What a Security Career Can Do for You
Put aside everything you’ve ever thought about security.
The industry of the future isn’t going to be about watching a surveillance camera at 3 a.m. It’s a world of rapidly changing technology powered by artificial intelligence. It’s a diverse, welcoming community focused on protecting the things that matter – and where lifelong friendships are made. Ready to unlock your potential? Find the key to your future with a career in the world of security.
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Amazing Career Options, As Explained by Real Security Professionals
The security industry is a fast-growing and influential tech sector, but it is also one that is sometimes overlooked by job seekers. So the Security Industry Association talked to 11 security professionals across a range of positions, technology sectors and experience levels to provide this collection of insights into what the industry is like and what opportunities it has to offer.
What, Exactly, Is the Security Industry?
Broadly speaking, there are two components to the security industry. Many people think first of practitioners – the most visible representatives of which are security guards, though there are many other positions, up to and including security director and chief security officer (CSO). The other part of the industry is composed of providers – the people and companies who design, manufacture, install and integrate security products and services. This is a multibillion-dollar industry that produces and deploys traditional security equipment like surveillance cameras and access control devices along with leading-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, data and video analytics, biometrics and drones and robotics, to protect people, property and assets. As physical security has evolved into more connected systems, it has converged with cybersecurity, making physical security and cybersecurity mutually interdependent and, for many practical purposes, inseparable.
CESAR: It’s important to understand that the security industry is all around you, from the doors you walk through to the code you enter to get into a building and even the cameras watching over your car while you are in class. Once you can see the big picture, it becomes even easier to see where this career field can take you.
ANNA: I think one thing folks don’t always think about when it comes to roles in security is the tech aspect of the work. The technology is constantly changing and evolving, and folks are always learning.
ELAINE: Security is about to undergo a huge transformation as a result of the metaverse, Web 3.0, AI and blockchain.
ESSAM: The security industry is often confused with policing or physical protection. While some of those elements certainly have a role in this industry, what isn’t known to the vast majority of college students (and other professionals already in the workforce) is how much more this industry includes.
DAKOTA: Security is more than security guards. There’s a real focus on the development of security technology these days, and that is creating some buzz for innovation. Think outside the box and bring a new perspective to what some modern challenges are for all types of people.
I’ve Never Studied Anything About Security. Why Would This Career Make Sense for Me?
Few people in the industry have a story that begins, “I had always planned to work in security.” Rather, most security professionals happened to find that their skills and interests aligned very well with the opportunities available in what has often been an overlooked tech sector. Companies are not seeking security experts; they are looking for talented people who have the ability and ambition to become security experts.
ESSAM: Every single area of study you are passionate about plays a vital role in this space…I came into the industry by hearing a startup talk about their solution and quickly realizing they were missing a golden opportunity to solve for a challenge they didn’t even know their innovation could solve for. By connecting the dots and building upon my relationships, we started to solve for critical gaps in security. In just a short amount of time, I went from a rookie to a CIO/CTO with an extremely strong network filled with the biggest names in the industry as mentors, friends, colleagues and partners.
JILL: The security industry has something to offer for everyone to utilize their skills to make a difference. There are opportunities for personal growth, career development and great networking with people from around the world.
JAKE: Young individuals hear the word “security” and likely think of a security guard or financial securities. As someone who graduated from a business school, I feel that business schools and the security industry need to work together to push this as a career. The security industry is made up of businesses. It seems to me that a lot of business students are set on working for banks or Silicon Valley tech companies, and no one knows the amazing opportunities around the nation for them in this industry.
DAKOTA: Whether your major is in marketing, finance, project management, business or engineering, there’s a position for you in this industry.
KEYSER: Security has had a recent explosion of importance due to all the natural, biological and geopolitical events happening around the world, so the opportunities are vast. Personally speaking, I have been able to build my career in part because of the many opportunities that are currently available. The security industry is growing and changing for the better.
