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FAQs about becoming a Security Guard in Virginia

Is there a difference between a Security Guard and a Security Officer?

In the private security industry the word "GUARD" is frowned upon and considered incorrect by many. It's often said "We are not SECURITY GUARDS, we are SECURITY OFFICERS" of course then you hear how the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) changed the terminology years ago.

It is true that there are no "Security Guards" in Virginia, but that is only by Virginia code and definition. You will not find the term "Security Guard" in the Code of Virginia, nor will you find it in the Administrative Code. The only terms used by codes and definitions are "Armed Security Officer" and "Unarmed Security Officer".

Despite its legal and political incorrectness, the public, police, magistrates and judges will use the word "GUARD".

While many in the industry take offense to being called a guard, you really shouldn't take any more offense to being called a guard than a police officer does by being called a cop, although some cops police officers do.

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I have no experience and no training; can I get a job as a security guard?

YES. You can get a job without training and experience.

In Virginia, training is mandated by law. The law does allow companies to employ "unarmed security officers" for 90 days while awaiting training completion.

While most companies will allow you to do this, some may require that you complete training first.

Experience is left entirely up to the individual employing company, but you will probably find that most unarmed positions do not require it.

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Can I be a security guard with an arrest on my record?

In short, Yes. Of course, it all depends on the nature and degree of the charge(s).

The DCJS will have to make the final decision as to whether or not the charge(s) is/are within the guidelines of issuing a category registration.

When you apply with a company, talk with the company's compliance agent. The compliance agent will be able to discuss the matter with you and file the proper paperwork with the DCJS to determine employment eligibility.

Code of Virginia §9.1-139 addresses charges involving moral turpitude (lying, cheating, stealing, etc.), assault & battery, damage to property, controlled substances, etc.

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How old do you have to be to get a job as a security guard?

Virginia law says a minimum of 18 years of age, however, security companies contract with all types of industries that may require workers and contractors (i.e. employees of the security company) to be at least 21.

Insurance guidelines imposed on the security companies and gun laws in Virginia relating to persons under 21 years of age buying ammunition may also affect the decision of the security company to require applicants to be at least 21.

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If a company hires me, who pays for my training?

In most cases, probably you. However, some companies in Virginia have their own training schools, and will train their own employees, and file all the necessary paperwork with the DCJS to get their employees registered.

If the company you are applying for has their own training school, be sure to ask if you will have to pay for it. Some companies provide the training but deduct the cost from the employee's paycheck.

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Should I take some classes before I apply for a job?

Now that you know you might be paying for your training anyway, it definitely can't hurt. In fact, if you are already trained and registered, you will probably get hired much quicker, than you would if you are not.

Normally, armed positions pay more than unarmed. You cannot immediately start working in an armed position before training like you can in an unarmed position, unless you are already registered. So if you are seeking a higher paid position as an armed officer, you may want to take the classes first.

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How much money do security guards make?

You will get many different answers on this one. The reason is because there are so many companies and so many variables a definitive answer is impossible to give.

So to answer this question we are going to stick with what we know as typical in Virginia based on what we know about the industry and the responses from our employees based on their previous security jobs.

Typically you can expect to earn $7.25 - $11.00 per hour as an unarmed security officer. Yes, there are unarmed security officers making much more than that but we are talking typically in Virginia.

It's important to understand the industry and how most companies base their wages to understand what your future holds in becoming a security officer.

Many companies base their wages on the site that you will be working. Some sites earn the security company more than others. If you get posted at a site that earns the company more, than you will probably make the higher end of the pay scale.

Some things to consider about this method are what if the company loses this contract? Will the next site they send you to pay more or less? This might not be a big concern of yours when you are starting at a higher wage, but what if the company is nearing the end of their contract and they don't win the contract renewal. It happens quite often.

So as an example, let's say you start today at $11.00 an hour and then 3 months later the company loses the contract and they move you to a $7.25 an hour contract, if you can survive the financial impact, this option may work for you.

