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Industrial Security: Keeping Businesses Safe

The old idea of industrial security was a low-paid guard who stood at a gate or patrolled an empty building at night. That's no longer the reality. Today's industrial security professionals are highly trained experts who can be found in the boardrooms and executive suites of security-conscious companies around the world.

"This is a growth field," says Darcy Kernaghan. Kernaghan owns a security consulting company.

"It's a huge industry, and it's nearly recession-proof. When times are bad, the security industry is still pretty stable. It's not just 9/11 driving this. There's a real requirement for safety in public places...which are often owned by private businesses or industry."

Industrial security covers a wide range of jobs, from security consultants and guards to people who develop products like cameras and alarm systems.

Protecting information from identity thieves, industrial spies and hackers is extremely important. That means computer security experts are in high demand.

Sample tasks for industrial security professionals include:

  • Assessing security risks, like shared computer files or job site access
  • Reviewing security products such as cameras or alarms
  • Recommending security measures
  • Conducting personnel background checks
  • Designing computer programs or applications
  • Keeping good records of clients and their security plans
  • Responding to security breaches

A typical day might involve meeting with security system designers, touring job sites, assessing security issues, doing research, writing security reports or designing computer programs.

Kernaghan's company specializes in manpower and security consulting. It also handles security at a major international airport.

"We work in all kinds of industries, although our focus is mainly corporate security. We interface with all other security industries -- cameras, alarms etc.," says Kernaghan.

"Most people who come to us for work don't know what they're getting into. They're looking at us because it's a growth industry. Then they get a few years into it and start seeing all these career possibilities: border patrol; corporate investigator; pre-board screener....This industry is much bigger than a guard standing at a post."

Much of the work involves dealing with people. "I like working with people, knowing that I'm contributing to their safety and helping them," says Ken Moffett. He is head of industrial security for Boeing.

Excellent communication skills are essential. Other characteristics employers look for are integrity, honesty and teamwork.

You should be comfortable working in a team environment, but you should also be able to work independently. A second language is an asset, especially for international companies or government-related industries.

You should also have good research, planning and time management skills. You need to be able to work under pressure in a crisis. A clean background is a must: almost all companies run background checks on employees before hiring them.

"We hire on values," says Kernaghan. "Integrity, honesty, accountability and compassion are all important in this industry. Other good ideas are criminology courses, reading trade magazines and joining security associations, maybe working for an alarm company and investigating the issues in the industry. Get informed."

A high school education is a must. A degree in criminology, social services, law or business is frequently required. Computer security specialists need a degree or diploma in computer science or computer systems security.

Specialized training may be required for work in nuclear power plants or hazardous work areas.

Almost all universities and colleges offer courses in criminology, justice, law and business or commerce. Most offer computer science degrees or diplomas that allow students to focus on information security.

There are a number of formal training programs and courses in North America specifically for security professionals.

ASIS International administers the three most widely recognized certifications for security professionals: the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) for experienced security professionals, the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI), and the Physical Security Professional (PSP).

Vicky Contavespi at ASIS International notes that certification is becoming much more common.

"There's a real movement for people to get a higher degree now," she says. "Certifications are a great tool. The CPP certification tells employers that you've been a security manager and that you have a broad knowledge of the industry, which is very important. A security professional is more than just an ex-cop."

ASIS and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania now offer a two-week "mini-MBA" program for security executives. The program is designed for chief security officers or security managers. Webster University in Missouri also offers an MA program in security management in cooperation with ASIS.

Work environments, stress levels and salaries in industrial security vary widely depending on the exact job. If you're working for a large company, you can expect fairly regular hours unless there is a crisis. Independent consultants and security investigators may have more irregular hours.


ASIS International
An organization of security professionals

SANS Institute
Offers resources for computer security workers

International Association of Professional Security Consultants
Sets industry standards for professionalism

Security Management Magazine
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