RACHEL: I originally started out working on Capitol Hill and hated it! I could never see progress of what I was working on. That changed when I joined the security industry.
What Kinds of Career Paths Does the Industry Offer?
There are as many job choices in security as there are in any other industry. People with tech skills might seek jobs in which they develop and deploy equipment, software and additional solutions, while others pursue the types of positions found in all businesses, including sales, marketing, human resources and many others.
ANNA: Folks can be service managers, system designers, engineers and project managers. It really just depends on what their professional goals are. All these roles allow for folks to be collaborative, creative problem solvers.
MARC: The security industry offers a little bit of everything for everyone. Fancy yourself a hands-on type of person? Perhaps a career in manufacturing or engineering, or as a locksmith or integrator. Prefer to market, sell or work on the back end of the business in a function like operations or HR? It’s not a matter of, “Does the job exist?” It’s, rather, the question of working for an established, stable industry leader or an exciting startup looking to create disruption.
JAKE: There are so many cool companies that have amazing, tangible products to sell. Having trouble finding a job in corporate finance/accounting at a bank or media company or tech company? Don’t worry. Plenty of security companies are offering identical salaries and similar benefits to other industries.
ESSAM: Biomedical engineers are finding a home in the ever-growing biometric solutions. Top-rated data analysts who are otherwise dreaming of Google and Accenture are finding great success working for OEMs in the security industry, as well as integrators, and have broken through to become directors of security. The path to success here is a great deal of fun and enlightening. Sales stars from outside the industry who are struggling to keep up with their numbers are thriving in a security industry built upon relationships.
CESAR: It is similar to when a doctor or lawyer chooses what specific field they want to practice. Are you great with your hands? Perhaps starting as an apprentice in field service may suit your needs. Are you a great public speaker? Then you may be the next sales rock star for the organization you choose to work for. It’s possible that neither of those may apply to you, and that’s OK – there are areas in product management, project management, code compliance, education and training and so many other fields that may be great for you.
Can I Make a Good Living Doing This?
Compensation is competitive as companies and organizations pursue talented employees who will help to shape a high-tech, forward-looking industry. Security, as compared to other tech sectors, also offers the advantage of relative job security. Companies and workers are generally better able to weather downturns, as during the Great Recession or the coronavirus pandemic, since security is a necessity, not a luxury.
RACHEL: The pay and benefits are great, and you get to work with technology that is ever-evolving and changing. It is pretty neat!
ELAINE: Salespeople can earn as much as $200K, whereas tech support is slightly less than half of that.
MARC: The security industry has so many opportunities for new and young professionals. Not only is the starting salary much higher than average for college graduates, but opportunities for advancement abound due to the fact that legacy industry leadership is aging.
CESAR: Money is important, right? Like most other fields, your compensation is based on the value you bring. So learn a lot and learn often!
TANYA: There are lucrative pay options and the ability to have upward mobility as you become a subject matter expert in your field. Plus, you have a true footprint on what matters most in the world, which is safety and security.
JAKE: Want to make money selling? You can do that anywhere in the security industry. It’s generally recession-proof, as everyone will need physical security and cybersecurity regardless of the economy.
Money Isn’t Everything – I Also Want to Feel Like My Job Means Something. Can Working in the Security Industry Provide That?
A security career offers an intangible benefit rarely found outside of public service – the knowledge that one’s work has consequence and is making a positive difference in the world. From alarms that deter burglars to AI-powered video analytics that identify suspected criminals to facial recognition systems that help to find missing children, the industry is defined by its ability to protect people and the things that are most important to them.
DAKOTA: This industry has purpose – every day we come to work to keep people safe. Each company and position has its own part to play in that end goal but, collectively, we’re working towards something much larger than us. You see these events that are happening in the news and our job is to make sure people are safe in those situations, no matter how big or small they may be.
ELAINE: Candidates should know that they will be contributing to making the world safer…This is a growing industry with lots of opportunities for learning new skills.
KEYSER: Working in security is a very fulfilling job. By protecting people, places and intelligence, you will feel a sense of belonging like no other.
