Jobs and Careers in Public Safety: Bodyguards


School Subjects:

  • Physical education
  • Psychology

Personal Skills:

  • Helping/teaching


  • Indoors and outdoors
  • Primarily multiple locations

Minimum Education level:

  • High school diploma

Salary Range:

  • $22,000 to $45,000 to $135,000

Certification or Licensing:

  • Recommended


  • Faster than the average


Bodyguards protect their clients from injury, kidnapping, harassment, or other types of harm. They may guard a politician during a political campaign, a business executive on a worldwide trip, a movie star going to the Academy Awards, or anyone else who wants personal protection. Bodyguards may be employed by a government agency, by a private security firm, or directly by an individual.

Bodyguards work in potentially dangerous situations and must be trained to anticipate and respond to emergencies. They may carry weapons. Bodyguards combine the ability to react quickly and expertly in a tense or dangerous situation with the ability to predict, prevent, or avoid many of these situations.


People, especially rich and powerful people, have always needed protection. Whether a king or queen mingling with his or her subjects or a Roman senator meeting with various plaintiffs in a legal case, people who made important decisions or controlled large sums of money always had guards whom hey could trust by their side.

As security demands became more complex, the role of bodyguard evolved and expanded. No longer was it enough to simply know how to use a gun or to be particularly adept at fist fighting. Bodyguards were expected to help devise strategies to avoid problem situations. They used new surveillance techniques, planning strategies, and other tactics to anticipate possible dangerous situations.

In recent times bodyguards have become involved in many different types of situations. Rock stars or movie stars hire bodyguards to protect them against getting mobbed by overzealous fans. Executives of large corporations are also likely to enlist the aid of a bodyguard to protect against possible kid napping or other types of harm. Bodyguards often accompany their clients overseas because police in other countries might not be able to provide the type of security the clients have come to expect. Bodyguards often drive their clients from place to place while on assignment.

The Job

Although a bodyguard’s ultimate responsibility is relatively straightforward— to protect a client from danger—there are a wide variety of tasks involved in this assignment. Bodyguards are part personal aide and part police officer. As personal aides, bodyguards help plan and implement schedules; as police officers, they protect their clients at public or private events.

Bodyguards face possible danger whenever they are on duty. When there was an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in March 1981, for example, his Secret Service bodyguards quickly shielded the president as gunshots were fired. Bodyguards may have to sacrifice their own security in defense of those they are hired to protect. Of course, bodyguards are not just sitting targets. They are trained how to react in any situation, life-threatening or not. Skilled bodyguards do all they can to minimize danger to those they are protecting, as well as to themselves. As a result of their careful preparation, bodyguards carry out most assignments relatively uneventfully

By keeping a watchful eye on their clients, bodyguards are able to avoid many possible problems. In many cases, people are not actually out to harm a client but are simply interested in meeting an important person. Bodyguards learn not to overreact to these encounters, and in most cases, a polite warning eliminates any potential problem.

When a client hires a bodyguard for a specific event, the bodyguard will determine how many additional people may be needed to provide adequate protection. The client’s schedule and travel arrangements will be coordinated for maximum security and, if the client is appearing at a public event, the bodyguard will become familiar with the location, especially the exits and secured areas, in case the client needs sudden and immediate protection from danger.

Bodyguards often work in tandem with other security people as part of a large security operation. For example, bodyguards may help develop a plan to safeguard a major politician who is giving a speech, while security guards develop a plan to safeguard the building where the speech will take place. All security personnel meet to discuss overall arrangements to ensure that specific details are worked out. Typically, one person will coordinate the security operations.

Bodyguards are hired to protect their clients, and activities that infringe on this job must be avoided. At a presidential dinner, for example, a body guard must keep an eye on the client and not become engaged in idle chatter with guests. Bodyguards should not confuse the power and excitement of an assignment with self-importance. Indeed, it is the person who can remain calm in the midst of an exciting event and can sense possible danger when all eyes are elsewhere that makes a skillful bodyguard.


