Physical Security — An Important Job worth Doing

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One of the least glamorous positions in the world is that of physical security. It's also one of the most necessary out there. With municipal budgets not growing at a rate matching inflation, many local police forces are being stretched thin as they try to cover the full gamut of traffic stops, domestic violence, and public safety tasks. As a result, many minor, petty crimes aren't even being prevented. You can no longer count on the cop on the beat being there to deter shoplifting or provide physical security.

As a result of these needs for basic physical security, the field of physical security has been growing. Most often handled by contracted, private security guards, this is a field that has been adding jobs over the last two decades, as has been reported in sites covering the elements of basic physical security news.

Physical security professionals are hired to protect employers' investments, enforce rules (from right of way and parking, to non-admittance to minors), and deter criminals. There's a reason most security guards have uniforms that look like police uniforms, even down to badges that aren't too different from the badges worn by local municipal police — it deters petty crime.

Most security professionals come into the field from law enforcement, or the military. As far as the requirements for getting into the physical security field are concerned, the most important aspect is a lack of a criminal record — a criminal background check is virtually a requirement. Likewise, drug testing is often essential; it's almost impossible to get a security guard position when you've got a felony conviction on your record.

The degree to which background checking will filter out physical security applicants is dependent on what kind of physical security is needed. There are, broadly three tiers of physical security to consider.

Unarmed or presence security is the most common and has the least rigorous application process; it also pays the least, starting at minimum wage and working upwards from there. Unarmed guards are the entry-level positions of this field, and the usual position for an unarmed guard is fixed-point security — the guard who watches the entryway to a mall is typically at this tier of work.

Going up from unarmed guards are guards with radios, who usually patrol a route. This type of position is important for facilities that need to keep a constant deterrent, and this type of position gets in the range of $11 to $12/hour, often a bit more. This is the level of security, professionals use to safeguard schools from incidents like Columbine.

The highest grade of physical security consultants are those that are armed; these positions will pay upwards of $18 or more per hour, and require that the owners have a firearms permits, and may require concealed carry permits in states where they're needed. This type of position has the most stringent professional qualifications requirement of any of the physical security positions around. Security that works in uniform generally gets paid less than security that works in plainclothes; there are a variety of 'hidden' security positions, like department store detective and similar jobs, most of which pay well.

Other types of physical security jobs include working at remote monitoring stations; these can be on site (where you maintain the feeds from video cameras around the perimeter), or off-site (where you check the security alarms for multiple residences or buildings in a district). Related to physical security work is maintaining security apparatus, such as metal detectors. These types of jobs have been making the physical security news because they pay well, and offer a career path in physical security jobs for someone with a more technical bent.

At the extreme end of security work is security contracting for federal agencies; this can pay extremely well — at $90,000 or more per year. However, this is very much a career that takes a military background, and usually requires a passport and a security clearance. This type of physical security job is often physically demanding, and will require service in places where the rule of law does not run deep; it's the most dashing and romantic of physical security positions, and the riskiest.

Getting a physical security job requires a decision on your part; do you want to work privately — directly for the client — or do you want to work for an agency? There are benefits in either approach. Going directly to an employer usually means that you make more money while he saves money in hiring you — he's not paying the agency surcharge. However, it also means that you're more at the whim of your client for the job. Working for a security firm can get you better benefits, and while you won't make as much money, you're likely to get training that can advance your career in the field. You also have an intermediary between you and the client, and are more likely to have a benefits package, and things like comped uniforms.

The downside of working for an agency is that there will be a more extensive background check, and you can be denied the position for fairly innocuous reasons, like having a substantial debt or having any kind of history with alcohol or drug abuse. You may also find that working for an agency doesn't fit your personal sense of style, though if you're going for the top end of security positions, an agency (such as Blackwater) is pretty much required.
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