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: 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.