High School

Since bodyguards must be prepared for any possibility the more skilled and knowledgeable they are in a range of areas, the better the protection they can offer someone. If you are interested in becoming a bodyguard, in high school you should take courses in a variety of subjects, including psychology English, and especially physical education.


Bodyguards often begin their careers as police officers, where they learn the necessary skills of crowd control, use of weapons, and emergency response. Some people may also receive training in the armed forces and in this way develop the skills necessary to protect themselves and others, Generally, bodyguards will receive Some higher education (including a college degree), although this is not always necessary. A well-educated person can often he the most responsive to rapidly changing situations, and, of course, work in crowd psychology, law, and criminal justice can help a bodyguard better understand the demands of the job. On-the-job experience with different types of people in stressful situations is an integral part of the training.

Certification or Licensing

Certification, while not required, will enhance your professional image in the eyes of potential employers. The American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International administers the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) program. Applicants must pass a multiple choice exam focusing on seven areas of security management: Emergency Management, Investigations, Legal Aspects, Personnel Security, Physical Security, Protection of Sensitive Information, and Security Management.

Other Requirements

Since many bodyguards are former police officers, bodyguards generally must be above the minimum age for police officers. This minimum age varies from 18 to 21, depending on the city or state. If a bodyguard comes from the police ranks, he or she must also have passed a thorough physical exam. Many bodyguards also begin their careers as security guards or as other types of security personnel, for which they receive special training. Other body guards come from a military background.

Excellent physical fitness is a requirement for a bodyguard. Despite a popular image of bodyguards as big and tough men, extreme physical strength is not an absolute requirement and many women have made successful careers as bodyguards. It is much more important that a bodyguard combine intelligence, sensitivity, and bravery with the ability to act quickly and decisively

Many bodyguards receive training in martial arts, and increasingly they are incorporating the study of counterintelligence operations, electronic security devices, and surveillance techniques. Bodyguards often have training in first aid. Many bodyguards are also trained in specialized defensive driving techniques that enable them to maintain better control of a vehicle in emergency situations.

Bodyguards who travel overseas must be well versed in the language and culture of the host country. Good verbal skills are vital, and a bodyguard must he able to communicate directions to people at all times. A bodyguard must also be aware of what to expect in any situation. That is why an under standing of the customs of a certain area can help the bodyguard perceive unusual events and be alert for possible problems. Similarly the legal use, registration, and licensing of weapons differs from country to country and the bodyguard who travels overseas needs to be familiar with the regulations governing weapons in the country in which he or she is working.

Since bodyguards often work with important people and around sensitive information, they may be required to take a lie detector test before they begin work. Background checks of their work and personal histories may also be required. Bodyguards who work as permanent employees of a client must also exercise discretion and maintain confidentiality Bodyguards should have a keen eye for detail and be able to spot trouble long before it happens. This ability to anticipate problems is crucial. A good bodyguard should rarely have to stop a kidnapping attempt as it occurs, for example, but should rather prevent the attempt from happening, through a combination of careful planning and skilled observation. If action is needed, however, the response must be swift and effective.


Because bodyguards must be mature and highly skilled, it is difficult to obtain real opportunities to explore this career while still in high school. Nevertheless, there are chances to take classes and talk to people to get a feel for the demands of the profession. Classes in criminal justice should give an indication of the challenges involved in protecting people. Talking to a police officer who works part-time as a bodyguard is another good way of learning about opportunities in this field. Many police departments hire high school students as police trainees or interns, providing an excellent introduction to careers in security and law enforcement.

Without the requisite skills and experience, it is difficult to get summer work as a bodyguard. It may be possible, however, to work in some other capacity at a security firm that hires bodyguards and in this way interact with bodyguards and learn more about the day-to-day rewards and challenges of the profession.


Bodyguards can find work with private security firms and government agencies. They are also employed by politicians, rock stars, and other individuals in the public eye who need personal protection.

