We all enjoy having jobs that give us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. School security guards are a prime example. It feels good to know that every day, you are ready to help and protect children and teens from any potential dangers.
The recent rise in school shooting events and school violence, in general, has created a higher demand for school security services. As a result, more security guards are needed. As reported in the Guardian, 43% of US public schools in 2016 had armed security on-site, compared to 31% a decade earlier. That number is likely to continue climbing.
This article addresses the most frequently asked questions for those considering a career in school security, as well as several related topics, including:
- What are the duties of a school security guard
- What is the difference between a school security guard vs school resource officer?
- What is the salary for school security personnel?
- What training is needed, and where can you get it?
- How do I get my security license?
- What is a “Guard Card” and do I really need it?
- What about the requirements specific to New York State and California?
What are the duties of a school security guard?
A school security guard does not have one single task they do. They have multiple smaller jobs that all combine together to achieve the purpose of keeping the school they work at safe and secure. This may entail everything from patrolling, to watching surveillance equipment, controlling entry into the school by managing visitor access, reporting suspicious activity, contacting law enforcement (when needed), and interacting with students in a reassuring manner so they know their safety is your #1 focus.
One unique aspect of being a school security guard is that every single day will be different. This will prevent your job from ever being boring, as you’ll be tackling different challenges each day in the interest of keeping the school safe. One morning you might be inspecting the grounds, by the afternoon you’re breaking-up a student fight, and in the evening you could find yourself directing traffic for an event.
As long as you’re understanding of the fact that a typical day of a school security guard will be filled with unpredictability, and you are prepared for whatever comes your way, you are sure to do a great job.
How much do school security guards make?
The national average income for a school security guard is $34,594. It can, of course, vary greatly based on location, experience, and how long you are a school security guard at one location (seniority generally means higher pay). It is by no means a career someone can expect to “get rich” doing, but it pays relatively well compared to many other jobs and is emotionally rewarding (you are keeping youth safe, an admirable thing).
Also, after gaining experience as a school security guard, it may open the door for other potentially higher-paying security careers should you choose to pursue them. For example, positions in government security, private security, and so forth.
Other Positive Aspects of Being a School Security Guard
It should be noted that being a school security guard often provides a flexible schedule–a benefit of sorts that is not financial but contributes to one’s quality of life.
For instance, a security guard at a school with multiple guards can choose whether they want a shift that takes place during school hours, or at another time such as overnight patrolling the grounds. Or, for early-morning meetings before school, as well as in the evening when a school may have events. Should someone be paid hourly this can also provide multiple opportunities for overtime, and therefore, increased income.
Benefits for school security guards
Another bonus that can save a great deal of money is that being a school security guard often means benefits are provided. These benefits are the kind given to all employees at a school and can mean health insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance. Knowing that you are covered in case of a medical emergency is important since healthcare costs and medical insurance are expensive.
Hence, even if being a school security guard may not make you flush with cash, it is a solid income and often brings with it several benefits.
What kind of education is needed to be a school security guard?
While individual states can vary in their exact qualifications, the basic requirements usually include a high school diploma combined with the completion of security guard training courses. Additionally, showing your commitment to school safety with a 1 or 2-semester certificate from a college, or even earning an associates degree that incorporates criminal justice will give applicants a strong advantage.
Although, this is by no means as integral as having completed the variety of training courses that relate specifically to being a school security guard. Essentially, the more education you have that can be related to school security, the more job options you will have available to you.
Will specific schools require training beyond what I already know?
Covered below is the wide range of programs and training needed to become a school security guard. It should be noted that many schools and school districts will most likely have their own basic training programs specific to that school district (or even a specific school) that they will require a new employee complete before starting work as a school security guard.
It simply means a school wants you to be trained for their specific needs. It is not a slight against any previous programs you have completed or other places you may have served as a school security guard. It simply ensures you will be extra-prepared.
Will I work alone or as part of a team?
The answer to this question is: “It depends.” Should you be at a very large school, the odds are good that there will be multiple security guards working at one time with a number of supervisors. On the other hand, if you are employed by a relatively small school, you may be the only security guard working at one time–or even possibly the sole person employed as a school security guard.
