How to Become a Security Guard in California?

Are you thinking of becoming a security guard? Or to be specific, are curious to know how to become a security guard in California? Let me tell you that pursuing this career might be rewarding and exciting for you in California and may turn out to be your dream job.

Throughout the state, the Security Industry is growing exponentially, and by 2028 it expects to hire about 11,000 new Security Officers. In fact, there were approximately 830,000 security guards employed in the outsourced contract security industry in the US in 2021, an increase of 20,000 since 2020.

It must be noted here that the salary for a new security guard officer would be somewhere around $22000 USD while an experienced security guard can earn up to $37000 USD per year.

In addition, specialized fields usually pay more. For example, California’s most lucrative security field is probably executive protection (Body Guard). A competent Body Guard can expect to earn around $95,000 per year as an experienced professional.

From protecting people and property to preventing crime, this career path in the Golden State of California offers a diverse range of responsibilities and opportunities for growth.

In this article, you’ll get to know how to build your career in this industry and how to become a security guard in California.

Steps to Become a Security Guard in California

California, like other states, offers a simple and straightforward process to becoming a security guard. Let’s have a look at the steps to become a security guard in detail!

Meet the Eligibility Requirements

Following are some of the basic eligibility requirements to become a security guard.

  • Minimum age requirement: You must be at least 18 years old
  • Legal status requirement: To work in the United States, an individual must be legally authorized to do so. It means they must be a United States citizen, a permanent resident, or have an official work visa.
  • Background check requirement: You will have to undergo a criminal background check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Furthermore, you must have a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). It is required for tax purposes as well as for identity verification.

  • Education requirements: There are no specific conditions for education needed to be a security guard. You must have at least completed high school or something equivalent like GED. 

Complete the Required Training Courses:

There are certain qualifications to become a security guard. Applicants are required to take a training courses as their first step towards obtaining a guard card. A total of 40 hours of training is required to become a security guard in California.

However, all 40 hours of training don’t need to be completed at once. Your next 16 hours of training must be completed within 30 days of the initial 8-hour training.

After completing the first 16 hours of training, the rest can be completed within six months.

Let’s have a detailed overview of the course training:

PTA Training Course

The initial training course is called Power to Arrest (PTA).

The length of this course is 8 hours during which a wide range of topics are covered including legal aspects of security, communication skills, conflict resolution, and the use of force. The PTA course also covers topics such as observation techniques, report writing, and emergency response procedures.

WMD Training Course

You must also take an eight-hour course on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in addition to the PTA course. In this course, you’ll learn how to identify potential terrorist threats, respond to incidents involving WMD, and identify and report suspicious activity.

Additional Certifications:

In California, the PTA and WMD courses are the minimum requirements for becoming a security guard, but additional certifications can improve job prospects. Additional security guard certifications include

  • First Aid/CPR certification: Guards with this certification are more likely to respond to medical emergencies.
  • Baton and pepper spray certification: Security guards who possess these certifications can carry and use these tools.
  • Firearm permit: A security guard who has this permit is authorized to carry and use firearms when on duty.

Training Providers in California:

You’ll easily find several training providers in California that offer the required PTA and WMD courses, as well as additional certifications. Let’s talk about some popular training providers that may help you through the journey

  • Security Training Center, LLC: They provide a wide range of security guard courses, including the PTA and WMD courses, as well as certifications in baton and pepper spray use, firearm safety, and more.
  • International Security Training, LLC: This training provider offers a variety of security guard courses, as well as firearms training and certifications in CPR and first aid.

Pass a Background Check

As mentioned above, you are required to undergo a background check by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for becoming a security guard.

The process involves a review of the applicant’s criminal background including outstanding warrants or active cases if any. National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database is used for this purpose as it contains information about criminal histories and wanted persons across the country. The driving record and employment history of the candidate is also taken into consideration.,

In case of any criminal convictions or other disqualifying factors, the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services will deny your application and take legal action against you. However, you still have the right to appeal a denial and provide evidence to support your case.

Obtain a Guard Card

Once you are done with the training courses and background check you are now eligible to apply for the “Guard Card.” This is one of the major requirements to become a security guard in California.

 Here’s a step-by-step process of how you can get a guard card:

STEP 1: Pass the exam after taking 8 hours of PTA training.

STEP 2: Either you, the private patrol operator or the training facility should submit a security guard application online at The online application is sent electronically to the Bureau.

STEP 3: You are then required to submit your fingerprints electronically using Live Scan. Remember that you should only use the security guard Live Scan forms downloaded from the Bureau’s Website or obtained from the Bureau.

Bureau’s Live Scan form contains proper codes to ensure that FBI and DOJ responses are received.

STEP 4: You will be able to access the Bureau’s Website once you have submitted your online application and cleared your criminal history. You can verify the Bureau’s approval by checking the Bureau’s “Verify a License” at

An interim security guard registration can be obtained by making a screen print of your registration that appears on the Bureau’s website.

Congratulations! You’ll now receive a mail of the actual security guard registration within 10 to 15 business days.

