The first part of this article gives an introduction to the industry, the types of roles available and the kind of wages, hours and working conditions etc you might expect if employed in the UK security industry.
If you would like to get straight to the ‘Top 10 tips to find work in the security industry’ click here.
The security industry has grown exponentially over the last 10 years. Every major public or private organization now invests heavily in onsite security, whether it be for the protection of personnel and property, (the focus of this website of course), or the security of data.
All this means that the industry is strong, and there is a wide scope of opportunity for those wanting to train and work within it. There is an ever-increasing range of careers available.
Security Careers Available
We here at the Hub focus only on frontline security careers. We have articles and resources all over the site dedicated to each security officer role. Head to the sections to find out more:
Other Security Roles
The size of the UK security sector
The latest official figures from a study completed in 2012 state that over 150,000 people were employed in the UK’s security-related industries. (And this did not include the surge of security personnel trained and employed for the London Olympics)
However, there are other estimates that state the size of the UK security industry to be closer to half a million. (Unfortunately, the discrepancy between the two figures has not been explained by the relevant statisticians, all the same the numbers involved to go a long way to show just how large the industry has become in recent years.)
Where is the UK’s Security industry predominantly based?
As with a lot of sectors that have large central organizations, the southeast of England (with London and areas close to the capital being a significant draw) sees the largest concentration of Security workers.
A 2006 study shows the breakdown of people employed in security guard and related occupations, as follows:
London: 26,500 (18.4%)
Midlands: 23,300 (16.2%)
South East: 23,200 (16.1%)
Northern Ireland: 3,300 (2.3%)
North East: 3,800 (2.6%)
Wales: 5,100 (3.5%)
Although the figures detailing the amount of people working in each area will have increased over the last 6 years, the percentages will remain much the same. Post recession, these figures continue to reflect the employment status throughout the UK.
Who works in the security industry?
Being such a large industry, with multiple career directions, ensures that a wide range of people from all sorts of social, economical and educational background work within it. It really is a diverse employment sector. Some frontline roles have proven a popular UK employment choice for Non-EU applicants.
If a candidate is able to meet the English language requirement to successfully complete the relevant SIA licence training, they will very rarely suffer from discrimination when applying for a role. Also, the UK security sector is becoming well represented by woman at a senior level of staffing.
With the range of jobs available, the clichéd image of a burley door supervisor just accounts for one section of the industry, (and is not particularly representative at that). The sector truly welcomes all that have the relevant training and drive to succeed.
Hours of employment
In many instances the need for 24hr security protection, or frontline licensed premises employment, means a security officer can be expected to work any hour of the day. What’s more, shift patterns could mean long hours of work at any one time.
However, with improved legislation concerning the general workforce, front line staff are facing less pressure to work such long hours. The implications of the working time directive (that contract companies are abiding by) and competitive pressure from firms within the industry, is ensuring greater rights for the employee and fairer working hours throughout the security sector.
(The choice to opt out of the working hour restrictions is available for employees, for those where the work is available. This means overtime, (although often at the standard hourly rate) for which workers can increase the income. The choice to do this is the important development overall).
Availability of Jobs
Before the global recession, the UK like most of the developed world was enjoying the highest amount of people within work for decades. Times were good, opportunities were plenty.
There was under-staffing in roles across the board, which led to the job papers and websites offering new security roles on a daily basis. However, as the global economic stagnation continues, so to does the amount of security jobs available. It certainly is a different picture from 2007.
That does not mean to say it is all doom and gloom though. The nature of the security sector as a necessity within today’s society, the industry has not suffered as greatly as most. Competition from other job seekers may be increased, but positions still exist.
Head to our jobs board to see for yourself. Opportunities are available with the amount of listings remaining healthy.
Security Industry Professional body
The SIA (Security Industry Association) is the main organization overseeing the UK’s security Industry. It is a legal requirement to have an SIA licence, and complete relevant SIA regulated training to be able to work as a security officer in this country.
Head to our article on ‘what is the SIA?’ to find out about the organisation.
I’m over 45 – am I too old to work in the Security Industry
This of course is nonsense. Many people come into the security industry as a second career. Close protection and door supervision in particular, when a lot of the personnel have experience in the military or police forces.
The industry is by no means ageist. It is possible to train for the SIA licence if you are within the working age group. True, close protection work is more physically demanding than that of a CCTV operative, however the choice remains with the individual, and by no means should your age put you off if you are committed to completing your training and starting work as a security officer.
What Academic requirements are there?
