If you’re interested in pursuing CPO work, then it helps to be informed. Below, we’ll answer any aspiring agents’ burning question – how to become a close protection officer?
Contrary to what you might see on TV, it takes more than a dark suit and a pair of designer sunglasses to become a bodyguard or CPA. After all, close protection officers are employed to protect their clients from physical attacks, kidnappings, and any other form of harassment or dangerous scenarios all around the world.
Although often thought of as being employed solely by celebrities, they’re now in demand for clients in a wide range of different sectors. Whether that be for a celebrity, a politician, high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or perhaps the royal family, applying the same standard care to each person receiving protective services.
The Riskiness of Drawing Pistols
Of course, the level of protection depends on the scope of safety that the principal requires. And like everything involving security, surveillance, and being stationed in potentially hostile environments – it is not without risk.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding the Executive Protection or Close Protection field. Hollywood has no doubt created a perception that is not at all accurate.
Along with the many “hard” skills that one can develop through the numerous schools, we must never overlook the critical need to master the “soft” skills. To my knowledge, no one has ever been fired for not drawing their pistol rapidly enough.
There have been no terminations due to one’s inability to properly put the limo on two wheels or fight with a high level of mixed martial arts.
But there are untold numbers of new agents — perhaps with some potential and a grasp of the “hard” skills — that find themselves rapidly unemployed due to little or no understanding of the depth of “soft” skills, manners, etiquette, customs, and protocol that are a must when dealing with HNW/UHNW individuals.
This Craft is not for the faint of heart or depth of ego. But for those sure of themselves, calm in all situations, and who live by a code of confidentiality and discretion.
— Chris Grow, Executive Protection Travel Team, Allied Universal
Is This the Right Career for Me?
While most anyone can apply for the Security Industry Authority or SIA close protection licensing, the required training – as well as the job itself – is strenuous. There is more to the job than just being present or standing there and waiting.
As you consider how to become a close protection officer, first ask yourself why it is you want to be an agent. The world of executive protection is no walk in the park.
The subtleties of personal protection are such that it takes plenty of education and training. Close protection training courses cover a broad range of skills, including:
- Threat assessment,
- Advanced vehicle techniques,
- Operational planning and investigation,
- Search procedures,
- Combat handling, and
- Firearms handling.
Furthermore, agents must pass various fitness exams that examine their physical capabilities. Together with firearms proficiency and certification in CPR or AED in case of emergency situations.
To succeed, you’ll need excellent judgment skills and should be able to see potential threats to your client at all times, no matter the situation. And even in places where no one else would expect the unexpected.
The hours of CPO work are long, and the work environment may be stressful: especially when combined with poor eating and sleep habits, long hours, and constant travel with the expectation to maintain professional etiquette. The workload can take a serious toll on the officer’s body.
Yet, regardless of these hardships, the advantages of the job are worth it to people passionately interested in becoming an agent.
Essential Characteristics of a Close Protection Officer
In the world of close protection, each new day brings forth fresh challenges. As such, its paramount officers acquire the necessary skills, reflexes, and intuitions to do the job.
In fact, agents often act as a visual deterrent for potential attackers. This means that having the ability to blend into the background is central. Not to mention elevated communication skills when called upon to provide safeguards of information for the client, family, or colleagues. Lack of proper communication is like a nail in the coffin.
Furthermore, the job demands courage and integrity, as well as unique abilities that consist of:
- Excellent organizational skills,
- Impeccable time management and calmness under pressure,
- Observation and surveillance skills,
- A good level of physical strength and fitness, and
- Trustworthiness and reliability.
Remember that the basic principles of protection never slacken. As a matter of fact, they only become more sophisticated. An unwavering specialist will avail himself of any opportunity to expand his security horizons and develop confidence to address potential emergencies.
Note: Many individuals not trained in the minute aspects of close protection have entered the business. Unfortunately, there exist gaps in the security industry. These relate to minimum wage, subpar work standards, unfavorable bosses, and a lack of standardized licensing programs.
If interested in pursuing CPO work, your first step is to find qualified training providers. Depending on where you want to work, there are different routes as each country has a separate licensing system.
For example, in the United Kingdom, executive protection is a field that the SIA oversees. Training schools and private providers have various licenses for different levels of security. But the SIA close protection licensing stipulates a minimum of 139.5 hours contact time and is only valid in the UK.
When it comes to working in most of the rest of the world, you may want to research the required qualifications to attain employment legally. In addition, rely on providers with extensive industry knowledge that offer the newest materials and techniques training.
Perhaps their instructors are all ex-bodyguards and have worked the circuit. In this way, you get top-quality firearms training and other necessary skills needed for the field. After all, plenty of training and experience, plus lots of networking, could see you getting good work.
Typical Duties of a Specialist – Protective Agent
Let’s dig deeper into the general roles and responsibilities of an operative. These include:
- Taking every step necessary to secure the life of the principal,
- Checking areas for potential threats before arrival,
- Securing destinations, and clearing exits,
- Shadowing clients during their day-to-day activities,
- Providing 24-hour surveillance and protection,
- Maintaining the client’s privacy,
- Planning out the safest routes before traveling,
- Anticipating or watching out for potential snipers, choke points, and aggressors on a route, and
- Researching all potential threats to minimize risk.
Tips to Help Get You the Job
Not to sound like a broken record, but looking at the road on how to become a close protection officer, it’s no easy feat. Regardless, you need to focus your attention and keep your eye on the prize. Getting ahead of the game, try and obtain as much experience and qualifications as you can. In addition, because reputation goes a long way, stay persistent in your hunt for work.
Also, remember that word of mouth still matters, even in the current conditions of a globalized workforce. Here, we prepared a few simple yet effective tips to help you land a job.
Spruce up that CV
Think about how your resume and cover letter look to employers. Far from what many believe, a CV is not your autobiography. As such, focus on what you have done – your achievements – and less on what you bring to the company. In fact, use one of many CV preparation services online.
Gain more than basic training
If your CV shows that you only have basic training, use the time unemployed wisely. Look for some complimentary training courses that help you appear more of an attractive proposition to the employer. Undertaking training in surveillance detection, gathering protective intelligence, or learning another language will greatly assist you in your search for employment.
Network, Network, Network
Ask yourself some tough questions. Is the company recruiting? Do you fit the bill? Suppose you send your resume to the wrong company or individual, or apply for a position for which you’re not suitably qualified. In that case, it’s nothing but a waste of time.
Also, use LinkedIn to get in touch with pundits and industry leaders. You’d be surprised how open they are to connect to aspiring agents!
Remember, the more potential employers you acquaint yourself with, who know you’re open and ready to work, the better. Never scoff at the idea of attending workshops, events, and meetups: as these always allow for networking.
Finally, be proactive and – whenever possible – start looking for new contracts before the last one finishes. To help you out with this, check out EP Wired’s Events page.
We hope the article sheds a little light on how to become a close protection officer. With a thorough understanding of the EP services industry, you should find it easier to work out if the job is right for you.
With that in mind, try not to get discouraged if you can’t get involved in the close protection work you most desire right off the bat. CP is a diverse field with plenty of opportunities, no question about it. Immerse yourself in a new role, keeping an optimistic mindset until what you desire becomes available.
Dedication and the right perspective are the definitions of good training and a quality protective agent.