STEP 5: When you are on assignment, make sure you have these documents with you:

  1. A valid security guard registration or a screen print of the Bureau’s approval obtained from the Bureau’s Website.
  2. A valid photo identification

In addition to completing 16 hours of “on-the-job” training within 30 days, you will need to complete another 16 hours within 6 months.

Firearm Permit Requirements in California

Don’t confuse a firearm permit with a guard card. They are separate entities.

If your duty as a security guard requires you to carry a firearm then it is mandatory for you to obtain a firearm permit from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

This will allow you to carry a firearm while you’re on duty.

To be eligible you must:

  • Hold a guard card
  • Complete a firearms training course. During the course, you will learn about firearms safety, marksmanship, and legal issues related to carrying a firearm as a security guard.
  • Submit an application with fingerprints and fees

An applicant will then be subjected to a background check by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services before the permit will be issued.

Guards who obtain a firearm permit must always be careful and follow all legal and safety protocols when carrying firearms.

Find Employment

After completing all the above steps you are now ready to find employment. Since California has a broad range of potential employment opportunities for newly licensed guards you can soar in the industry with sheer hard work and dedication.

Private Firms: One employment option is to work for a private security firm. They provide security services to businesses, events, and residential communities.  Private security companies often hire a large number of security guards, offering entry-level to supervisory positions. Private security firms can be excellent places to gain experience and learn about a variety of security services.

Large Retail Stores: You can also work as a security guard in a retail store or shopping centre. Large retailers and shopping centres have their own security teams to prevent theft and other crimes. An employment opportunity in retail security can be a good choice for those who wish to work in a more predictable and stable environment.

Other organizations: Government agencies, educational institutions, and hospitals may also hire security guards. Often, security guards are employed by hospitals to maintain a safe environment for staff and patients, and by government agencies and educational institutions to protect property and buildings.

Security guards seeking employment in California should thoroughly research potential employers and apply only to reputable companies. Employers may also require certifications and experience beyond guard cards.

Skills and Qualities To Be a Successful Security Guard:

Security guards must have certain essential qualities without which they are likely to be a cause of danger for people rather than ensuring their safety. To be a successful security guard in California, you should have the following skills and qualities:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong observation skills
  • Ability to think quickly and make decisions under pressure
  • Good physical fitness
  • Strong moral character
  • Ability to handle conflict while maintaining a calm behavior

Bonus: Here are some tips for security guards to offer outstanding services.

Maintain Licensure

To remain qualified to work as a security guard in California, you must not only obtain a guard card but also maintain licensing. It is important that you follow a few steps to maintain your guard card.

As a first step, you are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years. The training should cover topics such as firearms training, public relations, and legal issues related to security services and must be taken from an approved training provider. 

The second requirement is to renew your guard card every two years. Upon renewal, you should submit a renewal application, pay a fee, and provide proof of your completion of 40 hours of continuing education. In order to avoid any licensure lapses, it is important to keep track of your renewal date.

Keeping a professional image and upholding ethical standards in your work as a security guard is as important as completing continuing education courses and renewing your license. This means that security guards should practice good communication skills, maintain a professional appearance, and follow all applicable laws and regulations.

If you are renewing your guard card online, your guard card must be within 60 days of the expiration date. For example, if your card expires on Dec 31, 2022, the online renewal will be available on Nov 1, 2022. Renew your guard card online here.

Having a guard card and license shows your commitment to the industry and gives you an edge over other job candidates. 

Advance your Career

A higher-paying position and professional advancement are possible when you advance your security guard career in California. A few key factors to consider are

Training Opportunities:

You can advance your security guard career by completing continuing education courses and specialized training programs.

The areas of training could include executive protection, cyber security, event security, and emergency response. Security professionals who wish to expand their skill sets can take advanced courses from approved and authentic training providers.

Skills and Qualities:

To advance in your career as a security guard, you must display a strong work ethic, good communication skills, and the ability to make quick decisions under pressure. 

Additionally, you should be able to work collaboratively and understand security protocols. If you plan to move into management or supervisory positions, leadership skills are also crucial. Here are some must-have skills for security guards.

Types of Security Guards:

Various types of security guards have their own job duties and responsibilities, each with its own set of responsibilities. They can be classified as follows:

  • Armed security guards: An armed security guard carries firearms and is primarily responsible for protecting clients and deterring potential threats.
  • Non-armed security guards: A non-armed security guard observes and reports suspicious activities without carrying a firearm, but is trained in self-defence.
  • Event security guards: These guards ensure the safety of attendees at concerts, sporting events, and conferences by maintaining order.
  • Executive protection guards: They provide executive protection to high-profile clients, such as politicians, celebrities, and business executives.
  • Loss prevention guards: The goal of loss prevention guards is to reduce theft and eliminate loss in retail stores.

To advance your career as a security guard in California, you need dedication, ongoing training, and the desire to learn and grow. 


In conclusion, the above article explains the complete process for any person who wishes to know about how to become a security guard in California starting from the requirements for a security guard to advancing your career in the security industry in California.

So if you’re ready to start your journey, take the first step today and begin exploring your options.


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