Choosing The Right School

By Hucky Austin
Without a doubt, one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of obtaining work as an Executive Protection Specialist (Bodyguard) is to obtain top-notch training.

As you’ve read from our interviews with professionals in the field, they all strongly encourage individuals to invest in career training. It will set you apart and above from individuals with military or police training alone. Also, to hire someone without professional training can be a liability. I recall a few years ago when a major basketball star hired friends for personal protection-well, there was some sort of altercation and these untrained bodyguards injured private citizens and there were very costly consequences to their actions. The basketball star was ultimately held liable for his friends’ behavior.

First, it is important to understand that “officially” there is no such this as “certification” in this field. There are no government standards to which schools are expected to adhere. It is not like medical school or studying to be an attorney where you must take standardized tests, passing boards or exams to be considered “certified” or “licensed” to practice. However, some educational programs are accredited with the state, and certainly programs teach individuals about the specific licensing requirements to carry firearms, and use of force laws. What this means is that any school claiming that upon completion of their program that you are a “Certified Protection Specialist” simply means that you’ve completed that particular program’s coursework. It is not the same as receiving a diving certification, or even being CPR certified…there are no regulations or standards in the EP field in the United States. If you are already on the inside, you understand this. The “certified” designation is intended more for the benefit of the individual who is hiring you, or to sell newcomers on the idea that said “certification” implies you are in accordance with some regulating body. There is no regulating body that accords individuals “certified” upon completion of EPS coursework.

That being said, it is certainly meaningful when I see Executive Protection course work from a reputable school on an individual’s resume. By reputable, I mean a program that is run by individuals who themselves have stellar credentials and years of experience in the business. At the end of this story you will find our top picks.

There are several important factors to consider when selecting an EPS training program:

  • Location
  • Price
  • Coursework
  • Reputation

LOCATION: Thankfully, there are a few reputable schools that are now offering online courses, because often the expense of attending a school out of state is prohibitive. Truth be told, if this is the field you want to pursue, you will most likely need to be residing in a city where your services are needed, because your first jobs will most likely NOT be long-term assignments traveling the world with a Rock Star or Rapper and living in hotels! You will most likely be on short-term assignments working a small venue for a political client for one night. You could be asked to stand-in for someone who is unavailable for an executive who needs to get to safely to the airport. A security company may want to hire you to do access control at the building entrance of a major corporation at first, or you may be asked to volunteer with a small team to protect the family of a CEO at a fundraising event. The point is, you need to be located where those major corporations and those CEOs are located. Let’s face it, the segment of the population that needs EP services is wealthy and the wealthy most often live in metropolitan locations. (WATCH FOR OUR UPCOMING STORY “The Best Places to Find Executive Protection Work.”)

Let’s not forget the value of networking. The single best place to first do networking is where you are obtaining your education. If you are taking an online course, you are not interacting PERSONALLY with others or the instructors. There is some legitimate value to attending classes in-person.

PRICE: Do your homework. Compare prices of different programs. How many hours of training are you getting for the fees you are paying? Be smart about this-don’t fall for those organizations that make ridiculous promises. A new career for $1500 and 30 hours of coursework is not realistic. A promise of a job upon completion of coursework is an outright lie. Be very careful–there is a “training program” out there that is telling people they are a “certified executive protection specialist” upon completion of the program and then promote a website where they post photos and contact information of their graduates, so “their clients can look at their profile and hire them.” This is part of a “pitch” to lure people into taking their online courses. This business then folds up and reinvents itself a few months later under a new business name. They in fact have no contacts that are looking at graduates of their program. There are so many people that want to get into this field and there are unscrupulous people taking advantage of the desire of so many individuals to get into this business.

Ask to speak to alumni of these programs. Review the refund policy. Visit other websites and read blogs or boards to read what working professionals in the business have to say.

COURSEWORK: Again, compare the coursework of the various schools. 15 hours of coursework does NOT train you to be an EPS. That’s wishful thinking. A trained police officer or armed forces individual who has put hours upon hours into his or her training and has years of on-the-job experience is finding it difficult to obtain work as an EPS. A handful of classes with Bodyguards-R-Us will not stack up. Again, there are only a handful of programs that are considered legitimate (see list below).

REPUTATION: Word of Mouth in this line of business is important. While it’s true that not every individual is going to be happy 100% of the time with even the best of programs, the positive comments will out number the negative comments made by the public. You need to look at the big picture. Contact the Better Business Bureau prior to investing any money in an EPS training program. Consider contacting the schools personally via telephone and ask questions. Ask to read bios of the instructors and complete course descriptions. Read about people who have had careers you admire and learn where THEY trained.

