When people think of law enforcement careers, they usually picture police officers and armed guards. But if you stop there, you're bound to miss out on some great career opportunities and some great ways to use GI Bill benefits.
Experts agree that there are a lot of options-including sales and technical positions--to consider in the security fields.
"Jobs vary from pre-departure screening personnel at airlines to security posts at gated home communities," says Byron Critides, vice president of Los Angeles-based US Guards Co. Inc. Employment conditions vary from full-time to part-time, and there are permanent and contract-based arrangements.
Even within the security field, there are prospects that some people might not think about. There are opportunities to work as a bodyguard for a dignitary or corporate executive. Many retailers hire investigators to conduct integrity checks, according to Frederick Warren, director of security for the Pyramid Co. of Hadley, Mass.
"For example, you act like you are waiting impatiently in line to pay for your purchase," Warren said. "When it's your turn to pay for your $10 purchase, you drop a $10 bill at the register and move on before the cashier rings up your purchase. You then return to your post and review the security tapes to see if the cashier processed the transaction."
Daya Khalsa, senior vice president of Espanola, New Mexico's Akal Security, advises job seekers to consider the home and corporate security business. Sales personnel, technicians and service people are needed to sell, install and repair electronic security systems in this fast-growing sector, he said.
To enter the security field as a guard, you'll generally need a high school diploma or GED. Effective communication skills, both verbal and written, are essential. Furthering your education, to include taking online courses, can only be to your benefit.
"When you are dealing with the public, you must be able to think on your feet and communicate clearly," Warren says.
Patience is important, according to Khalsa, along with problem-solving skills. The ability to remain levelheaded and even-tempered under stressful situations is critical in this work.
Most states require licenses for security guards, regardless of whether or not they are armed. Armed guards receive formal training in areas such as weapons retention and laws covering the use of force. Licensing requirements vary widely, but the basics are consistent.
In most states, applicants must be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and drug test, and complete classroom training in such subjects as property rights, emergency procedures, and detention of suspected criminals. Guards employed by the federal government must have related experience and pass knowledge, firearms and first aid tests.
If employers want and need to make sure they're hiring capable, responsible people, they are looking to hire plenty of them, according to experts.
"The field is continuing to grow as the perception of risk increases throughout the world," said Khalsa. "Levels of security are being increased, which means that there is a demand for more people to work in this field. The private security industry is pushing a $30 billion industry."