Another option that companies use for determining pay rate is simply based on experience, training/certifications, and seniority. Yet in Virginia, this probably means $7.25 - $16.00 an hour. Unfortunately, due to competition and the economic downturn there are many "armed" security officers working in Virginia for $8.00 - $10.00 an hour.

So, what is a realistic average you ask? Probably between $8.00 - $12.00 an hour.

Normally to go beyond these averages you would need to apply with security companies that contract with the government and large corporations, or apply to work directly with the government or large corporations themselves as an employee of their security team.

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What kind of benefits do security guards get?

Call around and ask this question and you will probably hear that there are no benefits or we'll discuss this during the interview.

Benefits with a company that employ less than 500+ employees are seldom heard of, but there are some. Most companies that offer benefits will probably list them on their website or in promotional advertising.

Some of the common complaints heard within the industry are:

The company told me that there were benefits but once I was hired they told me:

  • I don't work enough hours to get benefits.
  • Only the government contracts get benefits, didn't someone tell you?
  • You have to be here a year before you're eligible.

The point is, there are companies that do offer benefits, but unfortunately there are some that don't disclose all that is involved to receive them.

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What is a "Hard Card"?

A Hard Card is a term used in the industry to mean that you have your registration card(s) from DCJS. Depending on the categories that you register for, you may have more than one card.

If you are new to the industry, and have not taken any of the required training classes, you wouldn't have a hard card. Some categories still issue a temporary registration that is in paper form, so someone asking if you have your hard cards is normally asking if you have completed you initial training, and, completed all of the minimum requirements required to work in the related categories.

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What is a 99 number? What is a DCJS#?

A 99 number is the 8 digit ID number starting with 99 that is assigned to you by the DCJS as their computer file number. All of your training records and correspondence with the DCJS will be associated with this number. It will also be used on your registration cards instead of your social security number.

A DCJS number can be your 99 number or the number assigned to a business or training school. Businesses are assigned an 11 number followed by 4 numbers (i.e., 11-0000), while training schools are issued an 88 number.

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Will becoming a security guard help me get a job as a police officer?

The position and/or title itself does not normally tend to influence a decision on the part of a police agency either way. However, some aspects of security may put you in a position to experience police related duties which may better prepare you for a job as a police officer.

Security officers provide a wide array of services to the public. While employed as a security officer you may work in an office building checking IDs or you may work in a high crime community. Both will provide you with experience in dealing with the public, but only one of them will give you a real sense of police work. If you are looking to become a police officer you may want to seek out positions that offer the latter of the two.

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Will I get to arrest people? And will I get a gun?

If you can still read through the tears of laughter, these are really two very frequently asked questions. As scary as the thought may be, let's delve into it.

First off, yes, contrary to "public" belief, security guards really do arrest people. Not all security officers can make an arrest, but in Virginia, the "registered armed" ones can. This is not to say that the officer must be armed at the time of arrest, but the officer must be "registered" as an "armed security officer" to affect an arrest by law.

Another shocker to most folks in Virginia is that some security officers carry real ticket books. The same laws that allow the security officer to make an arrest also allow the security officer to release the arrestee on a summons (ticket) to appear in court.

This is not to say it is the preferred practice of most security companies, but some companies do exercise these powers.

As far as the question of getting a gun, well the armed part of the armed security officer title would suggest yes. However, very few companies will give you a gun to carry on duty. Most require you to provide your own if you wish to work in that capacity.

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If you have a question that you would like to see here, or you would like to comment on one of the above questions, please send an email to: webmaster [at] clientprotectiveservices.com

The information provided in this FAQ section is an attempt to give a general overview of some of the common practices within the private security industry in Virginia. This FAQ section is not an attempt to give legal advice, nor is it intended to reflect the actions or practices of any particular person or enterprise. Anyone with a legal question should consult an attorney before taking any action. Anyone with an exact or similar question as the ones listed above about a particular person or enterprise should contact the person or enterprise for their response.

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