A Beginners Guide to becoming a Close Protection Officer

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Seeing as quite a few have referred to this post I wrote a while ago, I have made it a sticky so that it is easier to find for the people looking into the industry.

A Beginners Guide to becoming a CPO

Welcome to Close Protection Forum and here you will find a wealth of information regarding the industry and tips on how to improve and succeed in what is a highly competitive and diverse industry. To any that are old hands most of this will already be known to you. For people just starting out or investigating the possibility of working in close protection, here is a guide of what to expect as you navigate your way from course selection to finding work. The site forums also have many articles written by experienced people in both CPO work and training. Take time to look around and don’t be afraid to ask questions as we are always learning, even the most experienced of us. It is part of the challenge of this type of work.

Understanding the work

The first steps towards a career as a CPO is to truly understand the work that it entails. Many people have misconceptions about the work from thoughts of James Bond to Kevin Costner’s The Bodyguard. In reality the day to day aspects of the role are far removed from those romanticised ideals and also there is a large responsibility to the work unlike its Hollywood counterparts who rarely seem to be accountable for their actions.

Before anything else the first question you should ask yourself is why do you want to do this type of work and does it fit in with your character. A strong desire to help another, even if it means you put yourself in danger is a prerequisite and patience as not all principals will share your ideas of what is safe and sane or are willing to pay the costs of what would be truly needed to make a situation safe.

Unlike the stereotype that most people believe, an aggressive personality is not a desired attribute; after all you are supposed to be avoiding conflict when you can. Also you will probably be considered a “necessary evil” in the eyes of the client / principal after all even if it is a real threat or their own paranoia, their life is already intruded upon and you are just another reminder of that intrusion, so sometimes it can be a thankless task. You are there solely to facilitate a normal a life as possible given the circumstances and to take care of their safety and wellbeing. If a situation happens and you ultimately save their life it is quite possible that instead of being thanked you will be looked at as having failed in your job to protect and avoid a situation which in some respects it true. Even in the normal world saving a life can be met with little gratitude, sometimes even indignation from the rescued as I have experienced from rescuing people that have nearly drowned at sea through their own stupidity. So you can see the desire to help another is a very important attribute to see you through those situations.

Another myth that is often heard is the phenomenal pay that you will receive and a glamorous life while mixing with the rich and famous at parties. While it is true you will be attending some lavish parties with your principal, what they don’t tell you is that mostly you will be standing outside waiting for the principal and watching everyone else enjoy themselves, the highlight of the evening being relieved of your post so you can have a break and a smoke with the CP driver (probably the most popular team member and the dullest assignment at functions!). This is another reason why the ability to work well as a team is important, as you will be spending a great deal of time with them. Still you will have to work up to this role as most likely you will be assigned to a RST (Residential Security Team) looking after the security of a home of the principal for £100 per day, a day being 10-12 hours.

Finding work is another question that is frequently asked and for some presents the major hurdle in becoming established in this career. You will be working as self employed and face considerable competition from your peers. Jobs are rarely advertised, there is little need because many people will be fielding CV’s to many companies for work. Some contracts can be as short as a day, most being a few days to a few weeks. If you are lucky you may get a longer contract but still may face unpaid stand down periods where the principal may not need you while travelling abroad as he has another CP team in another country.

The majority of work is through networking, a mysterious method to some and often hard to quantify. The fact that you have come to closeprotectioworld.co.uk - Close Protectio World, Cruise, Marketing is in fact the fiRst step in networking, when you do get your first assignment further networking can be done with your team as each may have other work lined up and if you work well with them, they may indeed give you a call. Don’t be tempted to “elaborate” on your past or experience to gain work. You will be found out sooner than you think and you will find it almost impossible to gain further work in that case as the industry is very small and well connected. Everyone has to start somewhere and most people will help a new person to the job if they are honest about their skill base.

Choosing A Course Type – Where Do I Want To Work

Now the basics of the work have been covered, let’s look at choosing a course. There are two main aspects to consider first, high risk or low risk work. In either case you will need an sia licence so chose an accredited course that suits your preferred location to work. There is little point in having a firearms course if you are working in the UK as you are not allowed to carry weapons, so that is something to bare in mind.

High Risk (Hostile Environment – HE)

These are areas like Iraq, Afghanistan, some eastern European and south American countries to name but a few. Normally without any previous military experience you will not be able to work these contracts and for good reason. The skills required can not be taught in a 2-4 week course, even with a basic firearms course included. There are exceptions to this rule as some civilians do show great skill during a course, some even excelling their ex military course mates but this is by no means usual. Another aspect is the people that are in charge of hiring are often ex military and feel more at ease with knowing what training and standard the potential employee has reached. Often the minimum is 6-8 years service with at least one or two tours in places like Iraq. Some non UK companies may employ someone without that experience if they show a good degree of skill but to gain work from them would require you to be known to them either by networking or recommendation.

