How to Get a Higher-Paying Security Guard Job
You may have heard that the security guard job market is growing in Canada. And it’s true.
There’s more demand for certified security guards than there are qualified people to fill those jobs… and the market isn’t expected to slow down.
In fact, jobs in security are sometimes called “recession proof” — when others are let go, organizations often keep security workers.
But you may also know that not all jobs in security are equal. Compensation, hours, job security, benefits and work environment vary widely.
In this post we’ll explain what you can expect and how to get higher-paying security jobs that fit your lifestyle needs.
Security Guards Wages in Canada
As a prospective security guard, you want to be sure the training and certification is worth the wages you’ll earn.
While it’s true that some front line workers make minimum wage, many entry level positions pay well and there is room for advancement. It’s worth the investment in your licensing if you navigate the job market wisely.
As one government Peace Officer writes, “Frankly there is money to be made in security, especially when you track your career development right. When I was working for TDSB 3 years ago I was already making close to $30/hr driving around resetting alarm panels. The front line officers at my current workplace are topping out at $80k/year + overtime + full OMERS pension. My supervisors are nearing the sunshine list.”
The most recent Government of Canada statistics show that across Canada in 2016-17 (before minimum wages went up in some provinces), on average:
The bottom 10% of earners in the field made $11.50 per hour
The middle (median) 80% of security workers earned $15.96 hourly
The top 10% made $24.86 per hour
But in some high-demand areas wages per hour reached $30 or more.
For example, the top 10% of earners in some regions of Canada garnered $27 to $32 per hour, including in the North Shore Region of Nova Scotia, the Mauricie Region of Quebec, the Regina-Moose Mountain Region of Saskatchewan and the Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake Region of Alberta. In Nunavut, the top 10% of security workers earned a stunning $44.56/hour in 2016-17.
Even the median wage for a security guard in Alberta in 2016-17 was high at $17.50 to $19 per hour. And in several urban areas in Ontario, the average low wage was $14 per hour.
(Source: Job Bank, Government of Canada)
Based on these statistics — again, gathered before minimum wages went up — a job as a security guard in Canada pays competitively. This is especially true considering post-secondary education — or education recognized in Canada — is often not required.
Security Guard Hours and Job Security
While every prospective security guard would prefer the best possible pay, beyond compensation, opinions vary on what defines a good job.
Some security workers are looking for part-time jobs or irregular shifts. There is certainly demand for security guards who will work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. If you have family to care for during the day or take classes, these positions can be ideal.
Others want full-time, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.
The good news is, you can find a good security job that fits your schedule.
The most recent Canadian Labour Force Survey (2015) shows that 78% of security guard workers held full-time positions, which is only slightly less than the average of 81% for all occupations. (Source: Job Bank, Government of Canada)
That means roughly 22% of security guard jobs are part-time and perfect for anyone juggling other commitments.
The security guard industry may also offer more job stability. Compared to other jobs in Canada, as a security guard you are more likely to be part of a union. (It’s called the “Security guards and related security service occupations NOC 654”). In fact, about 4 out of 10 workers in security are unionized. (Source: Job Bank, Government of Canada)
So, whether you prioritize flexibility or stability, there is a job in security for you.
Security Guard Job Benefits
When we talk about benefits, we typically mean any combination of:
- Insurance, health, dental and other wellness plans
- Pension and retirement plans
- Leave time and flexible time
- Vacation, paid time off and sick leave
- Support for professional development
- Other perks, like free lunches
If you’re looking for benefits like these, you can find them as a security guard!
A search of Indeed.com shows that out of 1,715 jobs in Canada currently listed with the keyword “security guard”, 622 included the words “benefits” and “vacation” in the job posting. That’s more than one in three!
According to experienced security guards, in-house jobs are your best bet for benefits. Look for jobs in government agencies, healthcare, universities, museums and some private companies.
But don’t neglect private security companies, which often provide benefits as well.
Glassdoor.ca can give you a glimpse into what benefits are standard for employees at almost any large company. Screen prospective employers in advance to narrow the list of companies you’ll apply to when you’re certified as a security guard.
Security Guard Work Environment
What about the less tangible aspects of a “good job in security”? Often, it comes down to the job environment, including setting, pace, physical demands, interactions and workplace culture.
Few other job markets can offer as much variety when it comes to work environments. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert; whether you prefer indoors or outdoors; intense challenge or low risk; physical or sedentary jobs, you can find a security role that suits your preferences.
If you prefer indoor work with more personal interactions and routine tasks, a job as a condo or office concierge may be right for you. Consider bank security work as well.
Security guard positions in nicer hotels can be similar to condo or office building environments, but with more public interaction and variety.
Checking employee IDs at the gates to a factory, plant or other secure workplace can include more exposure to the elements. The same is true for security at a construction site.
Public settings, like malls, airports, train or bus stations, ferry terminals or hospitals can be more demanding and involve physical patrolling. If you’re looking to gain experience for a long-term career in security, private or public sector, these more challenging jobs may be right for you!
Don’t mind late hours? If you’re confident handling intoxicated customers, consider security jobs at bars, clubs and concert venues.
On the other end of the spectrum are jobs at museums, galleries and performing arts centres — typically calmer environments.
To narrow your job search, ask yourself:
- Do you want to work as part of a security team or independently?
- What type of customers do you prefer to serve?
- Do you prefer more or less public interaction?
- Are you happier with more variety or more routine?
- Do you like more or less risk?
- Is your dream job physical or a desk job?
- Do you want to work with high-tech security equipment?
Whatever your preferred work environment and no matter what you want to get out of a job, you can create your own future in security. It starts with being the better-qualified candidate.
Who Can Get the Best Security Guard Jobs?
Again, quoting the government Peace Officer, “There is no shortage of quality high paying postings out there, it’s up to you to mold yourself into the qualified candidate that these organizations are looking to hire.”
But to have your pick of placements, you need to stand out from the other applicants. That means going beyond the basic, required security guard training.
It means showing you have the “soft skills” or people skills top employers look for. You can get that from experience, of course, but you can also fast-track to a better job when you take online training that teaches you communication, professionalism and prepares you for tough situational interview questions.
To be the top candidate for the job of your choice, you also need to upgrade your skill set with advanced certifications. Better employers can choose between applicants who have simply completed their provincial security guard certification and those who have also taken advanced courses. Every time, they’ll choose the candidates who demonstrate a commitment to being the best possible security professional.
While workplace experience takes time, upgrading your certifications can be a quick win. With easy-to-take online courses, you can boost the appeal of your resume in little time and at a low cost.
Just adding these certifications to your resume could make the difference between starting at $12/hour or starting at $15+ hourly.
The faster you prove your qualifications, the more doors will open to higher-paying, more secure security jobs with the benefits and flexibility you want.
In the words of the experienced government peace officer, “At the end of the day, it's up to the candidate himself to advance his career path. There are a lot of avenues that a guard can grow into, i.e. by-law enforcement, fare inspectors, trainers, supervisory roles, security systems etc... you are not stuck being a front line guard for the rest of your life unless you choose to."
We want to help you advance as a security professional as quickly as possible. That’s why NAME training focuses on getting you the credentials better employers demand. Plus, with more emphasis on soft skills and a library of bonus training, NAME courses prepare you to stand out in interviews.