The guarding business is strong and growing, with firms providing a diversity of services. The top six firms surveyed by SECURITY magazine employ about 19 percent of the total security guards in the United States. And guarding companies say that, on average, hours billed increased by 20 percent in 2002 compared to 2001.

For the first in an annual ranking project, SECURITY magazine surveyed North American guarding companies last fall, asking top executives to describe their companies, the number of officers they employ, their revenue, and their diversification, as well as other company specifics. SECURITY ranked the responding contract guarding agencies according to revenue and other factors.


Some facts emerged:

  • The six biggest companies employ a total of 189,000 full- and part-time officers.
  • The top contract security guard firm has guarding revenue of $3.1 billion.
  • Guarding firms report a revenue increase of a little more than 13 percent in 2003, compared to the prior year.
  • Most contracted security officers work in corporate and office buildings, and retail environments.
  • A majority of guarding companies provides both armed and unarmed officers, usually for static and vehicle patrols.
  • Beyond guards, firms offer investigation services, bodyguards and security system design and installation.
  • Nearly two in 10 of guarding firms say they purchased another firm in 2002, while 10 percent say they completed the purchase of another firm in the first half of last year.
  • The vast majority of guarding companies (95 percent) says the impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks led to more business, but that much of that additional business was made up of temporary or part-time guards.


This sounds good for the industry. However, it's not all roses.

Competitive price cutting is a common worry. So is the pressure to attract and retain personnel, and keep up with myriad state regulations, as well as face the challenge of convincing executives who contract for officers to pay more for higher quality guards who are better trained and supervised.

The SECURITY Top Guarding Companies Survey complements statistics from the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. The federal agency anticipates strong growth for security guards and gaming surveillance officers.

Although all security guards perform many of the same duties, specific duties vary based on whether the guard works in a “static” security position or on a mobile patrol.


Large Workforce

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards and gaming surveillance officers hold more than 1.1 million jobs. Taking out gaming, the bureau estimates current security guard employment at about 995,510, with a mean hourly wage of $9.84 and a mean annual wage of $20,460. Median annual earnings of security guards were $17,570 in 2000. Industrial security firms and guard agencies employed 60 percent of all wage and salary guards. The SECURITY Top Guarding Companies report shows that corporations, building owners and retail establishments are most likely to contract security officers.

Most states require that guards be licensed. According to the SECURITY survey, a majority of guarding companies finds the variety of regulations to be a challenge. To be licensed as a guard, individuals usually must be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and complete classroom training in such subjects as property rights, emergency procedures and detention of suspected criminals. Drug testing often is required, and may be random and ongoing. Security guard licensing authorities in more than 30 states and four Canadian provinces now are part of an overall group called the International Association of Security and Investigative Regulators in Waterloo, Iowa.

Training is another challenge identified in the SECURITY Top Guarding Companies survey. The amount of training that guards receive varies by location, assignment, guard firm and regulations. Overall, training requirements are higher for armed guards because their employers are legally responsible for any use of force. Armed guards receive formal training in areas such as weapons retention and laws covering the use of force.


Guard Employment Status

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, for security guards:

  • Favorable opportunities are expected for lower paying jobs, but stiff competition is likely for higher paying positions at facilities requiring a high level of security, such as nuclear plants and government installations.
  • Some positions, such as those of armored car guards, are hazardous.
  • Because of limited formal training requirements and flexible hours, this occupation attracts many individuals seeking a second or part-time job.


Top 5 Guarding Firms by Revenue

Company 2002 Revenue

  1. Securitas Security Services $3.1 B
  2. Wackenhut Corp., The $1.3 B
  3. Allied Security $515 M
  4. Barton Protective Services $340 M
  5. Initial Security $268.2 M

