How To Become A Security Guard In 5 Simple Steps

Security is one of the most rapidly expanding and developing industries. The latest statistics estimate that there’s around 413,000 SIA-licenced security professionals across the UK, with those numbers only set to grow as we progress into 2024.

Private security has always been crucial in keeping the public safe. Whether that’s as part of a supermarket or shop, or patrolling the grounds of an event or festival, security officers are essential for protecting businesses, groups and individuals across the UK.

We understand that as well as anyone here at Churchill Support Services. As the UK’s #1 ACS-approved security provider, we’ve cultivated a reputation for quality, professionalism and expertise that’s unmatched across our competitors.

With our latest article, we’ll explore how you can join the ranks of elite security personnel across the country, breaking down everything you’ll need to know to succeed when you become a security guard.


5 Key Steps To Become A Security Guard

We’ve split down the process for becoming a security guard into just 5, easy-to-follow steps, taking you from no qualifications to a fully qualified, certified and trained security officer.


Step 1 – Choose The Right Security Guard SIA Certification

For anyone looking to join the security industry, your first stop is with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). This is the governing body for all qualifications in the security sector, and is a strict requirement for anyone looking to work in the security industry. You cannot legally work in the private security industry without the appropriate SIA licence.

The SIA offers all of the relevant qualifications for working in various different roles across the security sector. Established in 2003 to better regulate and ensure the professionalism of those who work in the industry, the SIA offers an additional layer of reassurance to businesses who use any form of physical protection for their premises.

To become a security guard, you will need to get either a security guarding licence or a door supervisor licence – you do not need both. These licences will allow you to work as a security guard, using CCTV and other tools at your disposal to identify any issues, and act accordingly.

Many people opt to complete a door supervisor licence, as this allows you to work for businesses or facilities that serve alcohol. This is the key difference between a security guarding licence and a door supervision licence – you cannot work at a premises that serves alcohol if you only have a security guarding licence.

These are both known as a front-line SIA licences, which means that they allow you to work on the “frontlines” of security, such as at entrances or exits, in gatehouses, or operating barriers and access points.

There are several other types of front-line licences. These include:

  • Close Protection Licence – Often referred to as bodyguarding, this licence allows you to work 1-on-1 with a client, offering specific security as and when they need it. This is most often associated with VIPs and political figures, but anybody can request close protection services.
  • Cash In Transit Licence – This certifies you to protect property on the move (such as cash or valuable products) against theft or damage. You’ll also be licenced to transport these items in armoured or reinforced vehicles.
  • Public Space Surveillance Licence – This licence allows you to operate public-facing security cameras, and guard against any potential disturbances, damage or trespassing.

We’ve given much more information in our comprehensive guide to SIA licencing, if you’d like to discover more about who the SIA are and why they’re an essential part of getting qualified.

For the rest of this article, we’ll be using the Door Supervisor Licence for our examples, but the process for any kind of front-line SIA licence will be the same.


What If I Don’t Have Or Want An SIA Licence?

Without an SIA licence, you will not be able to apply for roles in the private security industry. All employers will ask to see proof of your SIA licence before they ever offer you a job. If you’re unable to show them your SIA licence, you will be unable to work as a security guard.

If you’re found to be working without a valid SIA licence, or you’ve got an incorrect or fraudulent licence and an incident happens, you could be found liable and face serious consequences, including losing your job, being banned from working in security, fines and even jail time.


Step 2 – Complete Your Chosen Course

Your next step towards starting your career as a security guard is to complete the course you’ve chosen. As we mentioned in our previous section, if you’re looking to become a security guard, you’ll need to complete either a security guarding training course or a door supervisor training course, with most people opting for the door supervisor training course.


Choosing An Accredited Provider

You’ll first choose an accredited provider. We’d strongly recommend opting for Get Licensed here, as they’re one of the most recognised providers of security courses, and have helped more than 300,000 new recruits for the security sector. However, there are other options available.

If you’d rather choose your own provider, or you’re looking for someone who’s more local to you, the SIA have an official register of training providers, although they do not vet or approve these training providers.

Alternatively, you can contact an awarding body who passes out these licences to receive more tailored recommendations for training providers. These awarding bodies are:

Once you’ve selected who you’ll be studying with, you’ll then need to complete your course. We’ll be using the Door Supervisor course as an example, so the course content will vary if you opt to study for a different licence.


