Armed security guards in the US are employed to protect casinos, banks, courier services, nuclear facilities, construction sites, or secure government installations. Security guards prevent vandalism and keep unwanted persons out of secured areas. In some countries, existing weapons laws may mean only specialized or military guards may carry weapons. Although many armed security guards take the job as a stepping stone to a law enforcement position, good career opportunities exist in administrative areas and specialized services.
Security work is physically demanding. Hours are long, and guards are on their feet most of the time. They may patrol areas on a regular basis, checking in with a specially designed time clock, or man a station where they monitor by closed-circuit television. Encounters with intoxicated trespassers are sometimes hazardous. Armed security guards face the same responsibilities and legal issues regarding their weapons that police officers do.
Armed security guards generally have a higher pay scale and enjoy better benefits than their unarmed counterparts. They must complete a classroom course and have extensive firearms training. In many places they must be licensed and carry additional documentation for their weapons. Applicants for these positions need to be physically fit, adaptable individuals who are good with people and have good communications skills.
The US has plenty of armed security guards, but in Europe they are rare. Guards in Israel almost always carry weapons because of frequent terrorism acts. In developing countries or war-torn areas, most security is performed by current or ex-military. The UK primarily restricts firearms to the police or to those protecting the monarchy and government officials. Private companies in many areas often employ active or retired law enforcement personnel.
Specialty work is also available in this field. Canine guards may be used since trained dogs are effective deterrents and can also catch and hold suspects for the police. Armed security guards work in airports around the globe. In the US, specially trained Armed Security Officers (ASOs) of the Transportation Security Administration protect the Reagan National Airport. International firms provide clients with maritime and anti-piracy security for both commercial and private vessels.
Some private companies offer personal bodyguards. Government officials or international businesspeople facing threats from organized crime or terrorists use these services, as do celebrities. Professionals in this area will be highly proficient in threat assessment, kidnap prevention, tactical training, and may be armed where it is legal. Discretion is an essential quality in a bodyguard, who is privy to many of a client's private activities. Most training schools take both male and female applicants.