As featured in the Sunday Express.
We’re often asked: ‘How do I become a bodyguard?’ First and foremost, why do you want to be a bodyguard? Bodyguarding is not a quick and easy career path, there are many considerations to make before stepping onto the path to becoming a Bodyguard; also widely known in the UK as a Close Protection Officer/Operative – CPO for short.
Being a Bodyguard is not for everyone, it requires specific traits and skillsets. If you believe you have what it takes to be a Bodyguard, simply because you’ve watched a couple of movies or you want to live the high-life and brush shoulders with celebrities, then stop right now and go back to the drawing board. Close protection is much more about intelligence and planning than muscles and guns!
Patience, punctuality, integrity, selflessness, commitment, discretion, the ability to remain alert for long periods of time and inactivity, thinking on your feet, and of course – personal fitness. All these attributes are required before you even consider any “Bodyguard” training course, more commonly referred to as a ‘close protection course’.
Patience– There are many hours spent waiting around for the Principal (The VIP/Boss) to move, leave the house, finish a meeting, leave a social event – to name but a few. All of which at some point you’ll be required to be static for a considerable amount of time. Waiting around, sometimes in a featureless silent corridor of a 5* Hotel for example; for hours on end with very little notice, if any, to move or information on timings to depart.
Punctuality– If you’re the type of person that’s always late no matter how many times you set your alarm, or how hard you try – being a bodyguard is not for you! Poor punctuality not only delays the Principal and their business or plans but delays and reflects badly on the rest of the team, showing everyone that you lack self-discipline.
Integrity – You will be in a position of trust, often with the Principal’s valuable belongings or even family members. No matter how tempting it is to take a ‘selfie’ with the Principal’s supercar / private jet, take a dip in the swimming pool, or ‘check-in’ on social media at a posh hotel or restaurant, it’s a big no, no.
Selflessness – You will be expected to work long hours often with little sleep and not very much food, often putting the Principal’s needs before your own, and sometimes before your own families’. Unfortunately, missing your partner or child’s birthday is par for the course.
And as strange as it may seem; you will be required at some point in your career, to put yourself in harm’s way to prevent your Principal from getting injured or worse – after all; by definition – you are being paid to protect the Principal and their family. Bodyguard– ‘a person or group of people whose job it is to protect someone from attack’:
Commitment– Your commitment to your Principal and employers; be it a security company or the Principal themselves. Your commitment will be required on a personal level too, such as your personal fitness and abilities. And a commitment to continue learning within the industry, CPD (continuing professional development). If you cannot swim how can you save someone’s life? if you cannot drive how can you drive in an emergency? Very basic requirements but we have over the years come across “Bodyguards” who could not swim or could not drive!
Discretion– You may be put into compromising situations by your Boss that will need to be dealt with – with total discretion. Keeping yourself and your Principal out of the limelight or away from any bad press, goes hand in hand with being a Bodyguard – no matter what industry, culture or background your Principal is from.
Personal fitness– This topic goes hand in hand with commitment, it is down to you to keep your fitness up; again if you are unfit how can you possibly take care of someone else? High levels of fitness will help you stay alert and responsive and enable you to work longer hours before suffering fatigue. Discipline in a combative/defensive or unarmed combat skill is essential for working as a bodyguard, after all – how else will you protect your Principal?
Working long hours will make it difficult to maintain your fitness but it must and should be part of your daily routine. Unfortunately, this is where bodybuilders struggle within the industry; the need to spend hours in the gym every day, and the need to eat every couple of hours. This just does not work within the industry.
Bodyguards or Close Protection Operatives can come from all backgrounds and walks of life, the common misconception is that you must be from a military or policing background – this is simply not the case. Some of the best bodyguards we have had the pleasure of employing have been civilians, some of the worst have been ex-military! There are good and bad from both walks of life; you can only ride the coattails of your past police or military service once you become successful in your own right! It’s the above attributes that ‘Maketh the Man’ – or woman. Hiring female bodyguards is increasingly popular and they’re highly sought after.
It’s true that most bodyguards will have a military or police background, but this does not instantly make them suitable or more favourable for the close protection industry. There are only a handful of regiments that have a close protection connection within their duties, that still doesn’t mean that an individual is suited to the private sector, a certain Principal or environment.
The foundations of close protection most certainly come from, and will almost always be based around military tactics and thinking. The ability to think on your feet and operate without instruction is as important as following instructions. That said, there are environments such as hostile environments (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria etc.) that are more suited to ex-military, this should be considered when choosing the right close protection course; hostile and corporate close protection are very different sides of the same coin – make sure you pick a course that suits you and your desired career path.
There are thousands of training courses available around the world and hundreds throughout the UK. Ultimately, it will be down to your goals, budget, personal preference and research which will help you choose a suitable course.