Completing Your Chosen Course

The Door Supervisor course is usually broken down into 3 or 4 different units. You must complete all of these units before you can apply for your SIA licence – you’ll need to provide proof when you submit your application.

While some Door Supervisor courses may vary slightly, there’s a core syllabus that you’ll follow. You’ll  find a full summary on the government’s website, but here’s a learn about:

  • Working In The Private Security Industry – This encompasses key industry-related information, such as awareness of the law, health and safety information, emergency procedures, and communication skills.
  • Working As A Door Supervisor – This covers key information around the standards of behaviour expected from door supervisors, the law around criminality and justice, recording incidents, and how to deal with crowds, queues and vulnerable people.
  • Conflict Management In The Security Sector – You’ll learn about avoiding and defusing conflict, as well as learning from any potential conflicts to better adapt to any future issues that may arise.
  • Physical Intervention Techniques & Skills – This explores the physical skills you’ll need to be a competent door supervisor, as well as disengagement, management and escorting techniques.

Recent changes introduced in 2021 also provide more information on how to deal with potential spiking incidents, as well as measures to put into place to mitigate against sexual assault and harassment.

The course lasts 6 days, and will often last the full day (usually between 8am and 7pm). Bear in mind that there’s a lot to cover with these courses, and while they may seem long or challenging days at times, you’re learning skills that set you up for an incredible future in an ever-evolving industry.

After those 6 days, you’ll then complete 4 exams in what you’ve learnt across each of the units. You’ll need to achieve a passing grade of 70% in each (80% in the Physical Intervention Techniques unit) in order to receive your certificate.

Results can take upwards of 4 weeks to arrive (depending on your course provider), but once you’ve received them, you’re ready to progress onto the next step towards becoming a security guard.


How Much Is A Security Course?

This can vary depending on who your course provider is, the kind of course you’re studying, and how soon you’re looking to start. Some providers will also charge for examination resits, or administration fees which aren’t immediately apparent when you first start the course.

As a general rule, you can expect to pay around £250 to complete a Door Supervisor course. Each different provider will naturally offer this at a different price, and it’s crucial you research who you want to opt for to avoid any potential issues or pitfalls when it comes to your course.


I Can’t Afford My Course – What Can I Do?

The price of a Door Supervisor course (or any other form of security qualification) can be off-putting, especially if you’re currently unemployed or struggling for money. It’s key to remember that this course is designed to equip you for a lucrative career, and one where you can earn up to £3,500 a month when you’re qualified.

There are options available, however. You can:

  • Get in touch with a potential employer to see if they’ll sponsor you to complete a course, with you offering to “work off” the debt, or provide additional services in return.
  • Contact the local job centre to see if they’d be willing to fund your course. This requires you to have been out of work for at least 1 year, and it needs to form part of your job seeking process.

You might also choose to delay your learning until you’ve saved enough to pay for the course and licensing fee, which is a good idea. These fees are unlikely to change, and security officers are always in demand, meaning the salary you command will always be competitive.


Step 3 – Complete Your SIA Licence Application

The next step towards becoming a security guard is to apply for your SIA licence. For this step, you will need to have completed an SIA-approved course, and will need to have those certificates or confirmation close to hand to ensure that you can provide the relevant details.

To get started, you’ll need to register for a Personal Account on the SIA’s website. This will give you access to the SIA’s application process. It’s free to register for this account, and it offers a portal for you to control what you submit as part of your SIA licence application.

Next, you should ensure that you can afford to submit an application with the SIA. This costs £184 for 1 licence, with any additional licences costing a further £92. This must be paid in one lump sum – you cannot pay in instalments.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll need to submit several key pieces of information as part of your application for an SIA licence. You can find a comprehensive list of what’s required on the government website, but these include:

  • Proof of completion of your relevant course (such as a Door Supervisor course)
  • Proof of identity including age
  • Address history for the last 5 years
  • Your Right to Work in the UK
  • A photo of yourself

You’ll also need to undertake 2 checks that cover both your criminal history, and your mental health history. These are done through the SIA’s systems, and – outside of a couple of questions – you won’t need to provide any supporting documents.