The simple fact of the matter is that you get out of your training whatever you put into it. It is not enough to passively take courses and think that upon completion that you are going to land your dream EPS job! It is your responsibility to network, prove your mettle and to develop a personality that will be appealing to employers. You must be diligent in your search for opportunities and creative in finding inroads into this profession. Develop a strategy to meet your goals. Develop relationships with key people in the field and be persistent in your pursuit.

  • http://www.executive-protection-news.com Bruce A

    Hucky,

    As usual another timely and accurate posting. Thanks for enlightening everyone on the certification process. For those who heed your advice, you’ve saved them time and money.

    Keep up the great articles!

    Bruce
    Executive Protection New
    executive-protection-news.com

  • http://professionalbodyguardservices.com Rick

    Huck,

    You couldn’t have put it better . Great read!!

  • Scott

    Good article, and I may be splitting hairs here but when you say, “…there are no regulations or standards in the EP field in the United States.” Actually there are, the state of Virginia does have standards and regulations covering EP agents which can be found here; http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/pss/howto/registrations/personalProtectionSpecialist.cfm I believe Dr. Kobetz of EPI was instrumental in making this happen, now if only all other states would follow. Yes, I know that in this business there is no “one” standard, but we as professionals need to “self police” or we may be facing standards one day written as a result of knee-jerk reaction.

    As I said, good article with many good points. Nobody will jump into a high paying EP job, it took me 15 years of very hard work to get there.

  • http://gepulse.com Taylor

    Always good quality info from this site!

  • Jorge

    Looking for a school roght now, your article show me that there are more good options other that ESI…thanks…

  • Hucky

    Jorge,
    My organization is not a training school. However if you are looking for one I can recommend a few good ones to you.

  • Adrian

    At a time when I am looking into moving up from uniformed security to the “next leve”, this article could not have come at a better time.

    Much appreciated. Thanks.

  • Eddie

    Do you have any information on a company called RCL Enterprises from Nashville,Tn ?

    Thanks

  • Eddie

    Anybody have any information on RCL Enterprises?

    Thanks

  • http://www.haganahsecurity.com Sam

    Great information!
    In Europe there are many wanna be schools just like in U.S. the majority of folks I know here in the ES bizz took on security escort jobs and learned from blood and tears method in eastern European contract. when they could they did some self investment once the EUnion opened its borders. I am all in support of education. Great article!

    my advise…education, education education = self investment. Which many don’t want to invest.

  • Matt

    Hey,
    I’d like to know if anyone knows anything about RLC Enterprises as well. I was contacted about them and I called to speak with one of the recruiters there, but I am finding it hard to believe what they are telling me. So, if anyone has any info on them please reply to this.
    -Matt

  • Stewart

    Hi, a person named Russ talked about one of the honorable mention outfits and he was not very impressed.I am a retired firefighter who is now working as an executive driver for a private company. I am reviewing EPI and another outfit called International training group. What about this J.A. Lasorsa outfit. Is this the one that Russ is talking about. For a introduction is this a good start for the cost.? Thanks.

  • Skip Ritter

    Hi Matt,
    I am in the same boat. I started taking my courses through ESI but I talked to a recruiter at RLC and it does sound too good to be true. They supposedly have certifications and registered with the state of TN. Have you heard or found out any info? Please….let me know what their story is. I will do the same if you send me your e-mail address. Thanks.

  • Rebecca

    Wow! Like everyone has said, great info and VERY timely. I contacted RCL and was hung up on by “Tommie” (female) after I attempted to get their state licensing info so I could do my own research before they got any of my money. I called back and spoke to “Tres” (male) and was told what he COULD NOT do for me and what WASN’T his job. I also spoke with someone claiming to be a supervisor (female) but received the same song and dance.
    There’s not a change any of these people defused an angry client situation in the field or, for that matter, have ever worked in a professionally run office. Funny enough, after speaking to 3 people in the “security training industry” and getting (intenially) verbally confrontational, no one even attempted to get my name. Pls stear clear of this company.
    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

