The security industry is about much more than patrolling premises. There are many interesting roles in this surprisingly varied field.
Think of a job in security and a peak-capped guard keeping a vigilant eye on a shop or warehouse might well spring to mind. In fact, though, the industry offers plenty of other possible career opportunities. From creating bespoke security systems for homes and businesses to video surveillance and protecting computers from hackers, there are plenty of roles open to those with an eye for detail.
IT Security Co-ordinator
A role in cyber security involves ensuring IT systems and hardware are protected against everything from hacking, online scams and fraud to political, industrial and commercial espionage, terrorist communications, possession of illegal pornography and, increasingly, the theft of company information.
As a Forensic Computer Analyst, you could also be called on to use and devise specialist computer programs that find and recover data from disks that may have been hidden, encrypted or damaged. You may also need to trace devices to a particular location.
There are roles in a huge range of organisations, including private companies, charities, hospital trusts, police forces and the security services.
What skills do I need? Excellent IT skills are a must along with attention to detail and a creative approach to problem solving, plus an ability to spot patterns in large amounts of data. You’ll usually need a background or qualification in IT or a related field. Employers may also look for industry certification awards. Here, a university forensic computing qualification and courses with industry placements would be especially helpful.
How can I progress? With experience, you could become a Senior Analyst, Head of Security or Security Consultant.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at around £20,000, rising to £35,000 with experience. Highly experienced forensic computer analysts can earn £60,000.
Physical Security Officer
Depending on the industry in which you work, your role could include patrolling and monitoring premises; guarding cash or other valuables in a security vehicle; airport security including guarding boundaries and searching aircraft, passengers and luggage; watching for intruders in a hotel; or supervising the entrances to a large organisation.
What skills do I need? While there are no set requirements, you’ll need the ability to write short reports and follow written instructions. You’ll also need the confidence to challenge people when necessary, use your initiative, make quick decisions and work with technical equipment – CCTV, for example.
Experience of working in the police or armed forces can be helpful. Potential employers will carry out checks on your personal and work history, going back 10 years – you’ll need to tell them about any criminal convictions.
You will need a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence for agency and contractor jobs, but not for in-house security. To qualify for this, you must be aged 18 or over, pass identity and criminal record checks, and complete relevant SIA training.
How much can I earn? Earnings start at £13,000 to £16,000, rising to around £22,000. As a supervisor, you can expect to earn in the region of £26,000.
How can I progress? You can move up to Senior, or Chief, Security Officer, then to Supervisor. If you obtain some further qualifications, you could go into security management or training. Or you may want to consider setting up your own security company.
Security Systems Designer
Day-to-day duties can include discussing security plans with customers; carrying out site surveys; installing security systems, including video surveillance; building-access controls, fire and intruder alarms, and electronic surveillance equipment; testing systems – and also training customers to operate them. You may also be required to check and service existing systems and to respond to call-outs to repair faulty systems.
Fire-protection specialists will design, supply and install fire protection systems to minimise potential damage to premises, which involves similar site visits and client-liaison roles.
What skills do I need? The ability to follow technical plans and instructions is essential. You’ll also need good problem-solving skills. There are no set entry requirements, but some employers may ask for GCSEs (grades A* to C) or the equivalent in English, maths, science or a technical subject.
Experience in electrical or electronics work and a completed course in security systems can be helpful, too. You’ll also need to have colour-normal vision and security clearance before you can start work.
What could I earn? Starter salaries are around £18,000 to £22,000, rising to £25,000 to £30,000 with more experience. Highly experienced fire protection and security system specialists can earn up to £35,000.
How can I progress? You could set up your own company or progress to supervising teams of sales, installation or maintenance staff.