A career in security management comes with diverse options for growth and impact, and the many different pathways available are not always clear or intuitive. There are many questions when trying to plan for your future, whether you are just starting or a tenured professional contemplating a career transition.

What traits and competencies do certain professionals need at different stages in their careers? Should I focus on becoming more specialized or growing into broader responsibilities? How can I take my career to the next level?

Unlike some professions that provide a linear career path, security is diverse, comprising many job roles, salary levels, career opportunities, and sectors. At the highest level, security can include many functions for business organizations related to the provision of security services and technology. Employment opportunities range in terms of salary and position from entry-level security guard positions to investigators specializing in specific areas to Directors at major global corporations.

Three Career Stages

Security professionals generally fall into one of three career stages.

  • Professional Level: These are the doers who are generally at the beginning of their security careers.
  • Management Level: These are the delegators who manage specific security functions and supervise people to carry out security duties.
  • Executive Level: These are the visionaries who bring strategic and critical insight to helping an organization protect its assets.

To illustrate, at the management level, security professionals may have a title such as Director of Security or, merely, Security Manager. They will have oversight over one or more security functions, direct and coordinate resources to accomplish those functions, develop and implement strategies to understand and manage risk, and likely have some budgeting, strategy, and human resources responsibilities. A successful security manager will have a firm grasp of security fundamentals and risk management and possess a high degree of leadership capability and integrity.

Advancing to the Next Career Stage

Before entering into the security profession, individuals often come from various educational backgrounds. Some of the more common areas of study include criminal justice, business administration, business management, law enforcement and correction, information, or systems technology, and more.

After obtaining post-secondary education, most professionals take an entry-level position—a professional-level role—in security management and grow their careers from there, or they may come to security from an entirely different sector. The most common backgrounds include law enforcement, military, or business administration and management from another sector. A managerial or executive-level professional, for example, can come from a long career in the security profession, growing from professional to managerial to executive, or transition into the field from higher levels within military or law enforcement.

Security professionals have several common ways to increase their expertise and, including certifications and credentialing opportunities. The most common is the Certified Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP).

Security professionals looking to advance to the next career stage should be developing and working on improvement strategies that build on the skills and competencies they already have so that they continue to excel in their current roles while also working to acquire the knowledge and experience required to excel at the next level. PPI Education offers a variety of Applied and Technical Certification courses as well as certification designation programs.

As a Security professional, you need to be intentional in how you approach career advancement. Although the myriad of security career pathways underscores the diverse nature of the profession, the download guide in the footer will help you navigate the training needed to advance in your career.