If you are interested in a career where every day can be different, and you are valued for your ability to protect people and facilities from injury or damage, you may want to explore a career as a physical security specialist. These professionals generally protect sensitive facilities, assess risk and provide solutions, and are employed in both the public and private sectors.

Along with good judgment, problem-solving ability and strong communication skills, this career requires specialized knowledge and training, which can be obtained by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree.

Physical Security Specialist Job Description

Physical security specialists are responsible for keeping facilities and people safe and secure. They oversee security procedures, monitor and respond to incidents, screen visitors and guests, secure entrances, and conduct security checks. In addition, they are often responsible for assessing risks and providing solutions to mitigate them.

Some physical security specialists work for the federal government in various branches of the military, the Transportation Security Administration or the U.S. Secret Service. Others work for private firms in industries such as communications, healthcare, technology, hospitality, energy, finance or manufacturing.

Physical Security Specialist Job Duties

Physical security specialists perform a wide variety of duties, which will vary according to the industry, employer and specific needs. They may perform some or all of the following job tasks:

  • Conduct physical security and risk vulnerability inspections, evaluate and provide recommendations
  • Review facilities designs regarding where sensitive materials are located
  • Evaluate existing security procedures
  • Apply appropriate security standards
  • Greet guests and conduct proper sign-in procedures
  • Develop and execute physical security standards and procedures
  • Train and supervise security personnel
  • Assist or lead security and/or safety awareness training for personnel
  • Recommend actions to avoid conditions conducive to threats such as vandalism, terrorism or theft
  • Evaluate clearances for management and personnel according to the information and property they may access

In addition, physical security specialists often develop security policies, prepare reports, install security devices and ensure that personnel are adhering to required policies and practices.

Physical Security Specialist Career Outlook

With increasing concerns regarding crime and terrorism, organizations across the country are focusing on security, thereby increasing opportunities for skilled physical security specialists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for security guards is projected to grow by 19% through 2020.

Job growth is expected in public facilities, such as airports and seaports, as well as in private companies such as shopping malls or manufacturing facilities. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research, as job availability will vary according to geographical region, education, experience and other factors.

Potential Salary for Physical Security Specialists

According to information published in May 2012 by the BLS, the median annual salary for security guards was $23,970, with the top 10% in this field earning around $42,490 annually. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research, as potential salaries will vary according to the employer, geographical region, education, experience and other factors.

Education and Training for Physical Security Specialists

The important and detailed work duties performed daily by physical security specialists require a solid base of knowledge, as well as specialized skills. Education and training requirements will vary by employer, but most will prefer at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Some employers will accept a combination of education and work experience in lieu of a four-year criminal justice degree.

A bachelor of arts in criminal justice degree program will offer coursework in law, ethics, criminology, criminal investigation, law enforcement systems and homeland security and terrorism. Additional courses in the humanities and social sciences provide a well-rounded education that is valuable in this career.

For advanced positions, employers will typically require additional work experience or advanced training and education. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers physical security training to federal, state and local law enforcement officers, as well as military and U.S. government agency personnel, with physical security planning responsibilities.

Most employers hiring physical security specialists will require a security clearance, as well as an extensive background check.

In addition to education and training, successful physical security specialists will possess the following attributes:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Good judgment and problem-solving ability
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Diversity awareness, understanding and respect for cultural differences
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Strategic thinking

Does a Physical Security Specialist Career Fit Your Skills and Interests?

Businesses and organizations today are at great risk from threats ranging from vandalism and terrorism to theft and natural disaster. As a result, both public organizations and private firms are reinforcing their security responses to keep personnel and facilities safe. If you are interested in an exciting and rewarding career as a physical security specialist, now is the time to start planning your path to the education and training that today’s employers are seeking in candidates. 

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