder resulting in negative customer experience cannot be allowed so that shopping centers utilize a uniformed police-like presence to deter such disorder.

Shopping Mall Security experience aids in developing networks with police & other officials. It builds soft skills that help prepare one for other career options. One Director of Security at a mall called himself “The Police Chief’s Training Academy” as so many former security officers became Chiefs of Police.

Hotels, Resorts, Casinos  & Cruise Ships are all part of the Hospitality Industry. All of them endeavor to create a positive customer experience. Theft is a problem as are sexual assaults, rowdy behavior, illness and assorted safety issues. Security personnel in this vertical must be diplomatic and polished.  Generally uniforms are business attire or polo shirts. The “soft look” is usually preferred to a police style uniform.

One can often obtain a part-time job with a hotel and move on from there. Security  management positions may be open after one has a degree and has done an internship. Compensation packages with major hotel or resort chains are good and may include meals and clothing. It is  possible to work an entire career for a large organization.

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute offers a variety of courses and certifications for those in the hotel environment.

Hospitality/Gaming  emphasis is on ensuring an outstnding customer experience.   Robbery, burglary, assaults, cheating on games and the threat of mass violence  are all concerns. Casinos generally serve alcohol and food so that hygiene is required. Alcohol serving requires care in not serving obviously intoxicated individuals.

Casino Security departments are often divided into Physical Security & Surveillance divisions due to the need to monitor the games.

Casinos are generally regulated so that their security operations are in order.  There may be a government regulator and/or a public law enforcement officer on the property.

Compensation in Casino Security may include “comps”; complimentary food & lodging up to a specified amount. Obviously, this needs to be carefully assessed when considering a job with a casino.

Healthcare Security includes more than the hospitals we think of. There are also satellite facilities which are not a part of the main campus but must be protected nonetheless. Long-Term Care Security is another aspect of Healthcare Security; one that can only grow as our population ages. Some facilities have massive campuses with theaters, golf courses, etc.; making for increased career opportunities.

Patient and staff safety are key concerns in Healthcare Security. People in physical and emotional distress are commonly encountered in hospitals; particularly in emergency rooms and trauma centers. Some hospitals also have morgues. Healthcare facilities operate 24/7 and some are like small cities with cafeterias, gift shops, parking garages, etc. Healthcare operations have all manner of high value medical equipment, drugs and massive amounts of data in patient medical records.

The International Association of Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) has pioneered training and certification opportunities within the Healthcare Security vertical for entry- level and senior personnel.

The protection of churches, mosques and synagogues has received much greater emphasis due to incidents of mass violence.     Houses of worship face the threat of burglary, vandalism, embezzlement and sexual assault. They also have safety concerns with fire, medical emergencies, disasters and severe weather events (houses of worship may be places people evacuate to).

Currently there are few job opportunities in this vertical as budgets are limited. More options may open up over time. Careers in HOW Security may be entered into via volunteer work at one’s house of worship. Another entry point may be working with security service firms who have houses of worship as clients. Law enforcement or military experience is highly desirable; being licensed to be armed is also a plus. So too is emergency medical training and certification.

Security at concerts, sporting events, stockholder meeting, parties, weddings, etc. is a growing area of concern due to assaults on professional athletes & other VIP’s, crowd violence, hooliganism, terrorism, etc. Weather conditions can change rapidly; posing a threat to spectators, particularly in outdoor settings.

Event Security is a growing niche within today's multi-billion dollar juggernaut sports and entertainment industry. There are many opportunities for graduates and second career individuals to enter the space. One must  be willing to roll up their sleeves, do the dirty work, work long hours while learning the ropes.. Creating intrinsic value for an organization starts with gaining a comprehensive understanding of all the facets in the overall operation/security facets of a stadium, venue or arena. The threat of terrorism, i.e. international, domestic or the extremely unpredictable lone wolf is quite concerning in safeguarding today's stadiums . Smaller sized venues have access to fewer resources than larger types. This places these venues at a disadvantage in terms of full access to JTTF, fusion centers, and other governmental resources. Such venue s may contract  security to transfer risk. They can offset some anticipated in house costs, but lose some control over establishing a culture within the organization.

Venues typically have a small full-time staff supplemented by part-time personnel. Working special event security on a part-time basis is a good way to enter this vertical. It may also be a means of broadening one’s base of experience. Part-time employment is available on a proprietary basis; working for the stadium itself. There are also contract service firms who provide this service.

The IFPO has included a module on Public Events in our Entry Level Protection Officer program.

The International Association of Venue Management was founded in 1924. The Association offers membership, scholarships, internships, publications & learning opportunities.

“Ivy league”:  There are a number of people with degrees from outstanding universities that have entered the Security Industry and advanced rapidly. Intelligence is perhaps the specialty that is most commonly pursued, but there are other avenues as well. Certainly someone with an Architecture or Engineering degree from a top school could contribute to the world of Physical Security.

With professional designations such as the Associate Protection Professional (APP) offered by ASIS International, there is a bright future ahead for those with the proper blend of coursework, internships and professional networks.

Getting Ahead

Much of the foregoing has focused upon getting started on a security career. For those wishing to advance into supervisory and managerial roles. A few general guidelines are:

Master one’s current position. One must excel as a private in order to become a corporal. One must excel as a corporal in order to become a sergeant.

Find a mentor or mentors. Look for people who can “show you the ropes”.

Find a sponsor. This may be the same person as the mentor or it can be someone else who can aid in promoting your brand within the organization. Sometimes sponsors leave the work group or organization and bring people along with them.

Understand organizational principles such as chain of command, uplines, etc.

Develop and document your leadership abilities. This may include taking on added responsibilities, coaching new hires or filling in for a supervisor in their absence. It may also include leadership roles outside of the organization such as athletic coaching, holding office with a civic or professional organization, etc.

It certainly includes coursework in how to supervise. Sometimes college courses cover this and serious consideration should be given to taking those courses.