Once you’ve completed all 9 sections of your SIA application, you’ll then pay the application fee of £184 before your application is submitted. Once this has been completed and submitted, the SIA will review your application and get back to you.

There is no definite timeframe in which the SIA can get back to you, but as a general rule, it shouldn’t take longer than 6 weeks for a standard application to go through. If your background checks or materials have raised concerns, this can lengthen that approval process – the SIA do not provide an estimated approval time for that reason, as every application is different.

This can often make many anxious or stressed – we’d advise being patient and keeping an eye on your SIA profile to double check whether any approval decision has been made. Once you’ve got the confirmation, you’ll move onto the next step towards becoming a security guard.


I Can’t Afford The SIA Application Fee – What Do I Do?

It’s natural that the additional cost of applying for an SIA licence (on top of your course) is a daunting prospect, but it’s crucial to remember that this money goes towards ensuring that the security industry stays safe, secure and robust in all it does.

If you’re unable to pay, and you’ve already found someone who’s willing to employ you, it’s possible that your employer will be willing to cover the SIA’s application fee. You will still need to have completed the relevant course, though.

Training providers and back to work schemes, especially those aimed at getting ex-soldiers and military personnel back into civilian life, may also be able to provide money towards (or pay for) your SIA licencing fee. If you’re unsure of what you may be entitled to, the Army Benevolent Fund offers support to ex-service personnel and their families, and can offer guidance on a range of topics.


Do You Need To Complete A Mental Health Check For An SIA Licence?

There is a section in the SIA licencing process that discusses mental health. For some, this can be a difficult hurdle, especially if they’ve got a significant history with mental health problems, anxiety or depression.

The only question on mental health in the SIA licencing process relates to whether or not you’ve been compulsorily detained, or placed under compulsory treatment, in the last 5 years. This includes being committed to a mental health facility, placed into care because of your mental health, or taken into hospital as a direct result of your mental health.

If you answer “No” to this question, no further checks will be carried out, and you can continue with your application. You’ll answer “No” if you’re currently taking medication for depression or anxiety under the supervision of a medical professional, if you’re undergoing therapy voluntarily, or if you’ve sought out holistic help.

If you answer “Yes”, you’ll be asked for the contact details of someone directly involved with your treatment, such as a psychiatrist, doctor or licenced therapist. The SIA will then contact them to find out the nature of your detainment or treatment, the treatment that’s being administered, and how your current state.

The SIA will then use this to inform your application, making an informed decision based on the information that you and your nominated medical professional have provided. This can then mean you receive your SIA licence without any conditions, receive it on a conditional basis (such as if your condition is regularly reviewed by a medical practitioner), or refused an SIA licence altogether.

Security guarding can be a stressful job at times, with people and situations to manage on a constant basis. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and you need to ensure you look after you mind as much as your body. Many employers don’t recognise this, so it’s vital you find one that does.

Here at Churchill Support Services, we’ve recently launched a pioneering mental health programme that not only seeks to offer round-the-clock support and guidance for our security personnel, but to offer the network of resources and guidance to help you need.


Can I Get An SIA Licence If I Have A Criminal Record?

This is a difficult question, and one that doesn’t have a simple answer. The governmental guidance on this is that it’s dependent on the nature of the crime you’ve committed, how long ago that incident was, and what the sentencing for it was.

For example, a more recent and violent offence is likely to stop you from securing your SIA licence, whereas public order offences (such as drunk and disorderly conduct) from your past are unlikely to have too much of a bearing on your application. They will still be noted, however.

There’s a comprehensive list of crimes that the SIA will look at in more depth, ranging from child abuse and neglect, to drug offences, to domestic and international terrorism.  This also applies to crimes committed overseas, and if the SIA suspects that you may have done so, they’re likely to ask for further information or supporting documents.


Can I See Where My SIA Application Is Up To?

Yes! When you sign up for your SIA account, you’ll receive access to a “portal”, where you can track the status of your application, as well as gain key information relating to the licencing and accreditation process.

There are 3 key stages that your SIA application goes through. You can find out further information on the Government’s SIA applications page, but in summary these are:

  • Next Steps – You’ll need to follow the instructions provided to progress your application. This could be providing further information, supporting documents, or answering questions.
  • Checks In Progress – The SIA are actively checking through your application.
  • Decision Made – A decision, either positive or negative, has been made regarding your SIA licence.


