Executive Protection Schools

By Douglas Belton

Several years ago I was on a layover at Midway Airport when I noticed a professionally dressed woman looking in my direction wearing an expression that I quickly recognized as one of familiarity.  You know the look that someone gives you right before the index finger begins to wag and that age old line rolls off the tongue, “Hey, don’t I know you from someplace?”

The interesting thing was that she wasn’t so much looking at me as she was looking at my black portfolio with the bright red embossed emblem which read, “SPI” for, Southern Police Institute.  That black portfolio and the Kentucky Colonel plaque that hangs in my office are the membership cards that tie me into an elite group of law enforcement professionals with whom I share a common experience and a common set of credentials.

In law enforcement circles there are only a few command schools that really matter, The FBI Academy, Northwestern Command School, and the Southern Police Institute.  If you have attended one of those three schools you have met the first several key requirements for any command level police chief job you might be pursuing.

Much talk has been made of two essential ingredients for success in the professional world these days.  The two new buzz words are “Branding” and “Networking.”  If you want to get the job or the contract its all about your brand and your network, few other things matter as much.  As it is in the world of law enforcement, there are certain executive protection schools that will set you apart from the competition and effectively “Brand” you as a serious contender for desirable work and that will expand your “Network” so that you are not alone in marketing yourself.

At the conclusion of this article we will show you how to make an informed decision about which executive protection school you will attend.  But first, lets talk a little bit about what’s out there and how to avoid some of the predatory marketing practices of schools that will leave you broke, ignorant, and empty handed, when its time to produce some credentials.

If you want to be certified in CPR go take a Red Cross course and they will certify you.  If you want to be certified to teach a firearms course the NRA can fix you up.  But if you want to be a certified executive protection specialist there is no such certification available.  A school can give you a certification that says you passed their course, but that certification is not universally recognized as a qualifier to perform EP services.  Any executive protection school that promises they will certify you as an EP specialist without carefully explaining that their certificate does not meet any legal standard for qualification is trying to take advantage of you.  Because there is no legal requirement of certification for EP services, there is no true need for any executive protection school to offer certification other than as a document to indicate you passed their course.

However, it is important to note that some reputable executive protection schools are accredited by the state which they operate, and many schools will teach you legal requirements for use of force and use of firearms.

You also want to be on the lookout for schools that promise you work upon completion of their course.  Let’s face it, the job market is tough out there and getting EP work is just as competitive as ever.  Attending a reputable executive protection school can open doors for you but no one can promise you work just because you completed their course.  A good and reputable school will tell you this up front.

Most potential clients will want to know that you have been trained.  Anyone who is not interested in knowing whether or not you have been trained is probably only looking for a couple of knuckle dragging goons to knock people aside or to look impressive.  There is a substantial amount of liability involved in hiring untrained bodyguards.

Some celebrities have paid out large sums of money for having friends or relatives serve as protection only to have them respond inappropriately in critical situation and cause harm to citizens.  A well trained bodyguard is well worth their wages and will protect the client physically and religiously.

When you are looking for a reputable executive protection school look for one that is run by individuals who themselves have stellar credentials and years of experience in the business. There are several important factors to consider when selecting an executive protection school:

•    Location
•    Price
•    Coursework
•    Reputation

LOCATION: Fortunately, some reputable schools now offer online courses.  This is important because often traveling to another state to receive training can become cost prohibitive.  However, if possible it is best to attend a local executive protection school because more than likely your first jobs will not be long-term assignments traveling the world with a Rock Star or Rapper, living in hotels!

You will likely find yourself on short-term assignments working a small venue for a political client for one night or working as a stand-in for someone who is unavailable for an executive that needs to get  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.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of networking. Attending a local school where you are face to face with other EP professionals and the instructors affords one the optimal opportunity to network.  If you take an online course you miss the opportunity to interact personally with others.
PRICE: Do your homework. Compare prices of different programs. Determine how many hours of training you will receive for the fees you are expected to pay.

Don’t fall for those ads that promise you a new career for $1500 and 30 hours of coursework. The promise of a job upon completion of coursework is an outright lie. One “training program” tells people they will be a “certified executive protection specialist” upon completion of the program.  When you see ads like this 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.  It takes months of hard work and study to become a police officer and even more hard work, study, and years of experience to become a police executive.  The same can be said for becoming a firefighter, an EMT, a paramedic.

Military personnel and other professionals also go through extensive training before taking an active role in their field.  Even these professionals with all their training and experience will find it difficult to obtain work as an EPS. A handful of classes with Acme Bodyguards School will not make you a “Certified” EP professional. The fact is that if it sounds too good to believe it probably is too good to believe.