Low Risk (Executive Protection - EP)

Although mainly low risk, there can be some contracts that are in the medium to high risk category depending where the principal may need to travel for business and if he wants to take his team to that destination. More so with EP is the need to understand protocol which is essentially good manners and the ability to blend in with the people around you as it often is more covert by nature than your high risk counterpart. If you are doing your job well, people will hardly realise you are there and will assume you are part of the delegation.

Selecting A Course

This can be tricky at first as every training provider will naturally say they are the best in their field, some have great training locations and glossy brochures, some offering guaranteed work after the course. Don’t be fooled by the promise of work, although there are some providers that will get you the first few jobs there is no guarantee and if a training provider tells you he can guarantee work with high pay then it may be wise to question their intentions. There is a list of accredited training companies available on the SIA website and you should select from these as at least you can be sure it will be accepted for an SIA licence which you will need to be able to work. Although these are accredited, it does not mean that they have the same training standards and will vary considerably, even within the same training company over time.

A course is only as good as its trainers and they do move around between training companies. Ask people who have just completed a course to find how well their course went. Probably by private message on this site is best as no one really wants people to know they have just trained with a company that did not do their job well.

Find out if there is a good content of practical exercises as the theory is actually not too difficult and the exam is relatively straight forward. You will learn far more from the practical assignments than any bookwork. Also look at what area of CP work you think would interest you most. Some prefer Surveillance work and it would be wise to select a training company that also specialises in that area just as if you intend on working high risk then a company that specialises in that would be best. The costs of courses vary as does the duration. A simple rule is that a short cheap course will probably be a false economy as you really only want to do this once as it is a considerable investment in your future and to gain a chance of recouping that cost through paid employment in the industry can be put at risk through cutting corners in training. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is quite often true. Talk with the short listed training companies to get a feel of what they are about; it will tell you far more than any marketing brochure will. Pay particular attention to what is not said or is glossed over as it is there that you will find what is being hidden.

Remember you also need a HSE first aid course, some training companies provide this as part of the course or you can do this separately. If it is done with the course it may be a better option as they tend to teach you in addition to the basics, some relevant injuries like gunshot wounds which a college course will not cover.

Preparation prior to a course

Personally I find this an important aspect. I was quite surprised when I was involved in running a course the amount of people that did no prior reading before joining a course. Some even had fanciful notions about the work which is why I have outlined some of the work above. A good training company will give you some pre reading before attending but you can also get books on the subject as well as research either via the internet or from people that you may have connected with that work in the industry. You are lucky in this respect as if you are reading this then you have come to a site that has a wealth of information which was not around when I first started to research into the industry with people that are willing to help each other with their experiences.

The theory itself is based on logical systems and common sense. It is possible to learn what you need for the exam prior to the course with the right material. I think this is the best piece of advice I could give as it allows you to concentrate on the practical aspects of the course and really enjoy it without the worry of being bogged down with theory. Another factor is that peoples long term memory is normally more efficient than their short term memory, so learning theory a while before will actually increase your ability to get excellent marks in the exam. Also spend a bit of time on your fitness prior to attending as it will help
Apply for your SIA Close Protection Front line Application form before you start the course, it should be waiting for you when you return from the course. This can be obtained online at the SIA website.

The Course

This is where the fun starts! It is natural to be apprehensive on joining but keeping a positive attitude will keep you in good stead. You most likely will be given a list of things you should bring to the course, for example a suit, shirts gym gear etc. Plan ahead and pack what you will need as you don’t want to be concerned with laundry chores unnecessarily. Some of the course will be quite physical so you will need to accommodate that and bring with you any medication you need and advise the course that for example you may be asthmatic. You would be surprised the amount of people that have asthma that do not bring their inhaler with them! You will probably be asked if you have any medical conditions prior to joining in any case.

Arrive in plenty of time and get to know your team mates as you will be working closely with them for the next 2-4 weeks. Once the course starts you will have very long days ahead, not a great deal of sleep and it can start to fray tempers so try and avoid that if you can. Be punctual in fact if you are asked to assemble at 06.30 then plan to be there and ready by 06.15. If you are instructed to do something by the team leader or trainer then do it without question. There is little point in arguing about a task when it still has to be done. I expected ex military people to excel at this but on my course they were the ones that were more reluctant to be cooperative than the civy counterparts.