Starting Out

Many people begin a career as a bodyguard on a part-time basis; for example, police officers often take on assignments while off-duty from police work. The reason that most of them start on a part-time basis is that the police training they receive is ideal preparation for work as a bodyguard. In addition to the excellent training a police officer receives, the officer is often in a good spot to receive job offers. Someone looking for a bodyguard may call the local police station and ask if there are officers willing to take on an assignment. Then, as a person acquires greater experience in being a body guard and more and more people know of the person’s skills and availability, additional work becomes available. That person may then work full time as a bodyguard or continue on a part-time basis.

Military service may also provide the background and skills for entry into this field. Many bodyguards enter this career after service in one of the Special Forces, such as the Green Berets or the Navy SEALs, or after experience in the Military Police. Other bodyguards enter this field through a career with private security companies and often begin training while employed as security guards. Careers with the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other government police and intelligence agencies may also provide the necessary background for a career as a bodyguard. In fact, a successful history with one of these respected agencies is one of the most attractive factors for potential employers.


Those who enter the field as part-time bodyguards may soon find full-time work. As bodyguards develop their skills and reputation, they may be hired by private security firms or government agencies. They may be given additional training in Intelligence operations, surveillance techniques, and the use of sophisticated firearms.

Some bodyguards find opportunities as personal protection and security consultants. These consultants work for private companies, evaluating personal security operations and recommending changes. They may begin their own security services companies or advance to supervisory and director’s positions within an existing company.


Many bodyguards begin their careers on a part-time basis and earn between $25 and $50 per hour for routine assignments. These assignments might last several hours. Earnings for full-time bodyguards vary enormously but generally fall within the range of $22,000 and $135,000 per year, with an aver age of $45,000 per year. A bodyguard’s earnings depend on his or her experience, the notoriety or prestige of the client, the type of assignment, and whether the bodyguard is employed directly by the client or through a security agency. Highly dangerous, sensitive, or classified assignments generally pay more highly than do more routine protective assignments. Training in special skills, such as electronic surveillance also brings higher wages.

Bodyguards employed by private security firms may receive health and life insurance benefits and other benefits. Benefits vary for those employed by private clients. Bodyguards who work as part of a government agency receive health and life insurance, vacation, holiday, and sick leave pay, and a pension plan. Self-employed bodyguards must provide their own insurance.

Work Environment

A bodyguard goes wherever the client goes. This means that the job can be physically demanding. Bodyguards must also have the strength and coordination to take actions to protect the client if the situation warrants it. A body guard must be able to act swiftly and decisively to thwart any attempt to harm a client.

Bodyguards must be willing to risk their own safety to protect their clients. They should be comfortable handling firearms and using physical means of restraining people.

Since bodyguards must accompany their clients at all times, there is no set work schedule. Bodyguards often work highly irregular hours, such as late evenings followed by morning assignments. It is also not unusual to work weekends, since this is when many high-profile clients make public appearances. Travel is a frequent component of the job.

Career opportunities for bodyguards are likely to increase faster than the average through 2006 as more and more people look to bodyguards for protection. The threat of kidnapping and terrorism is always present for politicians, celebrities, business leaders, and others who enjoy wide recognition, and these individuals will take steps to safeguard themselves and their families by hiring bodyguards. As more and more companies enter the global economy, their business will take their executives to more areas of social and political unrest, and companies will need to increase their efforts for protecting their employees.

Government agencies will continue to hire bodyguards, but much of the growth in employment will take place in the private sector. Many body guards will find work with private security companies. Some estimates suggest that employment in private security may nearly double over the next decade.

Those with the most skill and experience will enjoy the best employ ment prospects. While the majority of bodyguards continue to be men, the increasing use of advanced security technologies will open up more and more opportunities for women.

For More Information

For membership information, contact:

International Association of Personal Protection Agents

458 West Kenwood

Brighton, TN 38011-6294

Tel: 901-837-1915



For information on security careers and the Certified Protection Professional designation, contact:

American Society for Industrial Security

1625 Prince Street

Alexandria, VA 223 14-2818

Tel: 703-519-6200


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