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Security Officer

Security officers and managers ensure that buildings, outside areas, valuables and people are safe and secure.

Their work may involve:

  • working in a reception area of an organisation, checking people in and out
  • walking around a site, often at night, looking out for problems
  • monitoring closed-circuit television (CCTV) screens in a control room
  • dealing with emergencies
  • writing incident reports.

Managers may arrange staff rotas and training and set budgets.

Security officers usually work shifts, often over a seven-day week. Overtime may be available. There are opportunities to work part time.

Some work inside in an office or reception area, but others work mainly outside. Officers generally wear a uniform and many wear protective clothing, such as a high-visibility jacket.

Security officers are usually paid by the hour, which is likely to be between £6 and £10. Salaries range from around £20,000 for a security officer to around £50,000 for a senior manager.

Security officers must be:

  • responsible and honest
  • polite and helpful, yet prepared to challenge people when necessary
  • fit and healthy
  • able to use their initiative and make quick decisions
  • able to use surveillance systems, such as CCTV, security tags or scanners
  • able to write reports
  • interested in the security of people and organisations.

There are more than 150,000 licensed security officers, working on building sites, in businesses, shops and shopping centres, airports, sports and concert venues and other public spaces. Large organisations may employ their own security staff, but many officers work as contract staff for private security companies.

Security officers need an SIA security guard licence to work on a contract basis, as opposed to a direct employee of a business or organisation (in-house security). Other security roles, such as CCTV or cash and valuables in transit, require a separate licence.

Managers who don't provide direct services to the public still need a 'non-frontline' licence.

Applicants take a two-part training course and need to pass two exams, although people with previous experience and qualifications may be exempt. Before applying for a licence, an applicant needs one of these qualifications:

  • EDI Level 2 Certificate for security guards.
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for security guards
  • BTEC Level 2 Award in security guarding
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) Level 2 Award in security guarding.

Applicants also need to be over 18 and pass identity and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. A criminal record does not necessarily mean a candidate will be refused a licence.

Some security organisations offer Apprenticeships.

Previous experience within the police, fire or prison services or armed forces is very useful.

Security officers and managers may attend courses or train on the job alongside experienced security officers. Some employers will pay for training.

Promotion may be possible to supervisory or managerial roles. Security officers may also move into another aspect of the job or become self-employed.

 

What is the work like?

Security officers and managers ensure that buildings, outside areas, 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
  • reporting on and dealing with emergencies
  • searching vehicles and people as they enter premises
  • searching aircraft, passengers and luggage or guarding an airport
  • writing incident reports and, when a crime has occurred, giving evidence to the police or, possibly, in court
  • in very rare cases, tackling intruders physically and detaining people until police arrive.

Actual tasks vary widely. Some security officers may work with guard dogs, for example, while others may escort money or valuables in a security van.

In some jobs, security officers or managers may have a customer care element to their work - perhaps helping people find their way around an airport or shopping centre, or looking after children who have become separated from their families.

Security officers may work on their own or in a team.

Managers may have additional supervisory responsibilities, such as arranging staff rotas and training, and may be required to set budgets and meet targets.

Hours and environment

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 to work part time.

They may work inside in an office or reception area, but 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 high-visibility jacket.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Security officers are usually paid an hourly rate, which is likely to be between £6 and £8, or £8 and £10 on retail sites. Rates tend to be higher in London.
  • Experienced security officers may earn about £20,000 a year.
  • Security managers may start on around £25,000 a year.
  • Senior security managers may earn up to £50,000 or more.

There may also be paid overtime in some jobs.

Skills and personal qualities

Security officers must be:

  • responsible and honest
  • ready to respond in difficult situations
  • polite, helpful and good at communicating, yet prepared to challenge people when necessary
  • fit and healthy
  • able to use their initiative and make quick decisions
  • able to use surveillance systems, such as CCTV, security tags or scanners
  • comfortable using communications devices such as radios and mobile phones
  • observant and aware of rules governing health and safety
  • able to write reports.

In addition, security managers must be able to lead and motivate staff.

Interests

It is important to:

  • be interested in the security of people and organisations
  • enjoy having responsibility.

Getting in

There are around 500,000 people employed in the UK security industry, of whom, more than 150,000 are licensed security officers. They work in a variety of places, including businesses, shops and shopping centres, airports, sports and concert venues, building 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 2,500 security firms in the UK. Many are small, local firms.

Job vacancies are found in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices, trade publications such as Professional Security Magazine and RISK UK, on security company websites, on recruitment websites, and in specialist security recruitment agencies. The International Professional Security Association (IPSA) and the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) list recruitment agencies on their own websites.

Entry routes

Security officers need an SIA security guard licence to work for a company that supplies security officers on contract, rather than as a direct employee of a business or organisation (in-house security).

People who work on premises with an alcohol licence, which can include shopping centres, need an SIA door supervisor licence even if their role doesn't require them to work in the actual areas where the alcohol is sold.

If the role involves monitoring CCTV, an SIA public space surveillance licence may be required too. Other security roles, such as close protection, cash and valuables in transit and vehicle immobilisation, require a separate licence.

Managers who don't provide direct services to the public still need a 'non-frontline' licence. If they occasionally provide security services - for emergency cover, for example - they need a 'frontline' SIA licence.

Applicants take a two-part training course and have to pass two exams, although people with previous experience and qualifications may be exempt.

Before applying for a security guard licence, an applicant needs to hold one of these qualifications:

  • EDI Level 2 Certificate for security guards (EDI also offers a Level 1 introduction to working in the security industry, which could be taken as a first step before SIA training.)
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for security guards
  • BTEC Level 2 Award in security guarding
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) Level 2 Award in security guarding.

Applicants need to be over 18 and pass identity and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. A criminal record does not necessarily mean a candidate will be refused a licence.

Some security organisations offer Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and, from August 2009, pay at least £95 per week. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. 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 on the Apprenticeship page on this website, from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

Previous experience within the police, fire or prison services or armed forces is very useful. Working as an event steward can also count as relevant experience.

Training

Security officers and managers may attend courses or train on the job alongside experienced security officers. Some employers will pay for training.

The training needed for an SIA licence can be done full time or through evening or 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. A modular format for the qualification is to be introduced in 2010.

Some security officers receive specialist training to work in sensitive situations, and there are courses aimed at people with particular responsibilities, such as CCTV monitoring, key-holding, alarm response or guarding valuables in transit.

There is an NVQ Level 2 in providing security services.

For managers in the security industry, or those who want to become managers, there are further qualifications available by part-time study.

There are foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate qualifications in security and risk management, and the Security Institute offers a Certificate and Diploma in Security Management.

Getting on

After gaining experience and qualifications, promotion may be possible to supervisory or managerial roles. Security officers may also move into a different aspect of the role.

Security officers may become self-employed.

Further information

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

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

Security Industry Authority (SIA), PO Box 1293, Liverpool L69 1AX. 0844 892 1025. Website: www.the-sia.org.uk

Security Institute, 1 The Courtyard, Caldecote CV10 0AS. 0845 370 7717. Website: www.security-institute.org

Skills for Security, Security House, Barbourne Road, Worcester WR1 1RS. 08450 750 111. Website: www.skillsforsecurity.org.uk

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