Academic credentials are not normally a prerequisite to working in the security industry. Skills and personal attributes are a more important consideration. In the line of hostile environment close protection, experience in the field is definitely required. This normally comes from working in the armed forces with time spent working in comparable environments.
Basic English is a must to be able to pass the various SIA licence examinations. The SIA training standards control the entry level expertise required of all personnel.
As explained above, your dedication and commitment can then take you to varying levels within the industry, based on your aptitude and experience. To facilitate this, a number of qualifications do exist, from NVQ’s to highly specialized Docterates, meaning academic qualifications can play a significant part in your career progression depending on the direction you choose.
I have a criminal record can I still apply for an SIA Licence?
The truth of the matter is, if you have a criminal conviction, you will find it more difficult to successfully apply for your SIA licence and start your career as a security officer. Furthermore, if you do manage to obtain your licence, employers can be less entitled to employ you in a security role if you have a past conviction.
The SIA do not intentionally put people off apply for a licence, and you can sometimes provide mitigating evidence. Head to our article regarding SIA licence criminality checks here.
Top 10 tips to finding work in the Security Industry
With the abundance of job and recruitment websites, newspaper listings, security guard agencies etc, access to most areas of security industry employment opportunities can be relatively straightforward. However, actually finding the job you want and beating the competition to get it, is a completely different issue altogether. Following these 10 tips should make the whole ordeal that little less painful.
1. Your CV should be perfect
Make sure your CV is tailored exactly for the security position you are after. Ensure your key skills are listed. There are plenty of CV writing guides online. Use them. Get friends to check spelling, grammar and readability. Keep it to 2 pages max. No colourful motif’s or elaborate fonts. Simple, effective and to the point. All job searches start with the CV. Get it right.
2. Make a list of all the security companies in your area
Go online and research and make a list of all the security companies in your area. Find out the areas of security that they specialize in, and if they prove relevant to you, give them a call. Many will allow you to send your CV and sign up via the Internet. Try to find out which security companies are dealing with upcoming events in your area. If they are busy, they will be looking to sign more people onto their books. Be there when that happens. A little bit of research will put you ahead of other candidates.
3. Sign up to online job sites and recruitment agencies
We all hate this one, as it is time consuming and recruitment agents can be terrible to work with. However, they do prove a way in for many looking for work. Signup to all those that cover the type security work you are looking for. Organise an appointment with the agency and go in to sign up properly.
Those that offer online signup vary rarely bother to get back to you. Only once they have met you in person can you ensure that they are actually actively looking for work on your behalf.
Create an email address specifically for job hunting, and get targeted job emails sent to you from the various online sources. Be sure to check everyday, and try to filter out the jobs you want to apply for.
4. Visit your local job centre
Your job centre has hundreds of jobs listed on their internal network. Many government/council security jobs will appear here first. Walk down to your local job centre and get a print out of the relevant security jobs in your area.
Also, organize a meeting with one of their careers advisers, they may be able to help with information on firms that are currently recruiting.
5. Keep Track of your efforts
Keeping track of all your efforts is a full time job within itself. It is also vitally important. Use a simple spreadsheet; enter all the details of agencies you’ve joined, job sites you’ve signed up to (keeping track of all login information).
Keep details of all applications, save any covering letters you’ve written. These can be reshaped for multiple job applications depending on what you need to say.
Be as organized as you can. It will make the process a whole lot less painful.
6. Speak to security officers you meet
Speak to any security operatives that you meet during the day, ask them which firm they found their job through and whether they know if they are recruiting. Some security officers may well hurry you along without a response; others will take the time to answer a couple of quick questions and will be happy to help out a fellow officer. You lose nothing by asking.
7. Use Social Media
Do not be afraid to broadcast to the world that you are job hunting. Post an update on Facebook asking if anyone knows of jobs available, or of anyone who is currently working in the industry that you might be able to speak to. Never underestimate the power of social media for getting a message out there. Through friends of friends your network can be wide reaching.
8. Prepare for your interview
If you get asked for an interview, make sure you research the background of the company. Use this information so you are able to asking relevant questions during the meeting. An employer will always be impressed if you have done your research and come knowing a bit about them.
9. Look good for your interview
First impressions count. Do not take any risks with your personal presentation. During your research, ascertain the company’s style. As a security officer you will be expected to look and be professional while on the job. Make sure you project this image when meeting any potential employer.
10. Don’t Give Up
And finally, do not give up. Job searching is never easy or fun, and in our current economic climate it is the hardest it has been for a number of years. However, keep at it, if you follow the steps above the right position will be yours before you know it.