Security Guard vs. Security Officer

Do you know there is a difference between a security guard vs. a security officer? But, there are two schools of thought on the difference between a security guard and a security officer. The First School of Thought is that many people believe they are not the same thing.  Security Guard and Security Officer are two different occupations. Yes, both of them work with the same objective of protecting a place and keeping it secure but their responsibilities, requirements, experience, and pay scale are different. (  The Second School of Thought is that the words mean the same thing.

First School of Thought

Let’s learn the difference between a security guard and a security officer in detail:

Who is a Security Guard?

A security guard is considered a lower-ranking officer who usually works under a security officer. Security guards are not required to have as much experience in the field as that of security officers.  However, some high ranking security guards may debate you on this statement.

What are the Main Duties of a Security Guard?

The main duties of a security guard involve:

  • Standing guard at premises’ entrances and exits.
  • Report suspicious activity.
  • Provide information to visitors or customers at places like museums, stores, and offices, etc.

Who is a Security Officer?

A security officer is basically the manager of a group of security guards. Security officers commonly give orders and supervise the performance of security guards.

They have more skills than security guards and that is why they train the upcoming guards. Because of having more experience than security guards, security officers enjoy a higher pay scale. Besides that, they are not stationed at one location. They visit and travel to different places where their guards are performing the duties in order to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Responsibilities of a Security officer

The major duties and responsibilities of a security officer are:

  • Training security guards.
  • Overseeing as well as monitoring the operations of a group of security guards.
  • Issuing directives and orders to security guards.
  • Planning and managing the working schedule for guards.

Second School of Thought

To begin with, the terms security guard and security officer may have very different meanings. A security guard is used to denote a watch person who works at a particular post or who patrols a limited area.  Oftentimes, the security guard has little to no authority of working or using independent judgment.  However, a security officer has a wider range of duties and exercises more independent judgment.  Many believe a security officer is more professional than a security guard. Incidentally, this is not true.  Also many believe the officer is responsible for supervising multiple security guards and for responding quickly to incidents. The job may involve acting as a liaison between services or agencies. Some professionals and companies prefer the term security officer because it suggests professionalism and training – and in the modern era, most states do require both.

However, Licensing Agencies, generally do not make the same distinctions between the terms security guard and security officer. Many agencies exchange one word for the other. Some prefer not to use the official word at all. For example, many companies avoid the word officer out of fear that citizens will confuse security officers with police officers.

Differing Levels of Responsibility

Licensing agencies often do recognize different levels of responsibility, but they use a different vocabulary. Individuals are referred to as either guards or officers if they provide security services.

Regional Differences in Terminology

Some states do attach particular meanings to the title security officer. For instance, St. Louis, Missouri, places security professionals into fully four categories. Security officers have powers that watchmen (security guards) do not. Missouri civil service positions also classify security personnel as security guards or security officers. A security officer is a higher classification. Officers have additional duties such as coordinating security activities. Officers at the highest levels may have the responsibility of planning security programs.

In contrast, in California, the status distinction between the terms guard and officer is less clear. Security guards are authorized to work for security agencies.

Guards Deserve the name of Officers

In most cases, the modern security officer has far more responsibility than just the front gate. Officers have to:

  • Monitor and avoid fires.
  • Burglaries, especially by employees of the company.
  • Keep Hazardous chemicals from leaking.
  • Make sure the heating/cooling systems are operating safely.
  • Continuously check all alarms.
  • CCTVs.
  • Patrol extensively through hazardous areas,
  • Maintain access control.
  • Provide superior customer service.
  • Remain constantly observant.

Oftentimes, depending on their location, officers protect hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets for the company. That calls for a professional officer who can think and act like a professional.

“So what makes a security officer different than a security guard? To begin with, let me ask you the following question:

How many people will walk through a dark warehouse filled with chemicals that could literally kill them if they spilled or were inhaled?

Officers do it as part of their duties and don’t think twice about it.

Why? Because it’s their job, and it has to be done.”


Meso, our security guard on staff, works in California and has over 18 years of security, not to mention bodyguard, bouncer and close protection experience is looking at me kind of funny right now. ” What’s the big deal?  We are called security guards and we do all of the above and more. It makes no difference, the two words mean the same thing to me. I am well respected. I present myself in a professional and friendly manner.” “Get over yourself” “Sounds a little “petty” to me.  All I can say to that is “stay tuned!”

Meso will be running our Podcasts in the near future!

So, this was all about the differences between a security guard vs. security officer.  In conclusion, if you want to learn more about this, feel free to contact Experienced Security Guard Training Help Center or the Licensing Agency for your particular state for more information.


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