How to Become a Security Manager
By: Kim Brown
Date Published: September 08, 2021
Security guards spend most of their workday on their feet, watching security monitors, and interacting with visitors, customers, and/or residents. They create a physical presence in workplaces or condo buildings, and help keep the property and people safe.
Conversely, security managers spend much of their time in an office. But that doesn’t mean they’ve got an easier role to fulfill. Managers are the ones responsible for giving directions to security guards, preparing employees for emergencies, and, in some cases, performing their own investigations. They have many people and responsibilities to care for and must be able to handle small day-to-day items and long-term goals and initiatives simultaneously.
What is the role of security managers?
Security managers oversee asset protection for businesses, companies, institutions and residences. They consider the safety of people and staff, the prevention of theft and inventory loss, and maintenance of property.
These professionals develop and implement security standards and ensure that they are followed by all staff members who work with them. Security managers may also be tasked with balancing a budget for security operations, and hiring qualified security guards.
Since every client will have different security goals, managers must be flexible and dynamic with their strategies. What works for one company won’t automatically work for another.
Where can security managers work?
Security managers can be hired by public organizations, privately run businesses and corporate, residential and retail settings. Generally, security officers work their way up to that position after gaining years of security and leadership experience. Security managers may even decide to start their own security company if they have the desire and resources to do so.
Security managers must ensure clients receive the services they were promised, guide and train employees, and develop effective plans and procedures. They must also find ways to make their company stand out from the competition. Often, that means staying on top of industry trends or offering something valuable–such as a guard tour system–that other companies do not. Below are some of the core responsibilities that security managers must take on:
- Develop and implement security policies, protocols and procedures
- Design and follow budgets for security operations and expenses
- Recruit, train and supervise security employees
- Attend meetings with clients and other managers
- Plan and execute security operations for special events
- Assist guards who are responding to emergencies and alarms
- Review and analyze incident reports
- Investigate and resolve significant issues
- Make and share reports for management and clients
- Analyze information to help improve or change future plans and processes
Security managers are required to have a high school diploma or GED to work. However, a college education is preferred by employers, and many expect some form of certification from a security training program. Depending on which state you live in, you may have to earn specific certifications before entering the security industry.
Managers must work towards their position. It is rare that someone can become a manager straight out of school. Instead, they will likely start out as a guard, and work their way up.
To succeed as a security manager, you must have exceptional communication and organization skills, and a thorough understanding of effective security processes and procedures. Moreover, employers will be looking for:
- Demonstrated experience as a security manager (or similar position)
- Ability to use relevant security technology and equipment
- Previous experience responding to and resolving emergencies
- Excellent knowledge of security protocols and procedures
- Previous budgeting and statistical data analysis experience
- Working knowledge of MS Office
- Outstanding communication and people skills
- Effective organizational and leadership skills
- Further education in security administration or a similar field is an asset
Depending on the company and state that you live in, managers may also need:
- State-prescribed security training, licensing, and registration
- Knowledge of industry regulations
- Advanced skills for coordinating responses to security breaches and threats
- Availability to respond to alerts and emergencies outside of your working hours
- Experience with access control and crime prevention
Steps to becoming a security manager
Step 1 – Complete training
Hopeful managers can begin working in security after earning a high school diploma. But as mentioned earlier, many states will require people wanting to work in the industry to complete a formal training program.
Security programs may last anywhere from one to three days, and will prepare individuals for employment as security guards. The programs will cover topics including security policies and procedures, emergency preparedness, and self-defence. Security guards may also need to obtain and pay for licensure, too.
To get ahead of everyone else, it is recommended that you earn a degree in security management to accelerate your success.
Step 2 – Gain experience
Security guards can work in various environments and settings. While some may focus on protecting people, others may work in public settings where property is the bigger concern. Specific duties will vary depending on the job and location, but core responsibilities are similar, no matter where you work.
Step 3 – Consider different managerial roles
Once you’ve got four to seven years of experience working as a guard, you should start looking at moving into a managerial role. Security managers can work for corporate security, government agencies or private companies. Duties may range from planning detailed programs to designing specialized training for other security officers.
Step 4 – Get additional certification
In order to improve employment opportunities or advance to a security manager, you could consider earning voluntary certifications. The American Society for Industrial Security International offers the Certified Protection Professional credential (CPP), which is essentially the “gold standard” for security management professionals. This certification validates your knowledge in all areas of security management.
In order to be eligible for the CPP certification, you must have between four and seven years of experience (depending on if you have a college degree or not). You also must have spent at least three of those years in responsible charge of a security function. When applying online, you should have your resume or CV, copy of your college or university transcript, three work references, name of your current supervisor who can confirm your employment, and payment for the application and exam ready to go.
Once you have been cleared to write the exam, you will have four hours to answer 225 multiple-choice questions on tasks, knowledge, and skills in the seven key domains of security.
The fee for submitting a CPP certification application and writing the test is $485, or $335 for ASIS members.
While many managers work hard to advance their careers because they enjoy the challenge, they also do this to earn a better salary. According to 2020 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a security manager was $69,171. That’s more than double what unarmed security guards make.
The same source reports that the job outlook for many types of security personnel is on par with the average for other occupations, meaning there is a healthy demand for security managers.
Security managers play a crucial role when it comes to keeping people and buildings safe. It is their job to design the security processes and plans that guards will execute. Furthermore, they must decide what to change if something isn’t working. Managers must be organized, excellent communicators, able to operate under a great deal of stress, and most importantly, understand how to give clients the results they are looking for.