Step 4 – Receive Your SIA Licence In The Post

Unfortunately, the next step when you’re looking to become a security guard involves a significant amount of waiting. As we’ve touched on, there’s no set timeframe for the SIA to post out your licence, especially as the application process is so detailed and encompasses many different factors.

This is also accompanied by a thorough criminal background check (done through the Disclosure and Barring Service, as well as several other independent bodies), as well as checks on your documentation, identification and any time you’ve spent overseas in the last few months.

Once you’ve received your licence, though, you’re ready to start your first adventures into working as a security guard.


Will I Need To Renew My SIA Licence?

Yes you will. An SIA licence lasts 3 years, after which time you’ll no longer be licenced by the SIA and will need to renew it. This costs the same as a new licence (£184), and all businesses will require you to have a current, active SIA licence to secure a job as a security guard.


I Haven’t Received My SIA Licence Yet – What Do I Do?

As we’ve just touched on, you’re able to check the status of your application through the SIA’s dedicated application portal. This will show you whether you need to provide further information, or if your application has been approved or denied.

If your application has been denied, you’re able to appeal by getting in contact with the SIA. The governmental guidance covers this in great detail, including the information you can provide if you feel like your application has been unfairly denied.

If you application has been approved, you’ll receive a “Licence Granted” letter in the post, as well as on your online SIA account. You will also receive your photo licence card alongside that letter, which can take 14 days to arrive. It will look something like this:

You do not have to have your photo licence to begin applying for jobs in the security industry, but employers will ask to see your Licence Granted letter, as well as proof of identification (such as a driving licence or passport) before you’re allowed to work legally.


Security guard licence example


Step 5 – Begin Applying For Jobs In Security

Now that you’ve completed the full training and application process, you’re ready to become a security guard wherever you choose to work. There’s still a lot to consider, though – who you choose to be employed by, their business practices, and the training they provide should all be points you consider when applying for a job in security.

Make sure to do your research into any potential employer you’re considering. Their careers page is usually a good place to start, but you can also find out more information from any security guard job listings they might have on their website. These will usually be found on their careers page, too.

You might also choose to find a job through Indeed or any other jobs board, as this collates jobs from various different providers and companies across the UK. Again, it’s vital that you research anyone you might want to work for before you apply.

To apply for a job, you will need:

  • Your SIA licence
  • Your key information (such as your name, address, and date of birth)
  • Your CV

You may also be asked to prove that you have a driving licence, if you need to travel to get to your chosen job. If you’ve not lived in the UK for very long (usually less than 6 months), or you’re looking to apply from abroad, you’ll also need to provide proof of your Right to Work.


Do I Need Experience To Work As A Security Guard?

This depends on the job you’re applying for, but most jobs won’t require you to have any experience of working in security. However, other jobs (particularly those with a higher hourly rate of pay) may ask for you to already have some form of experience in security. You will need to show proof of this when you apply.


What Skills Do I Need To Become A Security Guard?

Security is an industry where a huge range of skillsets and areas of expertise can come together to create a safe and welcoming environment for staff, visitors and the general public. However, there are a few key skills that you’ll need to be successful when you become a security guard in the UK. These include:

  • An ability to speak and understand English
  • Good verbal and written communication
  • Well-organised and professional
  • Excellent time keeping and attendance
  • Good levels of adaptability
  • An ability to work both on your own, and as part of a security team

You may also be asked to drive if you’re working as a mobile security officer, meaning you’ll need a valid UK driving licence as well. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve not developed all of these skills yet – work on building these before you apply, and you’ll soon find the role that’s right for you.


Kickstart Your Security Career Today With Churchill

Now that you’ve followed all the steps on the journey to become a security guard, it’s time to choose the right employer for you, and at Churchill Support Services, we’re the ideal choice whether you’ve got years of experience or you’re just beginning your journey in the field.

With an exceptional reputation for quality and professionalism, as well as an industry-beating training programme that’s designed to equip you for a huge range of security scenarios, we’ve got a complement of incredible security officers, and you could be the next in line.

Visit our Careers page today to discover our current open opportunities, and to submit your application to work for the UK’s leading ACS-approved security company.

John Melling

Group Chief Executive Officer

John has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.