Source: SECURITY, Top Guarding Companies Survey, January 2004


Top Guarding Firms*

  1. 2002 No. Full-time No. of Part-Time Coverage
  2. Company Headquarters City Revenue Guards Guards Area
  3. A&R Security Services Blue Island, IL $20 M 700 300 IL, IN, MI, OH
  4. Allied Security King of Prussia, PA $515 M 20,519 40 States
  5. Barton Protective Services Atlanta $340 M 10,958 1,698 18 States
  6. Cognisa Security Inc. Atlanta not available 6,000 Continental U.S.
  7. FJC Security Services Floral Park, NY $49 M 2,400 NY, NJ, VT
  8. Initial Security San Antonio, TX $268.2 M 10,000 2,000 Continental U.S.
  9. McRoberts Protective Agency New York $23 M 950 150 7 East Coast States
  10. Metropolitan Security Inc. Chattanooga, TN $25 M 816 251 6 States
  11. Monterrey Security Chicago $3 M 200 300 Illinois
  12. National Security Inc. San Jose, CA $7.8 M 225 68 California
  13. Per Mar Security Services Davenport, IA $21.2 M 768 424 10 States
  14. Scaife Protection Services Lawndale, CA $6.78 M 645 276 California
  15. Securiguard Services Vancouver, BC C$19.4 M 500 350 BC, Canada
  16. Securitas Security Services Chicago $3.1 B 80,000 20,000 Nationwide
  17. Security Services of America Morehead, NC $85.2 M 3,192 1,360 Continental U.S.
  18. Shield Security Orange, CA $25 M 900 300 Southern CA
  19. St. Moritz Security Services Pittsburgh $21 M 1,000 500 Nationwide
  20. T&M Protection Resources New York $25 M 800 New York
  21. Vance International Inc. Oakton, VA $67.7 M 1,476 634 Continental U.S.
  22. Wackenhut Corp., The Palm Beach Gardens, FL $1.3 B 38,000 Nationwide

* Submitting data as of September 30, 2003


What About Unionizing?

There are security guards in bargaining unions in various parts of the country and in various types of industries. One interesting union advance happened two years ago when the Roseville, Mich.-based Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) was part of consolidation of the National Alliance of Police, Security and Corrections Officers. The Federation of Police, Security and Corrections Officers and the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers and the American Federation of Security Officers merged with SPFPA to become what it claims is the nation’s largest security union.


What About Regulation?

The security guarding industry is regulated most often on the state level, with agencies licensing private security, private investigators and sometimes alarm firms, too. There are Federal regulations but they apply to Federal agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Transportation Security Administration.

For the last decade, state regulators have been working more closely together. In the spring of 1993, for example, 15 state-licensing regulators met in Orlando, Fla., and represented Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

This farsighted group of state representatives realized the need to unite for the purpose of sharing information. They agreed that by joining hands to accomplish certain goals, they could enhance their ability to regulate and assist in promoting the professionalism of the private security, private investigative, alarm and related industries.


Guarding Agencies Diversify

Contract guard companies often expand their offerings to include more than security officers. The most popular:

  1. Investigations
  2. Bodyguards
  3. Security System Design/Installation
  4. Employee Screening
  5. Due Diligence
  6. Central Station Monitoring
  7. Cash Handling
  8. Workers Compensation Investigations
  9. Fire Rescue
  10. Proprietary Officer Training

Beyond the core business of security officers, firms most often add services that depend on a labor pool.

Source: SECURITY, Top Guarding Companies Survey, January 2004


Guarding Revenue, Hours Billed Rise: 2003 vs 2002

13.40% Average Revenue Growth

20.25% Average Increase in Hours Billed

The nation’s contract guard agencies saw growth in hours billed and overall

guarding revenue between 2002 and 2003.

Guarding Firms Buy Way to Growth

10% Completed Purchase of Another Firm between January and June, 2003

18% Purchased Another Firm in 2002

Guarding firms purchased other companies as a way to grow their business. However, the rate of acquisition slowed somewhat in the first half of last year, according to Maddry and Associates, which tracks security industry mergers and acquisitions.

10 Most Common Users of Guarding Services

Guarding companies say their customers most often fall into the following categories.

  1. Corporations
  2. Property Management
  3. Retail
  4. Industrial Plants
  5. Educational Facilities
  6. Healthcare/Hospitals
  7. Government Buildings
  8. Museums/Libraries/Cultural Facilities
  9. Utilities
  10. Seaports/Marinas

While security guarding started with railroads and industrial sites more than a century ago, the biggest customer base today centers on corporate and office buildings, and stores. Respondents to SECURITY’s annual survey listed 10 organizations that top the client list.

Source: SECURITY, Top Guarding Companies Survey, January 2004