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Understanding California Security Guard Requirements: Unarmed vs. Armed Training and the Role of BSIS

According to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) labor market data, the state expects private contract security firms to hire about 11,000 new security officers by 2028. In California security guards earn an average of $30,000 to $40,000 per year and get to work in a variety of exciting locations like movie sets, special events, awards shows, major collegiate and professional sporting events, and concerts.

In California, the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) is responsible for licensing and regulating private security guards. A license is required to be employed as an unarmed or armed security officer in California. BSIS provides regulatory oversight of the security industry and sets the standards for training and eligibility criteria.

Pre-Hiring California Security Guard Requirements:

  1. Be 18 years of age or older. There is no official educational requirement, but most employers will want to you to have a high school diploma or GED. Citizenship is not necessary, but you must present documentation of right to work in the US.

  2. Submit fingerprints and pass a background check conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). A $49 fee will apply. A record of any violent crime or felony will disqualify you from obtaining a license. Any offenses must be listed on your application, and you will have the opportunity to explain the circumstances/resolution to the Bureau.

  3. Complete 40 hours of BSIS-approved training from a BSIS-certified training provider. The training may be completed online, or taken at select community colleges or tech schools which offer security guard training programs in person. However, only the first eight (8) hours of pre-license training covering Power to Arrest (4 hours), and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Terrorism Awareness (4 hours) need to be completed before submitting your application to BSIS and working as a security officer. Candidates must pass a final exam with a 100% score in order to submit an application. (Don't worry, it’s an open book test you can retake as many times as necessary).

Post Hiring California Security Guard Requirements:

The remaining 32 hours of BSIS-approved training can be taken while on the job; 16 hours of training in the first 30 days of employment, and 16 more hours within the first six months. These hours are evenly split between mandatory and elective training courses. Mandatory topics include:

  • Public relations
  • Observation and documentation
  • Communication
  • Legal aspects and liability

Elective training can focus on a number of subjects such as crowd control, first aid/CPR, parking/traffic control, fire safety, workplace violence, evacuation procedures, and others. BSIS provides a list and indicates the number of hours required for credit. Your training provider will offer these coursesbut make sure the provider is BSIS-certified or the course will not count toward your training hours.

After you have completed the mandatory training and had your fingerprints taken – find a DOJ live scan fingerprint location here you will submit your Application for Security Guard Registration to BSIS along with a fee of $55. Unarmed guards need to complete 8 hours of refresher training each year to maintain their license. Carry your license with you at all times while on duty.

You’ll also need to create a California Government BreEZe account to submit your license application, check approval status, make payments, and to renew your license or register a change of address with the state in the future.

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Armed Guard Qualifications

To become an armed security officer in California, you are required to complete the same BSIS training requirements for unarmed guards and meet these additional standards:

  • Be 21 years of age or older.
  • Be a citizen of the United States or have permanent legal immigration status.
  • Not be banned from owning or possessing any firearm pursuant to State or Federal law.
  • Complete 14 hours of additional firearms training consisting of 8 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours on a Bureau-approved range.

Firearm permits are valid for two years, but you must requalify once per year. You can find the BSIS Firearms Permit Fact Sheet and how to apply here.

Get Your California Security Guard Career Started with Defencify

Defencify is one of the BSIS-certified providers for unarmed security officer training. But rather than attend live training at a California community college or tech school with its associated fixed class schedules, travel time, and expenses, Defencify’s online training courses allow you to achieve your goals on your schedule.

Register now and start immediately; no need to wait until the next class fills up. Take Defencify courses at the time, place, and on the device of your choosing. Study at your pace. Repeat modules as many times as necessary to absorb the knowledge and pass the tests.

Our self-paced, online unarmed security officer training programs are guaranteed to meet California licensing requirements to earn your Guard Card. The California BSIS New Security Officer Training Course was created by Defencify instructional designers to specifically follow BSIS requirements to ensure the training delivers the mandatory subjects and hours for credit.

Defencify offers several options to get your California Guard Card Training:

  • Purchase the 8-hour mandatory pre-license training course needed to submit your application.
  • Purchase the 32-hour course bundle after you have passed the 8 hours of Power to Arrest and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Terrorism Awareness training.
  • Purchase the full 40-hour bundle at a discounted rate to have access to all the mandatory and elective training needed to earn your license in one transaction.

Defencify also offers the annual refresher training course as well as sexual harassment and COVID-19 training optimized for California’s labor laws.

All Defencify courses are designed using modern eLearning technologies and adult learning theory techniques to make the training fun and memorable. Modules incorporate games, interactive scenarios, and rewards with built-in knowledge checks to reinforce learning points and ensure you are prepared to pass the final exam. Upon doing so, you’ll print a BSIS-approved training certificate as proof of education to submit with your application.

If you are looking for convenient, online training to become a licensed security officer in the state of California, you found it. Visit to learn more about the BSIS-approved training you need to get your Guard Card and begin your career as quickly as possible

For California-based private security guard firms, Defencify can help streamline the training process for your entire workforce. Sign up for a free trial of Defencify’s courseware offerings to see how Defencify can get your new hires into the field faster.

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