The traditional view of a security professional is that of a uniformed officer monitoring the video cameras of a retail store, and for good reason: During the 2010 holiday shopping season, United States retailers saw a loss of $2.77 billion to theft, according to a 2011 report by Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham, England. Although retail security remains a strong employer for those who have a security & loss prevention degree, relevant positions can be found everywhere from armored car companies to insurance agencies.
Security & loss prevention degrees and career paths
Security and loss prevention professionals can be found in almost every business and government entity in some role. This means ample opportunities in a wide range of industries for those who have a security & loss prevention degree.
Those best suited for a job in this industry should have excellent stamina, an eye for detail and good communication skills. They must be able to think quickly and react appropriately but also be able to stay focused on routine details, according to the College Board. Being in good physical condition is also important.
Although retail security guards don't always need formal training, more advanced careers often do require a degree or certificate. For example, larger retailers may have a security department with management roles responsible for designing security procedures and policies, managing staff and budget, and purchasing security cameras, computers and other equipment. At high-tech corporations or government agencies, security & loss prevention professionals might make use of advanced techniques and equipment. Other online criminal justice degree holders may start their own security business and be responsible for staffing, marketing and budgeting.
Online degrees in security & loss prevention
Online security & loss prevention degrees are available through many colleges and universities. Though courses vary depending upon the institution and the degree sought, the following six courses may be found in an associate or bachelor's degree program:
- Safety and risk analysis
- Public relations
- Elements of criminal law
- Security organization and management
Earning a degree can potentially open doors to higher-paying positions, enhance job security and improve the chances of advancement. The flexible hours of online courses can benefit those who are already gaining experience in a full-time security position. In addition, continuing education to keep up with emerging trends and technology can often be taken online.
Both traditional and online degrees in security & loss prevention are rare--176 bachelor's degrees were awarded in the 2009-2010 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. During that same year, 52 students earned a master's degree in the field. Students may also choose to study a related field such as corrections, law enforcement or criminal justice as preparation for a security and loss prevention career.
Salaries for security & loss prevention graduates
The BLS reported a mean annual wage of $26,870 for security guards in 2010. That wage could go higher with experience and advancement opportunities. Employment of security guards is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2008 to 2018.
Most states require security guards to be licensed. This license often requires classroom instruction in various subjects, including detention of suspects and emergency procedures. Security and loss prevention specialists can also earn their certification through ASIS International.
Security & loss prevention at a glance
- Salary: $23,870 (BLS, 2010)
- Most common job: Retail loss prevention
- Most unusual job: Nuclear power plant security
- Retail loss due to theft during 2010 holiday season: $2.77 billion