Above all have fun but also maintain a professional attitude to the tasks set and you will get the most out of the course. If you do not understand something, ask the trainer. That is what he is there for to assist your learning and his experience and expertise is what you have paid for. DO not go in with a pre conceived idea of your strengths as you may be surprised what you find you are good at. I thought my strength would naturally be surveillance but not so good at unarmed combat but found that the latter came naturally to me, more so than I expected. A good trainer will tell you where he sees your strengths and weaknesses are during the course. Take that advice and work with it.

Applying for your licence

Once you have done your course and received your certificate from the awarding body, fill in your SIA licence application as instructed in black ink and print. Make sure all details are correct. If you have lived abroad or are currently living overseas, make sure you have a police record check completed for each country you have lived. You can never supply too much information but omissions can lead to delays and rejections leading to frustration for all concerned. It will not be quick with the minimum processing time being six weeks but in practice a lot longer and sometimes up to six months, so be patient. At the end of it you will be a proud owner of a CPO licence and legally ready to work.

If you find any difficulty with your application, emailing the SIA proves to be the most effective as the phone lines are busy and you may find you are on hold for a considerable amount of time. Try to keep composure even if being delayed as your case worker will be more compliant to your needs.

Finding work

Probably the biggest challenge facing newly licensed CPO’s. Hopefully you have already been networking (yes asking questions on this site is part of that networking) and now attention turns to writing your CV. This is the first impression an employer has about you so you need to make it count.

I have recruited quite a few people over the years and reading CV's unfortunately is often a hurried affair when there are many applicants. You were probably thinking that a snazzy design would catch someone's eye which it does, but it also overshadows the actual content (which is good) of the CV. After all if it is too much "look at me" then it comes across more as desperate, rather than confident of your own abilities.

Normally rule of thumb is trying to keep it down to two pages with key skills and experience and qualifications first. You got close though in that respect. Try and use a typeface that is easy on the eye, I did find yours a bit hard to read. You have to remember there will be many CV's to sift through and even the slightest reason to reduce the pile down to a more manageable size will be used. Spell check everything twice as there is little excuse for bad spelling with a word processor package. It doesn't have to be a literary masterpiece but good grammar is a requisite. Do not include your home address on your CV; there are some companies I have heard that will reject a CV for that alone.

Just keep it simple and clear with a consistent format. Use a bit of design to brighten it up but make sure that it does subtly. I actually prefer word documents rather than PDF's as I can check the properties to see editing time and even what computer it was created on. Sometimes this gives an insight into the person not on the CV.

Something I do (although this is dependant on the type of work I am going for) is to include a photo of myself in the document. You will be amazed how the psychological impact of "humanising" your CV can increase your chances of selection. Seeing a face will actually draw you to that CV compared with a mountain of white A4 with plain type and template borders.

Avoid at all costs the cover page with fancy border and just your name and Curriculum Vitae (there is no need to put CV or Curriculum Vitae on the document as it is obvious what it is to the reader). It is just another page to turn and if you can’t be concise on the first page it may reflect that you may not be concise in the job. Also that border you thought was "unique" I have seen at least 20 times before! Colours are good but remember many printers are monochrome or they may be photocopied. Colours often do not translate well in black and white and end up "muddying" the content.

Don't lie, you will be found out, maybe not in CV selection but certainly by the time an interview takes place. I would take a person on that may not be everything I am looking for but is honest; if they are lying they will be shown the door. I can normally spot one within the first minute of meeting and one of the reasons I get the job of selecting people in the companies I have worked for.

Contact details should be correct and professional. If you have to use a hotmail account please try to avoid addresses like dj_mickey@hotmail.com or dragonslayer@hotmail.com as you are applying for a professional post. Addresses like that do not look professional and again can show a flippant disregard to etiquette. If you can, get a personal domain name email address with just a simple fiRst name and initial account. They are less likely to be blocked by corporate spam blockers as well.

Some companies use electronic scanning of word documents to pick out keywords. I have heard people using white text and putting these keywords in even if it is not relevant to your experience but is to the job you are applying for. It will fool the selection process but if found out will amount to cheating and I would question the persons integrity even if I may admire their cunning! Also if they get printed out on non white paper stock they show up!

Lastly, your experience gained in each job. Keep it brief; bullet points are good as you can quickly see relevant experience even in an unrelated job. Stress responsibilities rather than the obvious duties the job would entail and don't flower up a responsibility like Catering Coordinator when in actual fact you were the one that got everyone their coffees!
Now you have done all that it is time to network like you never have before, all that means is talking to people in the industry and getting known. It could well be through this site, networking tools like facebook.com or once on your first job, the team members there. If you open yourself up to any possibility then you will be surprised how connections are made. Some of mine have come from the most random of events, so always be receptive to a situation
Hi Nomad
That has to be one of the most practicle and informative articles I have read so far in my pursuit to become a CPO.
I have Door Supervisory, Security Consultancy and Special Constabulary experience, I am working as a Regional Sales Manager at present but have a desperate urge to enter the CP industry and your article has answered many if not all of my questions.