  • Paul

    To Matt and Skip,
    I have been “processing” with RLC at the suggestion of a close friend, and I am now regretting it. It does sound too good. I have been communicating with a man named “Trace” and a female with a southern accent named “Tommie”. My suspicion should have been peaked when I was unable to ever get anyone else to answer the phone. Not to mention the less than professional quality of their emails and correspondance. For example their manual is a poorly photo copied casino security manual copyrighted 1996-2002 John Brubaker. The address they gave me is 4636 Lebanon Pike #348 Hermitage TN, 37076 the satelite photo looks like it goes to a bank next door to a KFC. I guess with the economy the way it is I wanted to believe, but it will end up just being a $275.00 education in what to look out for. Hope this helps

  • http://www.lasorsa.com Joe LaSorsa

    I am Joe LaSorsa of J.A. LaSorsa & Associates. I am a Former Secret Service Agent and my firm provides Executive Protection Agent Training – including a (3) Day Protective Agent training course. There are many schools out there. You have to decide where you want to spend your money and how much money you wish to spend.

    You need training, however, much of the training needed can be obtained less expensively on your own, without paying enormously high dollars. For
    example, you can get your firearms, CPR/First Aid and defensive driving training ON YOUR OWN (most of which you may already have under your belt).

    Here are some points I discuss with prospective entry level individuals.

    Note: I do occasionally try not to endorse pursuit of training to individuals who may have no real expectation of ever succeeding in the business. It depends on their overall situation and what I perceive to be their goals and ambitions.

    I always try to explain they should start out with less costlier training venues and work their way into the industry, once they have assured themselves they are on the right track.

    I stress they usually get work and jobs in this industry by NETWORKING and MAKING headway into the industry, the same way you need to do in any industry. No contacts – no experience – no work.

    Training venues are a great start in obtaining some credentials and in networking. They need to meet people in the industry. They obviously have to start out somewhere. Then, with some initial work experience and contacts developed through networking, they move along.

    However, certifications and training courses are no substitute for all around experience and the ability and knowledge of Executive Protection – concepts and procedures; how to conduct a Threat Assessment and foreign and/or domestic security advances with complicated protective logistics & planning.

    I further explain, experience as a protective agent alone does not make you an all around security professional. Protection professionals provide close protective services, however, more so, they need to be capable of providing and conducting Security Assessments (Vulnerability Assessments, Risk Analysis) without having their hands held by someone else.

    They need to identify risks and exposures in all levels of VIP and corporate operations and THEN, they need to be able to recommend appropriate countermeasures to “mitigate those risks”.

    Finally, they need to reduce it all to a lengthy, well written, lengthy Vulnerability Assessment Report. I also explain there is a tremendous difference between a Threat Assessment and a General Security/Vulnerability Assessment.

    To former Law Enforcement/Military background individuals, whom are usually not adequately prepared to make the transition to the private sector – I explain there is a major learning curve, a paradigm shift from the law enforcement/military mentality to the private sector mentality and the experience of knowing the needs of the private sector world.

    I recommend if they’re serious about this field, then they should probably get some exposure and training by working with a large protection/security firm, asking questions and picking senior consultants’ brains.

    I suggest they join the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) and Network there. I also strongly recommend obtaining a CPP designation.

    If they can pass that exam, then they will be head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. I tell them not to underestimate this certification. Although, it doesn’t always mean getting higher pay, acquiring the knowledge base will certainly benefit any security professional.

    Anyway, I hope this helps some entry level individuals shape their focus and goals.

    Sincerely,

    Joe LaSorsa
    J.A.LaSorsa & Associates
    U.S. Secret Service (Retired)
    http://www.lasorsa,com

  • Grant

    My name is Grant and I attended and graduated J.A LaSorsa’s program back in May 2009. Like the rest of you, I did a lot of homework and research on which schools to attend and why. What is the benefit of each etc. I am currently in law enforcement, and I understand there is a huge difference between the public/ govt. sector and the private sector. There are many tranferable skill sets, but there is a huge difference.

    LaSorsa hit on this topic right up front. This field is not for everyone. I took copius amounts of notes and really payed attention. There were some clowns in the class who chose not to and didnt take it serious. They thought they were going to walk out and the end of the week and have a kick ass E.P. job. Thats not how it works. I heeded all the advice and knowledge that Joe expressed in class. We conducted three details in the nearby City. It was very worthwhile. Like I said before. Some folks didn take it serious. To each their own.

    Joe’s program covered a lot of information in a short amount of time. His class didnt have all the fluff that other schools have. If you dont want fluff, and want just the nuts and bolts, then I highly reccommend J.A. LaSorsa & Assoc. I prefer a no fluff atmoshphere. Its a great introduction to establish a concrete foundation to build upon. This career and life is a never ending learning process. There is always more to learn and build upon. I beleive Joe will help you start that process.

