Security vocational schools and programs can prepare students for a variety of occupations in the security industry, including work as security guards, police officers, correctional officers and more. Some programs might take a matter of months to complete, such as those that result in a certificate; others require an extended period of study and culminate in an associate or bachelor's degree.
Those who graduate from security vocational schools can move into several occupations in the security industry, from working as a guard for a private business, to dealing with inmates in a correctional facility, to working as a detective who sniffs out the truth. Here's what to expect from some of the most popular security specializations:
- Security guards and gaming surveillance officers - These officers protect the property of their employer, monitoring alarms, controlling access, conducting security checks and detaining those who violate the security of the business or establishment.
- Correctional officers - These officers usually work in prisons, overseeing individuals who have been sentenced to serve prison time or are awaiting trial. They must enforce rules, search for contraband, supervise activities, aid in rehabilitation, and report on inmate conduct.
- Police and detectives - Police officers respond to emergency calls, enforce local laws, patrol certain areas, obtain warrants, arrest suspects, write reports, prepare cases and testify in court. Detectives investigate crimes, secure evidence, conduct interviews, obtain warrants and more.
- Private detectives and investigators - Individuals in this job offer many services, including background checks, investigating crimes, doing surveillance, finding missing persons.
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists - These officers work with people who have been released from prison or a rehabilitation program. They help offenders with practical matters such as job searches and rehabilitation resources, as well as monitor their progress regularly.
Security Certifications and Degrees
The majority of security jobs require only a high school diploma or equivalent to begin entry-level work, with some exceptions. For instance, probation officers must typically earn a bachelor's degree in order to begin work in the field. Though work in security doesn't always require a degree, many employers prefer those who have earned at least a postsecondary certificate. This is especially true for those who hope to work for government agencies on the local, state or national level; in some cases, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required in order to work for these law enforcement agencies. Some organizations, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, require at least a bachelor's degree and several years of experience.
Those who have earned a degree or certificate in corrections, criminal justice or a related field might have better opportunities. Depending on the nature of the job, extra training might be required. For example, those who intend to work as security guards might be required to take additional training in the use of firearms, and some detectives might focus strongly on a certain area of expertise, such as domestic violence or homicide.
Salary and Career Outlook for Security Occupations
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were over a million security guards employed in the U.S. in 2013. The mean annual wage for security guards was $27,550 nationwide in 2013, and the top 10 percent made $43,150. The BLS also reports that job growth for security positions is expected to be slower than the nationwide average from 2012 to 2022. Much of this stunted growth is due to the push for shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison time, as well as lower state and government funding for rehabilitation programs.
Some security positions are expected to grow at the average rate for all occupations. Private detectives can expect job growth of 11 percent, driven in part by the rise of cybercrime, such as identity theft. Security guards can expect growth of 12 percent, due to rising concerns about terrorism.
Despite the slow growth expected for many security jobs, the need for law enforcement and security will always remain an integral part of society. Those who attend security vocational schools and programs can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to move into available open positions and advanced through the ranks.
Correctional Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm#tab-1
Police and Detectives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1
Private Detectives and Investigators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm#tab-1
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm#tab-1
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm#tab-1
Security Guards, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339032.htm