Both possibilities have their advantages and disadvantages. In a smaller setting, you will not be micro-managed or have to balance your schedule with other school security guards. But it may at times feel overwhelming to be the only person people can come to with security concerns.
At the other end of that spectrum, being a school security guard at a massive place full of other employees can make you feel like an important member of the team with people you can rely on. On the other hand, you may at times feel undervalued or under-utilized if other school security guards are given more hours or recognition.
Essentially, it comes down to where you choose to work that will influence the kind of experience you may have. Keep this in mind when applying to a larger or smaller school district.
What age-range of students will I work with?
Again, it depends greatly on the school you’re employed with. Should you be in a larger school district you may find yourself in a building that houses only grade-school, middle-school, or high-school students. In a smaller region, it may just be one large building that has students from kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade. Depending on what kind of ages you would prefer to work with, that may influence where you want to apply to be a school security guard.
Do keep in mind, the more open you are to a variety of students the more job opportunities you may have. Someone willing to work with students of a variety of age groups will probably look more attractive to a district. After all, it would keep their options open should they decide at times to shift employees around to different schools.
What’s the difference between a school security guard, a school security officer, or a safety monitor? What about these and a school resource officer?
A school security guard and a school security officer are two terms that often can be used interchangeably. Sometimes, the term school safety monitor is used as well, since it sounds less intimidating for students. They almost always have the same qualifications and requirements; just a preference of what term schools or individuals want to use. It does need to be noted however there is a difference between these and a school resource officer, or SRO.
An SRO is a police officer whose position involves them being present at a school. They have all the rights and responsibilities of the local police, and almost always carry a firearm. Notably, if a school hires a security guard or school security officer, they may not be armed, depending on the rules of the particular district. It’s important to be aware that you cannot be an SRO unless you are also an officer of the law.
How do I get my security license?
Individual states have their own requirements and licensing procedures. With this in mind, you should research what state-specific rules are in place. However, below are four general steps you can expect in every state.
Step 1: Apply for the Security License
After fulfilling the requirements for a State, you will apply for the license. Once your application is processed you will be ready to take the next three steps.
Step 2: Prepare for Screenings
Upon applying for your security license you can expect to submit to a background check through your individual State’s DOJ (Department of Justice) chapter, as well as with the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Also, you will submit to multiple drug tests, often at random times. Be aware that should you have an offense on your record, that does not automatically disqualify you from earning your security license, but you must disclose it at the time of application.
Should you have a misdemeanor vandalism charge from when you were a young teenager or something else of that nature, it will look a lot better if you volunteer that information as opposed to trying to hide it. After all, it’s the FBI we’re talking about here.
Step 3: More Training
Assuming you pass your background checks and drug screenings you will then need to take training on a variety of subjects such as procedures for emergencies, property rights, how to detain suspects, and so forth. Certain states do require that anyone applying to be a security guard attend specific State-approved training programs, whereas some states do allow this training to be done by other private facilities.
Also, some states will have their own training programs specific to security guards who want to have tear gas or pepper spray as well as a baton. Some states will not have any specific requirements for this weaponry, so as mentioned above, it is integral to know what your state requires.
Step 4: Fingerprinting and Mailing In Your Paperwork
Should you complete your training, the final steps will be having your fingerprints registered in the National database and submitting your completed licensing application to the State. After that, you simply need to wait for your (hopeful) approval.
How long will it take to get my approval and security license in the mail?
Assuming you have all the paperwork filled out and have passed all your background checks, drug screenings, and training programs, once you have everything submitted it can take as little as 2 weeks. Or, it could take up to 2 to 4 months, if you have any kind of criminal background that needs to be examined and considered during the submission process.
What is a “Guard Card?”
You may sometimes see mention of a “Guard Card.” It’s a slang term referring to your security license (which at times is a laminated card). In other words, if someone says they have their “Guard Card,” or asks you if you have one, they are simply inquiring if you are accredited as a security guard in your state.
A note about New York state
It should be noted that within the State of New York specifically there is an NYS Security Guard License. As discussed above, the State of New York has implemented some of its own specific training programs. They have a few intricacies that should be read-up on and understood should you want to be a security guard of any kind in New York.