    Like any program in any field, there are always those, or someone, that is unpleasable. You can give someone 500 bucks, and their mad because they want 550. My point is there will always be negative people around. Do your homework, make phone calls etc. I can usually tell when someone is legit and professional. Joe is very approachable and professional. Will I attend other training and build upon what Joe’s foundation started in me, the answer is Yes. I believe if you attend a class like Joe LaSorsa’s, take some kick ass driving course, firearms classes (I reccommend Front Sight), get CPR and EMT Certifed, some kind of education so you can talk and put a sentence together, it would be a great start. And at all those training fscilities, you meet people and start the networking process. One of the guys in our class needed firearms training. He networked with me and I got him a smoking deal at Front Sight because I am a member. That how it starts.

    On a personal not, and like I said before, I heeded everything Joe stated in his class. From May, really april, when my search began, until now, I have put together a Security Consulting Executive Protection Corporation. I also have my first client already. I cannot tell you what he does or where we are going, but the important thing is getting that first client. From there, his inner circle is where I want to end up. There is a great client potential there. And there all great guys. Good people to work for and with. I learned What a Site Surbey/ Risk Analysis was and how to perform and write one in Joe’s class. At the end it was 18 pages. The client then installed a top shelf security/ surveillance system. and now I am going on a 2 day detail with him. I couldnt have learned how to do that without the help and training of Joe LaSorsa.

    Remember this nugget. The USSS is the standard in my opinion. Joe retired from the USSS. What type of training do you think he will give to his students? Its a no brainer.

    *This message is unsolicited*
    Grant Linhart
    http://www.executive-protection-services,com

  • Josh

    RLC is registered with the State Dept. There is a valid link to the TN branch of the State Dept. They are a valid company. I have talked to a friend (former military) who went through their anti kidnapping program and said it is good and valid training. He does get phone calls for work. I called RLC and because of my law enforcement background they put me right through and I go for my anti kidnapping training the last week in October.

  • Robert

    Joe LaSorsa school was awesome! It was a small class so it felt like it was one on one instruction. It was very informative from an experienced person in the field. who else to learn from then someone who was in the secret service! I would recommend it to anyone if you want to get started in the business. there were no false promises made about getting a job afterwards. it was stated that this career field is all about networking. if you want to learn, this is it.

  • Eric

    The training I received with Joe LaSorsa was incredible. He covered A to Z in protection with the do’s and do nots and who better to learn from then someone who was walked the walk. He worked with the Elite in protection that is the Secret Service and he teaches his craft with an incredible passion.

    His small classes are like getting one on one training and allows everyone to pick his brain. If you are thinking of going to a training course of any kind then there is NO DOUBT this is the one.

  • George

    I too spoke with an individual by the name of Trace at the “International Executive Services” school and paid the 300 or so dollars and got scammed ! Not sure if this RCL is the same place? But I tried calling them and there was a message saying that if i wanted my money back to contact they fed government? I too received the materials from them in anticipation of going off to training . Not that I’m a grammatical genius, but upon reading it, the misspelled words and poor grammar was evident right off the bat. The web site also had numerous cases of misused punctuation and poor grammar errors as well. All this added up to a not so pretty picture. I even spoke to an individual when they conducted a “verbal interview” and he too was well below par in his use of the english language. double negatives etc etc
    I would just like to add that to this forum ! Be careful out there.

  • http://closeprotectionnews.com Donie O Callaghan

    Hi Hucky,
    Just noticed the Headline in Executive Protection Association blog that you have rated Sexton Executive as one of the top EP training schools.I’v read the article and its absolutly fantastic as usual from you,but i can’t see anything aboutSexton.Have i got it right or am i missing something.
    Regards Donie

  • BILL LEIMONITIS

    HELLO EVERYONE.I RECIEVED MY UNARMED SECURITY LICENSE FROM THE S2 INSTITUTE IN CLEARWATER,FL AND I THOUGHT THE TRAINING WAS EXCELLENT.MOST OF IT WAS COMMON SENSE BUT THE INSTRUCTORS WERE VERY GOD.
    HAS ANYON HERE TAKEN THE CLASS OR KNOWSOMEONE WHO HAS? THIER WEBSITE SAYS THE CLASS IS 3 DAYS AT ABOUT $400 FR NO-MEMBERS.PLEASE LET ME KNOW.THANKS

