Security Officers are responsible for maintaining the security of people, buildings and their contents, preventing break-ins and theft through guarding and surveillance. They are expected to deal with a wide range of situations as they occur. The roles of security officers will vary depending on the industry they work for.
Security officers work in a range of environments, ensuring that businesses, properties and valuables are protected from harm. The role of a security officer will depend on the nature of the company or premises being secured. This could involve:
- Personally patrolling a given area
- Monitoring a building via closed circuit television
- Managing door control for entertainment venues such as bars and night clubs
- Maintaining security at an airport or car park
- Travelling with valuable goods in a specialist security vehicle
Security officers typically start on between £12,000 and £15,000 a year but this could increase to £20,000 plus, with experience. This wage could increase to more than £40,000 per year in senior and principal security roles.
The role of a security officer varies from day to day; they have to be quick-thinking and deal with situations as they arise. Responsibilities typically include:
- Patrolling one or a number of premises
- Monitoring activity outside and inside a premises through observation and closed circuit television
- Signing in visitors to a building
- Sorting post and checking suspicious packages
- Performing checks on building traffic (the people going in and out of a building)
- Recording any suspicious activity and taking any necessary action
- Guarding valuables or cash (typically in a secure vehicle)
- Maintaining airport security by searching baggage, frisking travellers and guarding airport exits and entrances
- Communicating relevant information to other security officers via walkie-talkies or other communication devices
- Giving directions and other information to visitors
- Getting to know fellow security officers and other colleagues (building up relationships usually makes the job a lot easier)
- Handling guard dogs
- Writing reports for the police or courts
- Conducting general reception duties
- Creating and distributing building access cards
- Managing the car-park (if the premises has one)
There are no specific qualifications needed to work as a security officer but a good standard of education will be favourable, as security officers need to be quick thinking and able to deal with problems as they arise. A reasonable level of written English is also preferable as security officers are required to write short reports from time to time. Some people may want to work for contractors or security agents. In this case the officer will be continually changing his or her place of work. In this situation you will require a Security Industry Authority (SIA) front-line licence. This is usually provided after completing a training course; visit the SIA website for more details.
Working as a security officer comes with a high level of responsibility so prospective employees need to be able to demonstrate:
- A polite and approachable manner at all times
- A reasonable level of physical fitness and strength
- A trustworthy character
- A flexible and responsible approach to the job
- The ability to be patient regardless of the situation
- Good verbal and written communication skills
- The ability to solve problems as they arise
- A basic knowledge of IT
- The ability to follow instructions
- A confident approach and ability to deal with difficult/confrontational people
- The ability to work independently and as part of a team
- A good knowledge of customer care
- A non-judgmental approach
- The ability to relate well to a wide range of people
- The ability to respond positively to stressful situations
- Good eyesight
- The ability to work with technical equipment (e.g. closed-circuit television and walkie-talkies)
- A willingness to learn and take training opportunities when offered
- A willingness to stay abreast of changes in standards within the security sector
- A clean criminal record
Security officers work long hours, typically up to 48 hours a week. The job usually involves some evening and over-night work on a shift basis but security officers may also be required to work overtime at short notice. In-house security jobs are usually based at a property or office but other jobs could involve driving long distances with valuable goods. Security officers are well-trained to keep risk to a minimum, but at times the role can be dangerous. Security officers should expect to deal with unpleasant and confrontational situations on occasions.
Relevant work experience is not essential for finding work as a security officer but it will be extremely useful. Experience working in the army or police force is a major advantage. Previous experience working in a general customer-focused job or in a manual role will also be beneficial.
There are an increasing number of job opportunities for security professionals working in the UK. Security officers usually work in-house for a business or professional organisation. Alternatively, they may work for a contractor or private security firm, working in different places each day depending on the need. However, it may be easier to progress in an in-house role. Other security officers work at airports or other public spaces. Some work for private individuals, helping to protect a residential property. Experienced security officers may choose to set up their own security firms, although this is not advisable for those new to security work.
In general, security officers receive on-the-job training which equips them with the skills and knowledge needed for the job. Some employers will offer the opportunity to carry out extra optional training, such as dog handling and first aid. With further experience this could lead to a job as a dog handler or another specialist security role. If security officers work for a contractor or agency they will be required to undertake training to get a Security Industry Authority (SIA) front-line licence. This allows security officers to undertake any type of security work. Without a licence security officers are only permitted to work as an in-house security officer. The Security Industry Authority is the licensing authority for the private security industry. Once security officers have their SIA licence they could start working towards other security qualifications, such as:
- NVQ in Providing Security Services
- City & Guilds Certificate for Security Guards or Security Practitioners
- ‘Skills for Security’ training course
These provide security officers with the skills and knowledge needed to progress to a security management or supervisory role. As well as allowing security officers to progress within a security role, the skills gained through the job are also transferable to other fields. Many security officers go on to work in the police force, logistics or fraud prevention.
Also known as…
- Security Guard
- Door Manager
- Police Officer
- Security Manager
What’s it really like?
John Williams is a 37 year old senior security officer at Imperial College. He gives us the inside story.
I have been working as a security officer at Imperial College for 3 and a half years, although I have been in the security industry now for 14 years. I used to work as a security officer at Heathrow Airport before I came here. A typical day involves performing patrols of the site internally and externally, sorting and checking the post, interacting with colleagues, general reception duties and managing visitors and students. I have to deal with problems as they arise. Sometimes I may have to deal with a suspect package, fire alarms or intruder alerts. You never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.
The job can be fun and exciting, but most of all I enjoy meeting all sorts of different people. I get along well with my colleagues and we work well together as a team. The job is quite easy-going apart from the odd occasion when I have to deal with difficult individuals. The worst part of the job is working odd hours. I often have to work on a weekend or do night shifts. I also dislike being called out for a problem in the middle of the night! Another negative aspect of being a security officer is that you may have to abide by rules that you may not always agree with, but most aspects of the job are very enjoyable.
To anyone thinking of doing this job, I would advise them to make sure that that’s what they want to do. Being a security officer is hard work and requires a lot of hours, but if you’re hard working, reliable and committed then you can progress in the industry easily. You don’t need any specific qualifications to do this job. You can usually get everything you need to know from on-the-job training. People thinking of working for an agency will need to get themselves a SIA licence, but this isn’t needed for in-house work.
In terms of career progression, there are plenty of roles you can develop into – you could progress to a supervisory role or become manager, area manager or chief security officer. I am currently at the highest position of security on this campus; as a senior security officer I now earn £37,000 per year. I could, however, move to the main Imperial College campus and pursue a higher security role. Many people leave security jobs to join the police, who find experience as a security officer useful.
To be a security officer you have to be trustworthy, honest, polite and non-judgmental. It is easy to specialise in a particular area of the job, and different roles require different skills. This might be something to bear in mind if you are thinking of pursuing a job in the security industry.