If you’re looking to work in the UK security industry, you will require a licence which is issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA). The SIA is the industry regulatory body responsible for personal licensing and private security regulations. The SIA licence is only valid in the UK, you must be at least 18 years of age to obtain one, but many security companies require a minimum age of 25 for the reasons of insurance, and experience.
In France, you will require a CNAPS licence, in Spain you will require ‘Titulo de Escolta Privado’. Similarly in most countries, there is some form of licensing and minimum training requirement.
The close protection course that you choose should be accredited with a Level 3 qualification, which will enable you to apply for your licence on completion of your course. Your licence (once granted) will enable you to work legally as a bodyguard in the UK.
On completion of your chosen close protection course, you are not legally allowed to work until you have received your Close Protection licence from the SIA (unless issued with an LDN by an SIA Approved Contractor). Vetting and licensing by the SIA, unfortunately, takes a long time, in some instances several months or more before you receive your licence. So, don’t go quitting your day job just yet!
You can find recognised close protection course providers on the Security Industry Authority website.
Ultimately, the course you should be looking to attend should consist of/or offer the following, but not limited to:
You should consider courses that are residential, thus giving you as many learning hours as possible. Most of the residential courses offer a more realistic insight into the hours and dedication required when you’re eventually operating as a Bodyguard / Close Protection Operative. Don’t pick a course purely because it’s local and convenient or cheap, and avoid courses that claim to have a 100% pass rate – this is not a good statistic. It generally means they are pushing students through and passing them no matter what standard the candidate is, would you want them watching your back?
Choose a reputable training provider that is well known with honest reviews from previous students – but remember, they will only have done one course so nothing to compare it to. Ask to go along and view a course that is running and research as much as possible, ask to meet the instructors; what are their backgrounds? Are the instructors still actively working on the ‘Close Protection Circuit’? This will indicate if their knowledge is still current or outdated. Do they provide post-course support? The instructors may claim to be ex-special forces, but do they have the experience within your chosen environment? (Corporate / Hostile).
Look into more than one course, and don’t be swayed by a jazzy website, promotional videos/flyers, discounts and promises of guaranteed work upon completion – this simply will not happen.
Generally, the more expensive and longer a course is; the better – but that’s not a given.
Upon successful completion of your minimum 140 guided learning hours, passing your SIA exam and eventually receiving your close protection licence; be aware that this is only the beginning. Like passing your driving test – there’s still a lot to learn, and finding work with no experience will not happen overnight. Don’t go around boasting about being a bodyguard just yet (or ever!) the hard part lies ahead.
Courses that promise you work once you have passed are generally untrue, you will be put on their database of potential employees, but no-one can guarantee you work on completion of your chosen Close Protection course. There are circa 15,000 SIA licensed CPO’s in the UK, 95% of whom are thought to be self-employed, all fighting for the scraps of work that are openly advertised. The vast majority of work is shared between friends, trusted colleagues and closed networks. Be very cautious of vacancies posted on social media that sound too good to be true, they often are and probably a CV harvest and/or cheap marketing ploy. Do your due diligence on security companies and their directors before handing over your personal data to them in the hope of work, and never pay them for vetting on the promise of work, it’s a scam. When you do find a company worth applying for follow our advice on preparing a close protection CV.
Most close protection work in the UK is concentrated in and around London; where do you live? – living several hours from London will put you at a distinct disadvantage. Do you have any accommodation in London? – most jobs these days do not include accommodation, and it’s not cheap living in the Capital. Do you have any knowledge of London? If not, you need to learn and quickly. Most principals will ask you for recommendations: where the nearest pharmacy or coffee shop is, and London is a big place. Do you have enough money to support yourself during the task, and for the 30 days proceeding? – that is how long it generally takes to get paid, sometimes longer. And during the quiet periods? It’s a seasonal feast and famine industry that is very cut-throat. The security industry is flooded, with the next person or company willing to do it cheaper than the last. You really need to consider these points before investing your hard-earned money and time into a course, which may yield zero return!
You need to consider and understand that you’ll be starting at the bottom of the ladder, you will need to gain experience, the trust of colleagues and companies before the work offers start coming in. Don’t be a ‘job-snob’, turn up for last-minute retail, doors and event security work – prove yourself, build your own professional network and reputation, because nothing will get handed to you on a plate. And be prepared for the backstabbing, sniping and bloating – the industry is rife with jealousy, egos and know-it-alls!
Becoming a bodyguard in the UK is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not simply a case of 140 hours guided learning and you’ll magically become a bodyguard. Being a bodyguard is not just a career choice, it’s a life choice. To become a bodyguard you need to live, breath and become fully immersed in it. Once you’ve mastered that, then you can call yourself a bodyguard.
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK, and worldwide.