Acquiring an SB 1626 Certificate
Senate Bill 1626 is also known as SB 1626 and is a bill passed by the California Legislature. It requires anyone working for a school district within the state for more than 20 hours per week with “security-related duties” to have undertaken a specific training curriculum created by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). This program was made in combination with the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST). The program takes a total of 24 hours and is completed online, and covers a wide range of subjects that the State of California wanted to ensure school security guards were trained-in.
This includes but is not limited to discussion of State and Federal laws, how to respond to emergencies, mediating conflicts between students as well as staff, and how to handle the general behavioral dynamics of students. It is not only school security guards who have to earn an SB 1626 certificate, but anyone at a school who is considered to be responsible for safety–principals, vice-principals, school counselors, and oftentimes teachers if a school thinks they too will benefit from the course. The idea of SB 1626 is to make sure that no matter what those responsible may encounter, they will be ready and prepared for any situation that could occur.
How do you earn an SB 1626 Certificate?
A variety of third-party companies dedicated to safety and security have programs that follow and fulfill the curriculum of SB 1626. These programs can be enrolled in and completed online. Generally, any school that requires its employees to take this course will either pay for it reimburse employees for its full cost upon their successful completion of the course and earning their SB 1626 certificate.
Where to get security guard training
Now that you know what to expect as a school security guard in regards to how to become (and stay employed as one) and you know what requirements may exist in your specific State to get licensed, the question becomes where can you go to get the needed training to be certified?
While you may need to acquire your certification as a security guard with funds out of your own pocket, it is sometimes possible to be trained for free (or reimbursed for anything you spend). Should you have the educational background discussed above for school security guards but lack the specific training for your State, a school may be willing to hire you with the agreement they will pay for or reimburse you for any training required.
A simple search of a career website such as Indeed shows many security jobs (for schools or others) that advertise they will pay training fees for any potential employees they think would make a solid addition.
Finding security guard training agencies
There are many great agencies that exist which can help people meet the specific State requirements for becoming a school security guard. It should, of course, be noted that within New York State, there are the additional elements to consider for NYS Security Guard License Training. The same goes for California and the SB 1626. With that said, these agencies at times are also accredited to assist with those requirements as well.
MySecurity Training offers a wide range of online courses for individuals wanting to fulfill the requirements for becoming a school security guard. They also have BSIS approval (within in California) and can offer training for SB 1626 certification. They have a wide array of online resources and are one of the top training agencies around.
Star Security Training
Star Security Training is able to provide NYS Security Guard License training thanks to being accredited by the state’s criminal justice department. That is just one example of the services provided by Star Security Training, which is located in Brooklyn and has trained over 25,000 students since it opened in 2009. It’s a solid option for those located in New York State.
Security training in your area
Searching online for “security guard training near me” can provide a long list of results for in-person training your State may require. Also, as they are local agencies, they will have in-depth knowledge of your State’s specific rules and regulations.
Just make sure you double-check these agencies have good reviews and are recognized as providing accredited training. The last thing you want to do is spend money only to find out you did not receive training that counts for being certified as a school security guard!
Additional training to consider
ALICE Training is also known as Active Shooter Response Training. ALICE itself stands for, “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate,” which are the very steps covered as part of the training. These classes are designed to educate anyone in a public setting on how to respond to the possibility of an active shooter.
As in the last 10 years, school shootings have become an increasing concern. Having active shooter response training is something that is highly recommended, even if not necessarily required to become a school security guard.
Once you are a school security guard it never hurts to keep yourself informed of the latest developments in your field and otherwise keep your skills “fresh.” Taken in-person or online, “refresher” courses are a great way to make sure you continue to excel at being a school security guard. Oftentimes, they are required by employers, and will even be fully paid-for.
By making sure you are always at the top of your game as a school security guard, you not only will ensure the safety of students and staff but most likely will impress supervisors with your commitment.
A meaningful job worth considering
Being a school security guard is not a job for everyone. This is a job that is by no means easy, and it will often keep you on your toes. But in the end, it is undoubtedly rewarding to know that you are helping keep students and faculty safe each day.
I’ve done security work in Los Angeles and at charter middle in the city of watts for a year. Also have letter of recommendation from the principle of that school.
My brother told me he is interested in becoming a security guard. Thanks for recommending to also consider an ALICE training program to be able to get gun training. I’m excited to help him find the right training program so he can reach his goal.