Security guards and gaming surveillance officers patrol and protect property against theft, vandalism, terrorism, and illegal activity.

Duties

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers typically do the following:

  • Protect and enforce laws on an employer’s property
  • Monitor alarms and closed-circuit TV cameras
  • Control access for employees and visitors
  • Conduct security checks over a specified area
  • Write reports on what they observed while on patrol
  • Interview witnesses for court testimony
  • Detain violators

Guards must remain alert, looking out for anything unusual. In an emergency, they are required to call for assistance from police, fire, or ambulance services. Some security guards are armed.

A security guard’s responsibilities vary from one employer to another. In retail stores, guards protect people, records, merchandise, money, and equipment. They may work with undercover store detectives to prevent theft by customers and employees, detain shoplifting suspects until the police arrive, and patrol parking lots.

In office buildings, banks, hotels, and hospitals, guards maintain order and protect the organization’s customers, staff, and property.

Guards who work in museums and art galleries protect paintings and exhibits by watching people and inspecting the contents of personal handbags that patrons carry.

In factories, government buildings, and military bases, security guards protect workers and equipment and check the credentials of people and vehicles entering and leaving the premises.

Guards working in parks and at sports stadiums control crowds, supervise parking and seating, and direct traffic.

Security guards stationed at the entrance to bars and nightclubs keep underage people from entering, collect cover charges, and maintain order among customers.

Security guards working in schools and universities patrol the buildings and grounds, looking for suspicious activity.

The following are examples of types of security guards and gaming surveillance officers:

Security guards, also called security officers, protect property, enforce rules on the property, and deter criminal activity. Some guards are assigned a stationary position from which they monitor alarms or surveillance cameras. Other guards are assigned a patrol area where they conduct security checks.

Armored car guards protect money and valuables during transit. They pick up money and other valuables from businesses and transport them to another location. These guards usually wear bulletproof vests and carry firearms, because transporting money between the truck and the business is potentially dangerous.

Gaming surveillance officers, also known as surveillance agents and gaming investigators, act as security agents for casinos. Using audio and video equipment in an observation room, they watch casino operations for suspicious activities, such as cheating and theft, and monitor compliance with rules, regulations, and laws. They maintain and organize recordings from security cameras, which are sometimes used as evidence in police investigations.

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Work Environment

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers held about 1.1 million jobs in 2012.

Security guards work in a wide variety of places, including public buildings, retail stores, and office buildings. Gaming surveillance officers and investigators mostly work in the gaming industry and at casino hotels. They are employed only in those states, and on those Indian reservations, where gambling is legal.

The industries that employed the most security guards and gaming surveillance officers in 2012 were as follows:

Investigation, guard, and armored car services 56%
Educational services; state, local, and private 6
Health care and social assistance 6
Accommodation and food services 6
Government 5

Most security guards spend considerable time on their feet, either at a single post or patrolling buildings and grounds. Some may sit for long periods behind a counter or in a guardhouse at the entrance to a gated facility or community.

Guards who work during the day may have a great deal of contact with other employees and the public.

Although the work can be routine, it can be hazardous, particularly when an altercation occurs.

Most gaming surveillance officers sit behind a desk observing gamers on video surveillance equipment.

Injuries and Illnesses

Security guards have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Although the work is mostly routine, there can be potential dangers. As a result, guards must always be alert for threats to themselves and the people and property they are protecting.

Work Schedules

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers usually work in shifts of 8 hours, or longer, with rotating schedules.

Education and Training

Most security guard jobs require a high school diploma. Gaming surveillance officers sometimes need additional experience with security and video surveillance. Most states require guards to be registered with the state, especially if they carry a firearm.

Education

Security guards generally need a high school diploma or GED, although some jobs may not have any education requirements. Some employers, however, prefer to hire security guards with higher education, such as a 2- or 4-year degree in police science or criminal justice.

Training

Although most employers provide instruction for newly hired guards, the amount of training they receive varies. Most, however, learn their job in a few weeks. During those few weeks, training typically covers emergency procedures, detention of suspected criminals, and proper communication.

Many states recommend that security guards receive approximately 8 hours of pre-assignment training, 8–16 hours of on-the-job training, and 8 hours of annual training. This may include training in protection, public relations, report writing, deterring crises, first aid, and specialized training related to the guard’s assignment.

Training is more rigorous for armed guards because they require weapons training. Armed guards may periodically be tested in the use of firearms.

For gaming surveillance officers and investigators, some employers prefer candidates with previous work experience in casinos or individuals with a background in law enforcement. Technical skills and computer skills can also be helpful in using surveillance systems and software.

Drug testing may be required.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require that guards be registered with the state in which they work. Although registration requirements vary by state, basic qualifications for candidates are as follows:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete training

An increasing number of states are making ongoing training a legal requirement for staying registered.

Guards who carry weapons must be registered by the appropriate government authority. Armed guard positions have more stringent background checks and entry requirements than those of unarmed guards. Rigorous hiring and screening programs, including background, criminal record, and fingerprint checks, are typical for armed guards.

Some jobs may also require a driver's license.

Advancement

Some guards advance to supervisory or security manager positions. Those with postsecondary education or with industry certifications should have an advantage. Armed security guards have a greater potential for advancement and enjoy higher earnings.

Some guards with management skills open their own security guard business. Guards also can move to an organization that needs higher levels of security, which may result in more prestige or higher pay.

Personality and Interests

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers typically have an interest in the Building, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a security guard and gaming surveillance officer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Decision-making skills. Guards must be able to quickly determine the best course of action when a dangerous situation arises.  

Patience. Security guards may need to spend long periods standing and observing their environment without distractions.

Observation skills. Guards must be alert and aware of their surroundings, and be able to quickly recognize anything out of the ordinary.

Physical strength. Guards must be strong enough to apprehend offenders and to handle emergency situations.

Pay

The median annual wage for security guards and gaming surveillance officers was $24,020 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned $17,400, and the top 10 percent earned more than $42,560.

The median annual wages for security guard and gaming surveillance officer occupations in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $29,610 for gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators
  • $23,970 for security guards

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers usually work in shifts of 8 hours, or longer, with rotating schedules.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of security guards and gaming surveillance officers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of security guards is projected to grow 12 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Security guards will continue to be needed to protect both people and property. Concern about crime, vandalism, and terrorism will result in the need for security. Demand should be strong in the private sector as private security firms take over some of the work police officers used to do.

Employment of gaming surveillance officers and investigators is projected to grow 7 percent, slower than the average for all occupations. As gambling continues to be legalized in more states and casinos grow in number, demand for gaming surveillance officers and investigators will also grow.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities should be excellent, especially for security guards. The large size of the occupation will result in many job openings as workers leave the occupation each year. However, there will be more competition for higher paying positions that require more training and experience.

Candidates who have experience with video surveillance equipment should have the best job prospects in the gaming industry. Also, those with a background in law enforcement will have an advantage.

For More Information

The Handbook does not have contacts for more information for this occupation.

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).