A State by State Security Guard License Guide

Armed Security Guard Training Details

Armed security guards provide protection and control access to dangerous areas. They can be found everywhere from financial institutions to embassies, nuclear facilities to hospitals. Many provide services under contract with governmental agencies.

Armed security officers typically have higher training requirements than those who work unarmed security guard positions. They may need to meet higher standards before beginning their training.

State mandates are often low – lower than the level set by national stakeholders. Additional mandates are set by the organizations security companies contract with.

Some private providers offer training programs that go beyond the state minimum. They may have customizable packages for different types of organization (for example, governmental agencies).

Degrees and prior experience can put one at an advantage. Some positions are reserved for people with law enforcement or military training.

Some organizations want high-level security clearance. They are looking for professionals who have gone through a background process that looks at far more than just legal issues.

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The Goals of Armed Guard Training

Security officers may be armed with guns and/ or nonlethal weapons. The goal of armed security guard programs is to ensure that security guards can use the weapons and devices they have appropriately and that they understand their role within the larger contexts of security work.

Prospective armed guards should be prepared to demonstrate shooting proficiency/ weapon handling in different situations.

Security officers learn how to utilize a continuum of force, with the lowest levels being exerting control through presence and through issuing of verbal directions. At higher levels there are handcuffs, chemical agents, and eventually guns. Security officers learn how to handle situations in ways where it is unlikely that 1) high levels of force will be unnecessary to 2) distinguish and respond to situations that require greater force.

In short, the security industry is looking for people who can use force – and who can avoid it.

State Requirements for an Armed Security Guard License

Training is state-specific. Armed security guards must meet the security guard training requirements of the particular jurisdiction. The curriculum will typically include training that is required for an unarmed security guard in the state, plus additional hours for topics like firearm safety and ethical aspects of weapons usage. Some states have more than two levels of certification. Some require gun permits obtained through other agencies.

Among the typical course topics are powers of arrest, ethical and legal ramifications of weapon usage, and emergency response; handling of emergency situations can include basic first aid as well as response to crisis situations like terrorism or shooters on premise.

There will be differences in the curriculum as well as the minimum hours from one state to the next. The laws themselves won’t be identical, and what is “by the books” in one locale won’t be in another.

The state licensing authority will provide a list of approved trainings. Some programs will meet the state's minimum standards while others will go far beyond. Security companies themselves are a source of training.

A security officer will likely need to do some hours when he or she takes a job in a new state. However, much will still be relevant, for example, communication and de-escalation skills.

Training can be an employment perk. Some companies sponsor training academies.

People can sometimes pursue advanced courses on their own to increase their marketability (whether individual courses or a block of courses termed ‘advanced’).

Advancement for those in the Security Guard Field

Armed security officer work can represent advancement in the security industry. Companies typically pay armed guards more than unarmed guards, but sometimes the difference is not great. On the other hand, some positions pay far above the going rate for security officers. They have expensive contracts.

Security officers can pursue third party industry certification.

Security officers who work armed, like those who work unarmed, may advance to management positions.

Setting-Specific Armed Security Training

Some training is setting-specific. It will be determined by the organization that the security facility is contracting with. Hospitals, for example, often employ armed security officers. Some hospitals arm security guards with handcuffs, some with tasers, some with guns. Acute care facilities see victims of domestic violence and street violence and deal with people who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. It is more common for employees to be assaulted in hospitals than in many other work settings. But these are also settings where there many are impaired.

Organizations, governmental and nongovernmental, make recommendations for particular settings. The Interagency Security Committee, for example, made the following recommendation for armed security officers on non-military U.S. government buildings: 124 training hours that would include (among other topics) 64 hours of weapons and defensive tactics training, 24 hours of emergency response, 11 hours of police officer support, and 20 hours of human relations and customer service. A stated purpose was gap analysis (https://www.cisa.gov/publication/isc best practices armed security officers federal facilities 2nd edition).

A View from the Field

A major Texas healthcare organization recently sought armed security officers, stating that they would need verbal de-escalation training within the first 60 days and IAHSS Basic Security Certification within a year; this was in addition to Texas Level III security officer training.

A Colorado school district, meanwhile, noted that an armed security guard would needed multiple trainings, including active shooter response.