How to Become a Security Guard: A Comprehensive Guide

March 20, 2023

Security Guard

Security guards are important, and becoming one is no less than an honor. It’s a fulfilling job that involves protecting and helping everyone around you. Plus, the wages aren’t bad either. 

If you’re considering this as a prospective career and googling how to become a security guard, you have a lot coming your way. There’s a whole series of training and certifications that qualifies a candidate to serve as a safe and effective security guard who will add value to society. 

We’ve compiled everything you need to know to become a security guard. Covering all the training requirements, application processes, eligibility criteria, and the related duties that come with the job. 

Table of contents:

  • Security guard requirement in California
  • Security guard training requirements
  • Key skills required to become a security guard
  • How to get a guard card in California
  • How to find work as a security guard
  • How to maintain your security guard license
  • Quick Summary 
  • FAQs

Security Guard Requirements in California

Here are the eligibility criteria that you must fulfill before you can apply to become a certified security guard. When applying, you should be:

  • Above the age of 18
  • Pass a detailed criminal history background check that is performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). 
  • Apply for licensure either at private patrol operations or training facilities certified by the BSIS. You can check more information and details on their official web page.
  • Able to complete an 8-hour “Power to Arrest” training course and pass the examination at course end with a glaring 100% score per the Manual’s Administring Instructions. Once done, obtain a certificate of completion from the company
  • Submit their fingerprints from a Live Scan that forwards the prints to the Department of Justice for further processing and verification. The fingerprints are also accompanied by your application and an Automated Transaction Identifier (ATI) number
  • Start working as a security guard upon receiving an interim license once you pass the background check
  • After receiving the interim license, complete a 16-hour security training from a state-certified company within the next 30 days
  • Complete an additional 16-hour training for security officer skills after six months of getting the interim license
  • Make sure that the training is complete because if it isn’t done within 32 hours, your license may be revoked

If you’re applying for a firearm permit, Professional Security Guard Inc. has excellent resources and guides that explain the process in depth.  

What type of trainings are required to become a security guard?

Before you can get a license to practice as a security guard in California, you need to take and pass some training. All of which should be from a BSIS-approved training facility or Private Control Officer, as mentioned earlier. 

Following is the training you must complete successfully before becoming a security guard. 

  • Complete the “Power to Arrest” training before the application process starts. This pre-service training should also cover terrorism awareness and weapons of mass destruction.
  • Go through a 32-hour Security Guard skills training within the next six months after you register. Mandatory topics include:
    • Observation and documentation
    • Public relations
    • Communication
    • Legal aspects and liability 
  • Complete 8-hours of continuous training annually

Key Skills Required to Become a Security Guard

It’s only natural to wonder what makes a good security officer when applying to become one. A few necessary skills security guards must have are:

Clear and Effective Communication 

A good security guard should always know how to appropriately and effectively communicate. Whether you’re working as a part of a team or individually, you need to be articulate enough to convey, comprehend, and respond in emergencies.

As security personnel, you must communicate with employees, residents, customers, and others who need assistance. The commands should be clear, concise, and delivered in a manner that the other person can understand. For instance, guiding a child requires a lot more assurance and kindness than conversing with an adult. Similarly, the elderly might want you to repeat instructions or ask to be escorted. 

At all such times, a good security guard must ensure they perceive and communicate clearly. Your written communication skills are important too. Security guards need to fill out reports and give briefs, good written abilities make it easier for the next guard in the shift to take over. 

Good communication skills and empathy are not only useful for emergencies but are also imperative for the company’s (employer) reputation. Security personnel make the first impressions and are typically the first persons to interact with and represent the company to a visitor. 


Present-mindedness is a learned skill and an important one for a security guard. A reliable security guard can recognize when and to what extent action is needed. You should be quick on your feet and observant by nature to detect the slightest change in the surroundings. 

A keen eye and sharp instincts are a must. You, as a security guard, should be able to identify a potential threat and act quickly and efficiently to prevent any danger. Observation skills plus vigilance make a great combination for an officer.

Physical Vigor

A security guard needs to be active and have to maintain high levels of physical fitness to keep up with the requirements of this job. Contrary to the popular belief, security guards don’t just sit at the desk and keep watch over the surveillance footage. It’s a lot more than that. A typical workday for a security guard involves lots of patrolling, standing long hours, and outrunning potential intruders and criminals. 

The physical stamina and training must be reliable so security guards can defend themselves and protect others from danger. Good physical health is also linked to mental alertness – a must-have trait in security personnel. 

