Security Officer/Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Security officers/managers ensure that sites, buildings, valuables and people are safe and secure. They protect life and property, and help prevent crime.

The work may involve:

  • Working in a reception area of an organisation, checking and instructing people who enter or leave the premises, ensuring visitors have signed in and out, and giving directions.
  • Walking around a site, often at night, checking security, looking out for problems and responding to fire and security alarms.
  • Monitoring closed-circuit television (CCTV) screens in the control room of a building, store or car park.
  • Searching vehicles and people as they enter premises.
  • Escorting money or valuables in a security van.
  • Customer care work, such as helping people find their way around an airport or shopping centre, or looking after children who have been separated from their families.
  • Ensuring the safety of customers and staff in a shop or shopping centre, and preventing theft.
  • Searching aircraft, passengers and luggage, or guarding an airport.
  • Dealing with emergencies.
  • Handling a guard dog.
  • Working with the police as a warden.
  • Writing incident reports.
  • Giving evidence to the police or in court.

Officers may work on their own or in a small team. They spend a lot of time with the public, so customer care skills are important. Some members of the public can be aggressive and argumentative. They may need to tackle intruders physically and detain people until police arrive. They often have radios to call for back-up.

Managers may have additional supervisory responsibilities, including for staff rotas and welfare, and be required to work to set budgets.

Security officers usually work shifts, often over a seven-day week. A few may work normal office hours, although this is rare. Overtime may be available. There are opportunities for part-time employment.

Working environments vary. Security officers may work inside, for example in an office or reception area. Others work mainly outside. They could be based in a small outside building if patrolling a site. Others spend time travelling between sites or protecting items being delivered. The work may involve standing, walking or sitting for long periods.

Officers generally wear a uniform and many wear protective clothing, such as a helmet or high-visibility jacket.

Starting salaries are around £12,000 to £14,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 600,000 people employed in the UK security industry, of which over 100,000 are licensed security officers. They work in a variety of places, including commercial businesses, shops and shopping centres, airports, sports and concert venues, construction sites, museums, hospitals and schools. Large organisations may employ their own security staff, but many officers work as contract staff for private security companies. There are around 2,000 of these companies. Many are small, local firms.

There is growing demand for security officers. Entrants should look for a reputable company that is approved by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) under their Approved Contractor Scheme and registered with an industry trade body, such as the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).

Job vacancies are found in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices, trade publications such as Professional Security Magazine and Security Management Today, on security companies' websites, on recruitment websites such as www.securityvacancies.com and www.retailsecurityjobs.com, and in specialist security recruitment agencies. The International Professional Security Association (IPSA) and the BSIA list recruitment agencies on their websites.

Education and Training

Security officers/managers are required to have an SIA security guard licence to work as a contracted security officer in England, Wales and Scotland. If the role involves monitoring CCTV, an SIA public space surveillance (CCTV) licence may be required.

To obtain a licence, applicants must be aged over 18 and pass an identity and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. A criminal record does not necessarily mean a candidate will be refused a licence. However, if they have any convictions, warnings, cautions or charges awaiting trial, the SIA looks into how relevant, serious and recent the offences are. Applicants must also undertake a two-part training course and pass two examinations (those with previous experience and qualifications may be exempt).

A number of other relevant qualifications are also available. The SIA approves local training providers delivering the following courses:

  • ASET Level 2 Certificate for Security Guards.
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for Security Guards.
  • Edexcel Level 2 BTEC Award in Security Operations.
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) Level 2 Award in Security Guarding.

Other qualifications include:

  • NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Providing Security Services.
  • International Institute of Security Certificate and Diploma in Security Management via distance learning through Caltrop College.
  • Foundation Degree, Degree and Masters Degree in Security and Risk Management, and Postgraduate Certificate in Maritime and Supply Chain Security available by distance learning at the University of Leicester.
  • Degree in Risk and Security Management run by the University of Portsmouth via distance learning.

Skills for Security and IPSA also run security-related training courses.

Some security organisations offer Apprenticeships run by Skills for Security.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

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A Few More Exams You Might Need

Security officers/managers may attend courses or undertake on-the-job training alongside experienced security officers.

The training required to gain an SIA licence can be undertaken full time over four days, or through evening/weekend classes. Part one of the course covers the roles and responsibilities of security officers, such as patrolling, searching, security and emergency systems, health and safety, and customer care and social skills. Part two teaches communication skills and conflict management.

Some security officers receive specialist training to work in sensitive situations.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Security officers must be:

  • Responsible and honest.
  • Observant and aware of rules governing health and safety.
  • Willing to observe rules and procedures.
  • Polite, helpful and good at communicating with people.
  • Able to handle sensitive situations.
  • Prepared to challenge people.
  • Fit and healthy.
  • Able to use their initiative and make quick decisions.
  • Able to use modern surveillance systems, such as CCTV and security tags.
  • Comfortable using ICT and other technical equipment.
  • Able to understand security strategies.
  • Able to write short reports.

Your Long Term Prospects

After gaining experience and qualifications, promotion may be possible to supervisory or managerial roles. Security officers may also move across the different sub-sectors covered by the role, for example from patrolling an industrial site to operating CCTV in a shopping centre.

Security officers may become self-employed.

Get Further Information

British Security Industry Association (BSIA),
Kirkham House, John Comyn Drive,
Worcester WR3 7NS
Tel: 0845 389 3889
Website: www.bsia.co.uk

International Institute of Security,
The Business Centre, 57 Torquay Road,
Paignton, Devon TQ3 3DT
Tel: 01803 663 275
Website: www.iisec.co.uk

International Professional Security Association (IPSA),
Northumberland House, 11 The Pavement,
Popes Lane, Ealing, London W5 4NG
Tel: 020 8832 7417
Website: www.ipsa.org.uk

Security Industry Authority (SIA),
PO Box 9, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE82 6YX
Tel: 0870 243 0100
Website: www.the-sia.org.uk

Skills for Security,
Security House, Barbourne Road,
Worcester WR1 1RS
Tel: 0845 075 0111
Website: www.skillsforsecurity.org.uk

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