Security guards employed in California are trusted to protect people and property. They are expected to perform under high-stress situations, and defuse complex situations as quickly as possible. There are several significant responsibilities that come with being a licensed guard, which is why there is a regulated process that all prospective guards must follow before they can get to work.
Start by learning more about who can and cannot work as a security guard in California. Since the registration process takes time and costs money, you’ll want to know that you have a reasonable chance of obtaining a license.
The California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services (BSIS) registers all of the state’s security guards and proprietary private security officers. A proprietary private security officer (PSO) is a bit different from a regular security guard in that a PSO is unarmed, wears a distinct uniform, works for only one employer, and can’t have their security services contracted out to another entity. If a PSO ends their working relationship with their employer and starts a new job with a different employer, they do not need to apply for a new PSO registration.
The mission of the BSIS is to protect and serve the public and consumers through effective regulatory oversight of security guards, and other professionals in similar industries, within the Bureau’s jurisdiction.
To be considered by the BSIS:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must not have been convicted of a violent felony. This automatically disqualifies you from applying to be a security guard in California. The State will consider the circumstances surrounding other crimes, and evidence of rehabilitation. You should always fill out the BSIS application truthfully.
- You must complete the Power to Arrest training before you can submit an application.
If you don’t see any issues with the requirements, your next step is to get proper training. You will need 40 hours of training, but much of it can be completed after you’ve obtained your license.
- The Power to Arrest training must be completed prior to the issuance of a security guard registration
- The Power to Arrest course consists of two subjects that each take four hours to complete. The entire course is eight hours long
- Powers to Arrest– This portion of the course aims to familiarize and instruct students on training topics including legal aspects and issues, techniques, liability, and company requirements relating to the arrest of an individual. The training will follow the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Power to Arrest Training Manual, and may include lectures, discussions, exercises, and role-playing
- Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) & Terrorism Awareness– This portion of the course aims to familiarize and instruct students on subject matter and observation skills required to identify and report precursor activities to a terrorist event, react appropriately, make a report on the event, and remain safe while helping restore order after a terrorist event. The training will follow the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Weapons of Mass Destruction & Terrorism Awareness for Security Professionals course, consisting of a DVD, workbook and facilitator manual
- Another 16 hours of training are to be completed within 30 days of beginning your first job. The remaining 16 hours are to be completed within six months of starting your first job
- Additional training consists of mandatory and elective education materials. Mandatory content will address public relations, observation and documentation, communication, and legal aspects and liability
- Elective coursework may cover post orders, evaluation procedures, officer safety, access control, first aid and CPR, school security guard training, and firearms training
- Regular training is required even after you obtain your license. Every guard must complete eight hours of annual continuing training
- Training may be administered by a private patrol operator, a Bureau-certified training facility, or a Bureau-approved course provider
All registered security guards are required to keep their certificate of completion of the required training for no less than two years from the date the training was completed. Employers are also required to maintain records for a minimum of two years, however, registrants may need to provide subsequent employers or the BSIS with training records. It’s best to keep the certificate of completion intact as long as you plan to work as a security guard.
Obtaining a license
Once you have completed the first eight hours of training, you can complete the security guard application form. This form can be submitted online.
In addition to the Application for Security Guard Registration form, prospective guards will need to complete a Criminal History Background Check form. Both of these forms can be found on the BSIS website.
Allow four to six weeks for applications to be processed. Processing times may take longer depending on how quickly the Bureau receives responses from the DOJ and FBI. Once the Bureau has processed the application and issued the registration, your registration will be available to view on the “Verify a License” page.
Guards must also pay a modest fee to get their license. There is an initial application fee, and a renewal fee as well.
|Fee Type||Fee Amount|
|Delinquent Renewal||$65 ($40 renewal fee + $25 delinquency fee)|
|Replacement Guard Card||$25|
Renewing your license
In California, registration is valid for two years and expires the day after the expiration date on your security guard card. There is a 60-day grace period during which you can still renew your license, but you must pay a delinquent fee to reinstate the registration. After 60 days, if you still haven’t renewed your license, you must reapply as a new applicant.
A note about obtaining a license to carry a firearm
If you intend to work as an armed guard, you will need to go through an additional application process. A Firearms permitholder is authorized to carry an exposed loaded firearm, but can only handle the caliber(s) listed on the firearms permit card. Weapons may only be carried when performing the duties of the license associated with the permit. To qualify for a firearms permit, an individual must:
- Be a citizen of the United States, or have permanent resident status
- Be at least 21 years old
- Not have been banned from owning or possessing any firearm pursuant to state or federal law
- Be a registered security guard or alarm agent with the BSIS
- Have a complete criminal history background check processed through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice
- Complete and submit the Firearms Permit Initial Application to the Bureau
- Complete the mandatory training courses, including passing all required exams and qualifications
If you are denied
If you were not able to obtain a security guard license on the first try, don’t be too discouraged. You can submit a new application one year from the date of the initial denial.
Now that you have a clearer idea of what’s involved in becoming a security guard in California, you can begin the process of starting your new career. Every security guard is required to have a license in California. Licenses are mandatory to ensure that guards receive adequate training, and can protect the people who depend on them.