Do you really need a college degree in security?

by todaystrainingblog

A question that has gone from the ‘olden days’ of security until now. Do you really need a college degree in order to be a good security officer or manager? And having been in the field as long as I have, I feel that I can succinctly answer that question. No, you don’t

I believe that you don’t need a college degree in order to be a great security officer or manager. It may make the managerial aspect of the field a bit more challenging, but that just means more hard work than you are accustomed to. But what are wrong with that, are we afraid of hard work?

I have worked with and managed security officers & co-workers who have had degrees. Most of them were practically worthless and ineffective at their job. And yes, this included a couple of my managers.

I supervised one officer back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He had a Bachelors and was working on a Master’s in social work. He was constantly tired, argued at every little change in orders, and didn’t know how to interact with the employees he was trying to secure. He quit 6 months after I took over, because he didn’t like the improvements that made his job harder.

Back in the mid 90’s, while at Allied Security, now Allied-Barton, I had a colleague, right out of college. His attitude was practically the same. He was in the wrong job in the wrong city, for the wrong reasons, and he let everyone know it. And he also let everyone know that his criminal justice degree made him better than everyone else at the company, including the managers.

I literally could spend the next month writing about this subject I’ve had so many people with and without degrees. The one thing I found that made the best officers, supervisors and managers as well, were those without a degree.

It’s not that they were submissive and did what they were told, but that they were conscientious and concerned about their job, not moving on to another with better pay. And while they certainly couldn’t pass a college aptitude test, they knew the elements of security & customer service better than most.

I’ve served under managers who have had a degree. That didn’t make them a good manager. In some cases it made them worse. One manager had a teaching degree for elementary school. And he managed that way, treating everyone and everything as children and refusing to handle the issues within his area of responsibility, except in the limited way that elementary teachers are accustomed to. And he let the district manager bully him in every possible way.

So, I’ve been passed over and not given a second look on more than a few job applications, as well as promotions back in the day, because I don’t have a degree. I firmly believe that experience should count for more than just passing time until a better offer comes around. I am self-taught in security, and customer service, by reading, learning, & absorbing everything I could and can, & having some great managers.

Does this mean that certifications aren’t important within the field? No. If you’re serious about staying in the field and wish to do as I am want to (save lives & property), then getting a certification will help.

Garnering your CPP (Certified Protection Professional), PSP (Physical Security Professional), CSMP (Certified Security management Professional), even the CPO (Certified Protection Officer) or something similar is a worthwhile endeavor and should be followed-up on.

But spending 4 years in college learning how to learn and nothing but ‘book learnin’ helps no one except the colleges and universities. In order to be a true security professional you need to work in the field, garnering the practical knowledge needed to be effective in this ever changing career.

You need to work in a farm field with mud up to your knees, to secure a special event. You need to sit post on the Missouri River bank in July with all the mosquitos swarming around you. You need to work 3rd shift in a warehouse so dark you can’t see past the flashlight. You need to be around chemical spills and active shooter events that threaten the facility.

And you need to have the customer service and people skills necessary to deal with anything unexpected that comes up within your purview. And unfortunately, most of those with a college degree that start in security right after college have not a clue of the conditions their officers work in or how to handle a crisis. And even some of those who have a college degree years ago but are new to security are in the same boat.

So next time you interview someone without a college degree and only experience give them a second look. They may be exactly who you need. Not the ideal candidate, but… the one you need. And they can learn even better I would wager, because I’ve seen, lived, & managed it.

Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security field for 32 years, and 24 studying workplace violence issues. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV and other security issues, as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.