Have Command and Calmness

Security personnel may have to face stressful situations quite often. They must have a calm, composed, and attentive attitude at all times. Their resolve should be calm yet assertive. 

It’s an important skill for solving conflicts and acting appropriately in panic-inducing situations. A security personnel is someone the general public will look forward to when something is wrong – there is an inherent belief that officers are trained and equipped, both mentally and physically, to protect the public. 

This is true, it’s one of the duties of a security guard to acknowledge their social position and prepare to have a calm yet commanding attitude towards every situation. 

Maintain Order

As a security guard, you may need to maintain order using verbal commands and even physical abilities. For instance, if you’re appointed to a facility where protests occur or an event, you need to keep the crowds and a few unruly ones in strict check to keep the others safe. This involves a clear and supervising tone of communication and physical strength.

Moreover, security guards may also be faced with hostile people who don’t wish to comply or attempt intrusion. The security guard must know how to maintain order and de-escalate tough situations without losing control.

Ability to Lead and Work as a Team Member

Security guards may be appointed to work in a group, which requires the ability to effectively cooperate and perform in a team to ensure the highest safety standards. As security personnel, you also often have to work with medical staff, police officers, and firefighters to resolve a threat. 

On the other hand, strong leadership qualities are also a must-have for security guards. The ability to work as a team member is quite complementary to leadership skills. The capacity to lead people or a team is essential for crowd management and in case of emergencies. 

Conciliatory and Empathetic Attitude

Although security guard training and counseling are more focused on preparing individuals for the worst scenarios, their main job is to de-escalate tense situations with minimal harm. This is why a cool head, mental agility, and conflict resolution are some traits a security guard should always have.

Security guards have to interact with all kinds of people, including tough-to-deal-with and provocative behavior. No matter what happens, the guard is expected to have a collected and conciliatory resolve towards all such situations. 

Keen Scepticism and Observation

A major part of your job as a security guard is to observe and analyze suspicious activity on the premises. Strong observation skills are needed to spot the smallest of irregularities in their surroundings and report them timely. Their quick reactions may save many lives, and having good instincts always helps in making the right call.


Although honesty and integrity are personal traits, it’s a major part of being a responsible security guard. Dishonest security is more a threat than a relief to the company, apartment, warehouse, or event being guarded. Everything is a risk – an ill-intended security guard may steal, increase the vulnerability of the area, or slack at their job. 

This is why BSIS training and recruitment processes are so hard on background checks. It helps to filter out potentially dangerous people from getting through the system and saves citizens and businesses from risk. 


A security guard needs to be knowledgeable about what the job entails, what they’re expected to do in different scenarios, and how far their duties can expand. For instance, a security guard should always have basic, or preferably secondary level, first aid procedures to save lives and minimize harm.

Other than that, being an informed security guard also involves understanding the ins and outs of the location, the kinds of possible threats, the security goals of the business or event they’re guarding, and more. 

How to Get a Guard Card in California?

Before you get a license and start working as a security guard in California you need a valid guard card. Here is a detailed guide on how to obtain a California guard card that will help you learn and prepare better:

What is a Guard Card?

A guard card is a license you get before you can register as a security guard in California. The process of getting one is simple. All you have to do is go through a series of training and exams to get yourself hired as a security guard. 

How To Get a Guard Card in California?

Here are a few simple steps to secure a California guard card:

  • In-person or online, take an eight-hour “Power to Arrest” training and pass its exam.
  • Apply online at the BSIS. Submission can either be made by you (the applicant), a training facility, or the Private Patrol Operator. 
  • Submit your fingerprints online using Live Scan, downloaded from Bureau’s official website. Pay the related fees and wait. 
  • The Bureau runs criminal history checks and if all is clear, they enter you into the Bureau’s website where you can verify approval by checking “Verify a License”. 
  • Once your registration is clear, it will automatically appear on the website. You can take a screen print to apply for an interim security guard position. 
  • You will receive your security guard registration within 10 to 15 business days.
  • Lastly, complete 16 hours of “on the job” training within the next 30 days, and an additional 16 hours within 6 months. 
  • After these 32 hours of continuing education, you need to complete 8 hours of annual “refresher” courses.  

Additional License Types Used with a Security Guard Registration

Here are some complementary BSIS licenses that you may apply for after you get registered as a security guard: 

  • Firearms Permit: This permit allows security guards to carry a loaded firearm when on duty. Head over to BSIS’s Firearm Permit Fact Sheet for more information on the exposed firearms permit. 
  • Baton Permit: Anyone who carries a baton when they’re on duty needs to be officially registered as a security guard and must have completed a baton training course from a Bureau-approved Baton Training Facility. Verify a License page has detailed guidelines on Bureau-approved training facilities. 
  • Tear Gas Permit: This permit is necessary if the job requires a security guard to carry tear gas while he or she is on duty. Some Bureau-approved training facilities offer tear gas training, you can check their details on the Verify a License page on the Bureau’s website. 