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.

In the beginning of this article I mentioned meeting a person at Midway Airport.  A uniform, a certain tattoo, or even a black portfolio can gain you recognition and identify you as one of the club.  The right executive protection school can open doors for you as well, but you have to be realistic in your expectations.  My black portfolio and the school it represents got me noticed and it gave me a platform for speaking to a stranger who had nothing more in common with me than the school we both attended.  However, it is my own experience, personality, and winsome nature that kept the door of opportunity open.

Years later, I brought that same portfolio to a job interview.  The man interviewing me was an FBI graduate.  He took one look at that portfolio, smiled, and asked me a few serious questions before the interview turned into a casual conversation about the two different command schools we attended.  Look carefully at the executive protection schools we recommend and understand that when you walk into that interview or you make your pitch to get the job, you may be taking the reputation of that school into the interview with you, so choose carefully.

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  • James Bednash

    Great article Douglas!

    The importance of attending a top-tier school cannot be over emphasized.

    Although I am a graduate of an excellent school, I recently was told by a prospective employer in Silicon Valley I was beaten out for a very prestigous EP job by a graduate of the school many know as the oldest and most famous in the industry despite my greater experience and superior academic qualifications.

    The client was so adamant about having a new addition to his protection team come from a top tier school, he decided to personally start asking questions about where the best come from in many instances.

    Choose wisely as Hucky and Douglas say!

    Jim

  • http://athenaacademy.com Rainey Shane

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this article. In so many of my conversations with prospective EP students, I find myself dispelling the myths that you speak of. I ended up writing a pretty direct blog post about it. I’m amazed by some of the things they have been told by schools. So I second your comments. And third. And fourth.

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  • George Green

    I’ve been doing research on executive protection schools. I live on the East Coast and I have narrowed my choices down between EPI, and John Sexton in your opinion which school is the best?

  • http://www.personalprotection.com Jerry Heying

    Hey George, saw your post and thought I’d give you my recommendation. I’m a little jaded being that I’m an EPI graduate, have been an Instructor there now for 15 years, and I’m now the Executive Director. EPI is one of the best known EP training schools there is today and has been running continuous courses since 1978 (some schools schedule courses they don’t actually have). I don’t want to talk about any other school but it’s interesting to note that many of those who have their own school now went through EPI and have imitated EPI’s 7 day program. EPI brings in 20 instructors for our 7 day program, all of whom are subject matter experts and bring a wealth of real world experience and knowledge. I believe that is one of the highest instructor to student ratios in the business. In addition to attending one of the best known schools, as a graduate, you become a member of the Nine Lives Associates which increases your networking and professional position in the EP profession. I hope this helps with making your decision. Jerry Heying, CPP, PPS, Executive Director, Executive Protection Institute (EPI)

  • http://www.sextonsecurity.com John Sexton

    Great article Douglas (Mr. Green, if you would contact me directly, I will give you some additional info, as I don’t want to take away the focus from Mr. Belton’s article).

    I agree wholeheartedly with your view on training schools, Mr. Belton. One of the reasons I decided to open my Executive Security Training School in the Washington D.C. Metro Area was so that we could gain certification by a Govenment body as an offically certified training school. The Department of Criminal Justice Services is regarded as one of the strictest private security regulatory authorities in the Nation.

    Having said that, I still considered the mandated Personal Protection training program to be of a minimum standard and decided to increase the hours of training and add several additional courses – some of which are independently certified – in order to give students a more advanced training program and a “leg up” on their competition.

    Your article stresses the importance for students to fully investigate the different schools out there. I could not agree more. The two most important words that you need to remember as you contemplate starting out in this field (and for all the time you remain in it) will be; Due Diligence.

    Just because a school has been around since the dawn of time, doesn’t necessarily make them the best. Find out which school is teaching relevant material for today’s world. Instructor’s who have been teaching for the past 40 years are certainly knowledgeable, but how much do they know about “the street” when they are in their 70s and 80s? Likewise, some young guy who just got out of college and has a lot of acedemic qualifications will not be able to pass on the much needed hands-on training gained by real-world experience.

    Contact local Chambers of Commerce, State Associations whose members are made up entirely of security practitioners (example is PISA in Virginia), the Better Business Bureau and ALWAYS contact past graduates from various schools. Annonymous testimonials are of no worth, so make sure you find real people to ask. Making an investment in one’s self is the wisest choice most of us will ever make, so chose well. Take your time and be sure the school not only gives you what you want, but that they exceed your every expectation.