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10 Aug 2020

Security Guard vs Security Officer: Is There Really a Difference?

When hiring a security company, there are many details you need to consider about the security personnel you’ll be working with. This includes the need for uniforms, whether they will be armed, their level of interaction with your visitors and customers, and so on.

To some extent, your needs can be better understood if you specify whether you need security guards or security officers. So, what’s the difference between the two?

For the untrained eye, all security people can be referred to as either security officers or security guards because their duties involve providing safety for the people and properties. It’s normal to find security personnel when entering any building or to access a protected property, so it doesn’t matter whether you refer to them as officers or guards.

But if you’re looking to hire a security contractor, you’ll find that the two terms refer to two different kinds of security personnel with different training requirements, the scope of responsibility, and pay.

They Have Different Security Duties

A security guard refers to security personnel assigned to a specific post or patrol duties within a limited area but has restrictions in exercising independent judgment. On the other hand, a security officer is a professional who’s capable of handling a wider range of duties and is allowed to take action based on independent judgment.

This means that a security guard holds a lower rank than a security officer, and in most cases, the guards will be required to work under and report to an officer. Besides supervising security guards, officers are also expected to liaise with other agencies and services to provide quick response to any incidents.

When security personnel are referred to as guards, their duties are limited to the simple function of “guarding.” For instance, they may be tasked with access control at an entrance.

On the other hand, the term “security officer” reflects training and professionalism to handle more intricate security issues. Officers are paid a lot more than guards. That said, many security contracts require both roles.

They Have Different Levels of Training and Responsibility

To qualify as a security guard, one may only be required to pass entry-level IQ and fitness tests, and won’t need to have as much field experience as an officer. There’s usually also no requirement for education beyond the high school level.

Security guards may be registered but not licensed to provide security services. Their skills are mostly obtained from training by their security company officers in matters such as client care and risk and situation assessment, as well as report writing and conflict resolution. When performing their duties, guards are expected to follow the Best Practice for Safety Guidelines stipulated by their security company and client.

Responsibilities of security guard may include:

  • Standing guard at a designated location
  • Reporting suspicious activity
  • Providing directions and other helpful information to visitors or customers where they’re assigned, like at stores, museums, outdoor events, etc.

Security officers direct, manage, and oversee the operations of multiple security guards, and can exercise independent judgment for each situation, unlike guards. They are not assigned to a specific location. Instead, officers can travel to different areas under their watch to supervise guards and ensure there are no problems.

Officers are trained and licensed in a wide range of security services, including exercising their powers of arrest, dealing with bomb threats, evacuation procedures, and other specific aspects, depending on the client. Security officers are also flexible in their duties and work closely with their clients to address any specific security needs. They often train their team of security guards for flawless operations.

In a team of security officers, there will typically be at least one professional with extensive training and experience. The other officers may have 2-5 years of experience, and often have a minimum level of responsibility when assigned to any security duty. Post-secondary education may be used as a substitute for a portion of the required experience, provided they can pass a stringent examination and present references.

Various terms may refer to professional security personnel besides officers, such as “manager,” or “qualifying agent,” among others, because they have chosen their career path. That said, a manager may be required to have several years of experience in an administrative, supervisory, or managerial capacity before being licensed as a security manager.

The responsibilities of a security officer may include:

  • Training security guards in conflict resolution, client care, and de-escalation techniques
  • Coordinating security activities
  • Planning security programs
  • Managing entire security operations
  • Assigning duties and tasks for security guards
  • Supervising multiple security checkpoints or stations where guards are stationed

When you hire a security officer, the expectation is that they will assume ownership of the entire security operation, managing it based on their experience, judgment, and tact.

Who is right for your security team?

Indeed, there is a clear difference in status between a security guard and an officer. There are also other status differences based on the security personnel’s credentials and the nature of the job. Generally, a security individual needs a higher education level and greater work experience to climb in rank, handle more responsibilities, and enjoy higher earnings.

Still, both occupations require meticulous training. Security guards must have the ability to implement security plans because poorly trained security guards may cause gaps and opportunities to breach security. Specific training areas for security personnel include risk management, anti-terrorism, military service, hazard mindfulness, and other niche areas.

To make the right security hiring decisions, you should consider the scope of your specific job. Some tasks may require the training, experience, tact, and professionalism of a security officer. In contrast, others that are deemed to carry minimal risk may be assigned to well-trained security guards.

Hiring a Security Officer or Guard

If you’re planning to enhance your property’s security by hiring security guards or security officers, you must choose a reputable security company that provides continuous training and assessment for their personnel. This is, so they are capable, professional, and flexible for your unique or changing security needs.

To learn more about the differences between a security officer and a security guard, call Optimum Security at 416-628-3393 or contact us here.

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