How to Find Work As a Security Guard?

Once you have received your guard card and completed all the related training, you’re ready to go out and find employment as a certified security guard in California. 

Here’s a little guide on the whole process:

Collect All the Application Documents You Will Need

You need a professional self-presentation document and a cover letter so you can start applying for jobs in a reputable security guard company. The better your presentation is, the more your chances of getting an interview call. 

For the resume, list your background, proficiencies, skills, and achievements that match the job description. Personalize the cover letter according to the culture and core values of the company you’re applying for. Highlight your soft skills in addition to your professional skills such as communication, critical thinking, and attention to detail. 

Apply to Jobs

Once you have everything ready for your applications, keep an eye out for job openings. If you have a specific company or entity in mind, regularly visit their website or make calls so you know when they start hiring. 

You can join online job forums, subscribe to their email job updates, or download job apps that notify you when there’s a security vacancy open nationwide. If there’s an ongoing job fair, make sure you go and apply to all companies hiring.  

Submit your application and follow the company’s specific application instructions, if any. Make sure you customize your application according to the specifics of the job so you have a better chance for an interview call. 

Prepare For a Steller Interview

After applying to multiple jobs, you will receive interview calls from companies that match your skills and values. This part is critical. Make sure you’re prepared for the interview so you can convince the decision-makers that you’re the best fit for the position. 

Most interviewees ask about personal experiences that apply to the role. Here are a few interview tips to remember:

  • Tell them an example of a time you successfully mitigated a potentially harmful situation or calmed an angry person just by using words.
  • Discuss a time when you stayed calm and composed in a chaotic environment and how you maintained focus on your job during that.
  • Talk about your motivations and aspirations for becoming a security guard. 
  • Describe a time when you faced a physically challenging situation and how you handled it. 

Other than that, rehearse your answers to questions like:

  • How would you calm down two angry persons who start to fight in front of you?
  • What makes a good security officer?
  • Are you certified in AED, CPR, and First Aid?
  • How would you tackle an unruly, uncooperative individual?

How To Retain Your Security Guard License?

Security guard registrants need to renew their licenses to keep working as one. You need to renew your security guard card every two years after the issuance date. The Bureau sends a renewal form via mail to the registrant approximately 90 days before the registration is set to expire. 

You need to submit the completed renewal form or application 60 days before the date your license expires. This gives the Bureau sufficient time to process the renewal and contact you if something is missing. If you don’t receive a renewal form via mail at your on-record address, you can submit a security guard registration renewal application along with the renewal fee.  

Before the renewal, you must also complete 8 hours of continuing education, as mentioned earlier. This is also called the “refresher” course and is necessary to keep security guards updated on the latest techniques and happenings. 

It’s also important that the registrants keep their valid, current addresses kept on file with the Bureau up to date at all times so they can receive renewal notices. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to become a security guard in California?

The application fee may range from $25 to $65, depending on the type of application. It could be your initial application, license renewal, delinquent renewal, or another processing fee related to the process. 

Are security guards allowed to carry guns in California?

By law, no one can carry a firearm. Even if you’re a certified security guard you cannot carry a concealed weapon on duty unless you have a special firearms permit that is awarded only to those who have completed the related training and education. This firearm permit is issued by BSIS and only allows security guards to carry an exposed firearm when they are on duty. 

How quickly can you complete the guard card training in California?

A California guard card training is a minimum of eight hours. You cannot complete it any sooner than this time frame. 

Can a security guard cuff someone in California?

By law, an unarmed security guard can detain you without using force. But they are not allowed to use force or other methods used by the police to discipline someone. They cannot handcuff an individual or lock you in a holding cell in California.

Can you become a security guard without a guard card in California?

No. You need to complete a training and informational course before you can get your guard card in the mail. 

What disqualifies you from getting a guard card in California?

If you commit any crimes of violence or felonies, you are automatically disqualified from applying to be a security guard in California. 


Final Word – How to become a security guard?

Security personnel holds immense responsibility. If you’re considering this as a career, be prepared to endure all that this job entails. This guide covered everything that you need to know about becoming a security guard. We hope it helps you figure out the ins and outs of this role. 

And if you need to consult a professional, seek advice on your application, or have another security guard-related need, you can always contact the pros at Professional Security Guard, Inc

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