WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO BE A SECURITY GUARD IN CALIFORNIA?



To become a registered security guard in the State of California, a person needs the license that is called the California Guard card. To obtain this license, a candidate for security guard must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old

  2. Undergo a criminal background check with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Previous felony convictions (e.g. burglary, kid- napping, rape, larceny) will disqualify a candidate, though not misdemeanors or petty crimes (like petty theft, reckless driving, shoplifting or public intoxication).

  3. Complete 40 hours of training through a 6 month long process.

  4. Pay various fees for security training classes, fingerprinting, and BSIS application.


All security guards, armed or unarmed, undergo stringent training in California, so as to be able to respond correctly to multiple situations on behalf of their clients. Every security guard’s job duties are based upon a foundational code to PROTECT people and property, PREVENT incidents before they happen, and OBSERVE AND REPORT any incidents or offenses that do take place. Their 40 hours of security guard training classes are based upon and thoroughly embodied by this code. Notice that there are major differences between a security guard and a police officer (peace officer) though. Security guards are trained to protect specific people and property on behalf of their client, and also do not enforce laws. The police protect all people and all property and enforce laws. California security guards are fully and carefully trained for their specific job requirements and code.


First a candidate must complete 8 hours of guard card training with a certified facility or online training center.


This mandatory training is composed of a 4 hour class in 2 main sections or modules. There is the Power to Arrest section, studying the legal aspects, liability, techniques, and company requirements leading to the arrest of a person. This study is based on the training manual “Department of Consumer Affairs’ Power to Arrest”- with lectures, exercises, discussions and role-playing. The next 4 hours of training is dedicated to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Terrorism Awareness. For example, guards learn to hone observation skills to identify and report precursor activities that may lead to terrorism activities.


Secondly, the applicant, private patrol operator or training facility must submit the candidate’s security guard application electronically to BSIS. Fingerprints must also be submitted electronically through Live Scan, to begin the necessary criminal background check with the FBI and DOJ- those results will be returned back to BSIS.


Third, once BSIS has received the online application and the criminal history clearances, the applicant is entered into the Bureau’s website as a verified candidate. After completing the first 8 hours of training, passing the initial exam, and being background checked and verified by BSIS, a candidate can be hired as a security guard. However, at this point, the candidate is still not a registered security guard and is still in guard card training. Within 1-2 weeks, the actual security guard registration form will be mailed to the candidate so the registration process can begin. In the meantime, for verification while working, the candidate must always keep the screen print of the Bureau’s approval from their website, plus a valid photo ID available. The candidate in guard card training has 30 days to complete an additional 16 hours of training classes.


The additional 16 hour required training for the guard card trainee consists of four more 4-hour classes. There is a Public Relations class which familiarizes the trainee about the basic skills and knowledge to perform security guard work. Observation and Documentation instructs the candidate in report writing, patrol techniques, and the proper way to ask questions. A class about Communications and its Significance shows the correct way to contact people, and covers procedures for radios and monitors. Finally the Liability and Legal Aspects course teaches BSIS code, and criminal, administrative and civil policies.


There is a final 16 hours of training for a security guard to complete within 6 months. Even after a candidate finishes the initial month training hours and finally receives their guard card, they must complete a final 16 hours of training courses within a six month period of time. These consist of elective courses such as Post Orders and Assignments, Officer Safety Handling Difficult People, Preserving the Incident Scene.


In summary, all security guards in California that finally obtain their guard card licenses have completed these stringent identity and criminal record checks, along with a total of 40 hours of state-mandated training classes. There is still extra training needed for security guards to obtain the permits for them to use firearms or batons. In addition, there are continuing educational requirements for licensed guards throughout their careers as well. The state-mandated requirements for a security guard candidate are clear and strict not everyone is qualified to become a security guard. Those that complete these mandates of the State of California become very well-qualified agents.

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