MARC: Individually, most companies favor the collective mission of making the world a safer place far more than anything else, which makes coming to work every day that much more fulfilling.
ESSAM: Those inclined toward service are finding that a slight change in their path into this industry has given them great fulfillment in keeping communities safe while also building a strong financial future. The limit to what you can accomplish and do in security is nonexistent. Do good, feel good and grow!
RACHEL: [While working for a defense contractor] I got to compete with the largest integrators in the world and could see tangible progress on projects being won and built. I could do a site visit and see where our security system was going in. Not to mention these systems save lives, so you sleep pretty well at night knowing you’re protecting people who serve our great country.
I Would Like to Work With a Diverse Group of People. Isn’t the Security Industry (at Least in the United States) All White Men?
For a long time, the security industry consisted almost entirely of men, most of them white. In recent years, though, companies and organizations have dramatically increased their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) through programs such as the Security Industry Association’s Women in Security Forum and RISE community of young security professionals. This has helped the industry to look more and more like the society that it serves.
ESSAM: Diversity and inclusion haven’t been the industry’s strong suit – until now. The tide is turning, and the glass ceilings are breaking. Anyone looking to make their mark, this is the industry to do it in.
CESAR: The place you are going to be calling home should recognize its diverse workforce and foster a culture of inclusivity. Everyone on the team adds their own value and unique perspective, and the organization will be even better if it has a focus behind those initiatives. You also want to be able to have access to opportunities to advance if you qualify. Great managers will always want you to stay, but they should make sure you are prepared for the next step as well.
ELAINE: We’ve seen a groundswell of companies in our industry develop initiatives to make the industry look more like our customer base. This year, SIA recognized the Power 100: 100 women who have made a difference in DE&I.
TANYA: Creating and fostering environments where you can see people who look just like you, have been where you are and have grown their careers – wow, if they can do it, I can – helps one to create their own definition of success.
Work Is Work, But I Also Want to Enjoy My Career. What Is the Overall Culture Like?
The security industry is built on relationships, so events such as trade shows and conferences – which always include receptions and other fun components – have a big role. Through these events, people from various companies and various parts of the country, or even the world, are able to meet and teach and learn and have a good time – all while advancing their careers.
TANYA: There are many opportunities, such as participating in SIA and attending trade shows, to learn and to showcase your knowledge to others who are trying to land in the field. Reaching back is essential. You get to work alongside industry leaders in technology, as well as smart, fun and creative humans.
MARC: Culture-wise, I think seeing organizations like SIA in action speaks to the collaborative, welcoming and positively uplifting environment that the whole industry embraces and embodies.
JILL: My personal experience within the security industry has been amazing. At the SIA acceleRISE conference, I was able to meet other industry professionals, and I was personally selected for a $3,000 scholarship from SIA that I was able to use to advance my educational background.
RACHEL: I love my job. I get to travel and work on really neat projects and help keep the world a little bit safer.
DAKOTA: It’s hard to explain, but the security industry draws you in – there’s a lot of fun to be had, and people are very passionate about their jobs and this industry.
JAKE: Once you’re in the industry, you realize how much opportunity exists here and how amazing of a place it is. What made me realize that was the networking aspect of the industry, which essentially carries the industry. This place is fun. You can travel for work multiple times a year. Work hard, play hard. You aren’t just a number at these companies, like you may be in another industry. Your company will want you to go to these trade shows, learn and have a great time. You have industry-wide events to look forward to every year. When I realized how the networking was benefiting me both in terms of my career and my personal growth, that’s when I realized: I love this place!
Ready to Explore a Security Career?
The Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST), co-founded by SIA and ESA, is an organization dedicated to connecting passionate, innovative professionals with new opportunities in this vital industry.
On the FAST website, you can access helpful resources like our Security Industry Careers Guide and browse the top job and internship opportunities on the industry’s largest jobs board.
To learn more and get started. visit advancingsecurity.org.