How to Become a Security Guard in New York (Plus Tips to Help you Land your First Job)

Date: Jul-12-2022

Author: Kim Brown

In the city that never sleeps, there is a constant need for licensed security guards. If you are thinking about taking on a role as a guard, read on to learn what you’ll need in order to be successful.

The state of New York requires security guards to register with the Department of State, and meet all eligibility and training requirements. These requirements are mandatory regardless of whether you want to work as a security guard in a commercial or residential space.

Before you begin

Before you sign up for any classes or training, take a close look at the minimum requirements for New York security guards. If you don’t check off all of the boxes, you cannot move forward with obtaining your license.

Here are the four basic requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be an American citizen or have a permanent resident card
  • You must pass a New York State Department of Justice background check and must not have a criminal record for serious crimes
  • Have a current NYS photo driver’s license or non-driver ID card

If you meet these requirements, then you become eligible to be part of a licensing program. Certain people may not require a license; we will cover exemptions later in this article.

Submit fingerprints

The next step is to get your fingerprints documented. You can do this electronically through L-1 Enrollment Services. They collaborate with the state to scan fingerprints and provide receipts too.

Pre-assignment class

Private security companies and other verified organizations provide an eight-hour class that equips candidates with the knowledge they need to safeguard lives and property. This class is mandatory for people who want to work as unarmed and armed guards. You will learn your role as a guard, obligations and limitations, and emergency tactics. There are several approved schools that have been okayed by the state.

Licensing application

Guards in training can apply directly on the Department of State’s website. Here you will need to provide personal information and answer questions to certify that you meet the requirements. This is also where you submit the certificate for the 8 hours pre-assignment course, and fingerprints.

You can fill out the licensing form in other languages asides from English, like Spanish, Russian, or Chinese. If you are employed already and need the license to carry on with your job, you will have the opportunity to state that here too.


As part of the licensing application, you will be required to pay a non-refundable application fee of $36, and $102 for fingerprint processing. Payment by check, money order, or a card authorization form is permitted, but cash payments are not allowed.

On-the-job training

While working as a security guard in New York, the state mandates that guards must also complete a 16-hour on-the-job training course. It takes provides more practical training,  and ends with an exam that you need to pass. Guards are expected to complete this training within the first 90 days of starting a security job.

Annual in-service training

Armed and unarmed guards must take an annual course to keep them up to date with security processes and strategies. The course must be completed within 12 months of finishing the on-the-job training. It requires eight hours of your time, so clear up your schedule and take the day off if you have to.

License renewal

Licenses must be renewed every two years. You can begin the process 90 days before your current license expires. You’ll need to include proof that you completed the annual in-service training and pay a $25 renewal fee.

You can send an email to the Division of Licensing Services if you are eligible for license renewal but did not receive the renewal form. The email should include details like your mailing address, license type and date, and your unique identification number.

Additional requirements for armed security guards

If you want to be an armed security guard in New York, you will first need to obtain a valid NYS security guard license. After that, you will be asked to do more since working with a firearm is a huge responsibility:

  • Apply for a New York pistol permit which licenses you to carry a gun. You will fill out a form that the State Police Department provides you
  • Enroll in a 47-hour firearms training course where you will learn about state laws on the use of firearms and other information. Active police officers and similar job holders may not need to take the course. The state provides a list of exemption cases
  • You may apply for an armed security guard license after completing the course or proving that you received a waiver. Include your original security guard license, the firearm training course documentation, and $25 with the Change of Status form
  • The armed security guard license is valid for two years, but you will need to take an annual eight-hour firearms training course in addition to the annual in-training course
  • As with the unarmed security guard license, you can renew this license 90 days before the expiry date. If the delay with renewal after the license expires reaches 6 months, you will have to re-apply for a license

FAQs about becoming a New York State security guard


Are there people who are exempt from registering?

Yes, some security guards get a waiver from registering. Volunteer guards and active police officers are exempt from registration. Retired police officers have to register though as they are now considered civilians. Peace officers working officially for their primary employers get an exemption too.

Do guards working for patrol agencies need to register to be security guards?

Security guards here do not need a separate registration as long as they are working with their own company. If providing guard services for another security agency, they need to obtain security guard registration.

Can individuals with criminal records become security guards?

It is possible to become a security guard in the state of New York with a criminal record, but the process might be more complex. A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct will help. If you have your records sealed, that is, you haven’t committed a crime in 10 years since the last conviction, then you can register to be a New York security guard.

Tips to land your first job as a New York security guard

After getting your license, the next big hurdle is doing well in a job interview. Here are a few helpful tips for first-timers:

  • Understand the job requirements and the additional skills that the company requires
  • Anticipate security guard interview questions and practice your responses
  • Show up for the interview in a professional outfit
  • Speak with confidence during the interview and talk about past experiences that show you work well under pressure
  • Have references available if the employer asks for them. Make sure to let the references know that you have used them so that they aren’t caught off guard when the employer calls


Security guards must have the proper licensing and training so that they are prepared to handle the unexpected in a calculated and professional manner. State requirements keep everyone, including the security guards, safer.