  • Ismael Lopez

    Hello Everyone! Hucky is right theirs allot of people out their that promise a job bud you have to take their course.If you been to a school thats is known why take a course that promise you a job. Just network and the right time will arrived. Later

  • Dragan

    What do you think, experienced bodyguards can train soldiers to fight in various battlefields of the world. The answer is of course not. Also, no war veterans and military personnel can not work training for the job of bodyguards (especially when talking about the protection of civilians).
    If we look realistically and logically what is really needed to learn that you can successfully deal with the profession “bodyguard”, the fact is that the largest portion of matter which should be taught during training, no handles, nor the concept of training working in the right way. The consequence of this phenomenon is that today the whole world there is a huge number of highly qualified and licensed bodyguards, who really are not, because they lack the necessary knowledge and characteristics. Therefore, the job of bodyguards at the present time, given a job (almost always), a personal recommendation. We can say that almost all organizations that work training bodyguards all over the world, aiming to sell as many licenses, and generally all that training pay, regardless of quality, always get a license. When these “bodyguards” get a job somewhere and show that they do not have the necessary quality, is inevitable and that the rating of such organizations to license the fall. The consequence of this phenomenon is that even better they can not find jobs because their licenses have now been impaired.
    On the basis of previously said the question is:
    -Is the world industry providing people dedicated to real training people to protect their client, or just want to sell as many licenses?
    -Does the training of almost all, even the world recognized organizations for training bodyguards, contains, besides a small part (protocol, tactical rides, archery, martial arts, fitness, etc.), all necessary elements in order to be able to successfully deal with this profession?
    -How important to them that the candidates are honorable, honest and moral and that they possess the corresponding characteristics for this job?
    Today there is a huge problem in the global industry to ensure that many people do not want to see, because it is fast gaining money from the sale of licenses seems all important. Only then, when you happen to bodyguards make a big mistake and a tragedy to happen or even participate in that client harm, many ask what has led up to it.
    I believe that many honest people who are committed to this business is clear about what I am talking about and I believe the time has come to launch a true and real story of this profession because she deserves it

  • Antonio

    anyone got any info on Strategic Weapons Academy of Texas.
    I live in Texas and i;m looking for a good school

  • Chris Barrows

    A good 101 on the subject Hucky. LaSorsa put in a few more cogent points.

    The bottom line from where I sit, is that 95% of these ‘schools’ sell the dream of EP, including many of what are termed the more reputable. At the end of the day there is a heck of a lot more money in selling the dream than there ever is in the actual job…

    Above all else…networking is the key. I have only gotten a single job from a classified listing in this field. Every other job I have ever worked has come from a referral of someone I have worked with or for.

    A word to the wise, I hire dozens of people every month for details around the world. I will give a hint to anyone who wants to hear it…for every guy or gal I hire for an EP detail (and they are all short term, up to 21 days) I generally speaking hire 3-5 drivers. Security Drivers (meaning someone who has a certificate in either tactical driving, security driving, etc.) can be difficult to come by. Insurance requirements demand some type of industry recognized certifications. At the end of the day, many times I have jobs that go unfilled due to lack of drivers.

    Driving is a great way to get your foot in the door. If we use you and like you and you’re good on your feet, you may get a chance the next time we have a detail in your area to be one of the protectors.

    Lastly, an excellent point on the lack of regulation in the industry. Texas also has standards set forth. It’s a good start.

    The UK has the SIA. Before SIA standards there was quite a lot of cowboy mentality over there, not unlike here. Any goon could call themselves a BG or a close protection professional, etc. much like many states in the US. There was a lot of kicking and screaming, but in the end it was passed and almost overnight the industry there cleaned up. Rates for qualified guys went up and stayed at a good level due to the certification. I think it is long past time where something like that comes in here; either industry mandated or federally regulated.

    The joy of a federal system (did I really just type that?!?) would be the ability to operate in multiple states. This is very difficult right now, and largely the work from bigger firms gets subbed out to police officers as they are able to do armed work across multiple jurisdictions and are often granted a pass on any licensing requirements due to their status as active LE.

    It would be a tough thing to swallow to be certain, but in the end I think it would help immensely, to include putting a lot of these McBodyguard schools out of business.

    My two cents.

  • http://www.daprotect.com David Cillie`

    Please also consider other parts of the World for CP training, our company is internationally accrediated via City and Guilds and our experiance in Africa is extensive.