I am baffled by how many courses there are out there, if there is any recommendations to be passed out I would be grateful. I think we can all accept that £2-£4k is a hefting sum to part with knowing that there are no guarantees of employment following the course. Hence, why I am eager to find a reputable course and one that can offer the best post course support.
Once again, great article.
Thank you.
Thank you formulamx, your words mean a lot to me. If just knowing I have helped someone looking to find out what the industry has to offer you then I have done well.

What I will say is that even though it may be a lot of money don't forget what you take out of the course will be far more than you realise. Yes you will learn something regarding work as a CP but what you will also learn and which for me is far more important is what you learn about yourself and the confidence that brings. With that thought you will gain far more and apply that to many things not just in this industry. After all I am now over in Sydney troubleshooting a nationwide company and that was only possible because the owner of the company knew what I was doing and saw a person that not only got off their arse and did something about their life but also put themselves in a situation and pushed themselves.

So here I am a stones throw from Bondi beach, its humid and warm, I have a nice apartment to relax in, and a challenge I am enjoying. Bit I know this is just the start as I head drifting across the square the sound of middle eastern music from a neighbouring apartment and know the next place I would love to be is Dubai. Ironically the job I am doing right now is nothing to do with security or CP work but it was all the skills I had learnt training in that and the passion that gives you focus in any thing you do.

Now that makes the 2-4K seem money well spent doesn't it. So enjoy the course and all that it brings.

P.S. If you are reading this J you are right, reality is truly liquid ;)
Brilliant and Informative........thanks

Hi there.

I'm very new to this forum and I came across your artlcle.

I have to agree with formulamx, your article is brilliant and also answered so many of my questions too...........thanks for that.

Yeah, 2 to 4k is a whole bunch of money to lob out with no guarantee of ever getting a sniff of work.

But also like formulamx I'm still looking around for the 'Right' course, if there is such a thing :confused:

All the best.

New to the forum, and already learnt alot from that message, Brilliant information cheers for that.

Was wondering tho, is there an age limit to get jobs in CP? would i struggle with me being 21? because browsing threw ive noticed its mainly 25+
Life experience you will be lacking at twenty-one there Mark but it depends on where you want to work. As a Commando (I hope with that name!) you will have doors opened for you in areas that are sandy, if you already have experience on the ground there.

Are you out?
Yes mate just left the Marines just looking to see what cp course is best for me. So do you think il struggle to find work at my age?
to be honest mate im new to this as well im only 18 and just starting to learn as well if u ahve experience i think that they will take u as longs u have the right qualifactions u should be fine but thats my opinion but i would ask some others as i have nt done this before
best bit is to ask normad who done this thread if u can pm him and ask best thing to do is ask questions there all great bunch of people and will help ya

good luck
Best course for you is one geared toward the area you want to work; UK permissive environment, or overseas hostile environment.

Do a lot of research, remember everyone is the best, everyone will sort you out, everyone has the best instructors and some will even have lots of work 'coming up'.

Minefield is an understatement.
Cheers for that Nomad - I completed my course 2 years ago, and although I waited over 14 months for my CP Licence (the SIA actaully LOST my application halfway through the process!) I have started to put my name about on the circuit.

Having only done a couple of very small jobs, and one decent one - I am desperately trying, what I would imagine every other CPO in the whole world is trying to do - find work. I have contacted about 40 different companies and registered with them, but now I have hit a wall. Oh - and although I have a few good qualifications, I am NOT ex-forces - which I understand is a bit of a hurdle. Especially seeing as I would love to get out to somewhere a bit lively. I've heard Nigeria has soome good work as kidnapping is apparently rife out there, but am I wasting my time if I'm not ex-military?
Any suggestions on how to get in touch with other CPO's on the circuit? I want this more than most (as in, i'm prepared to get off my lazy arse and DO something to find work!) but I have to admit - it's time to put my hand up and hout "HELP!".
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (and remembered).
Keep up the excellent work guys.


Thank you for writing this article as it surely has cost you a lot of time to write it and more importantly, now I know what to look out for.


Many thanks for them words of advice Nomad , just what ive been looking for . All the best for 2009.
Findind first job in CP

I am attending a CP course at clearwater next month but now that i have read up on this particular career i feel that it is somewhat very hit and miss, what i mean is getting your first break seems harder than i thought it would be, maintaining a constant flow of work seems to be a massive challenge. I really want to succeed in this industry but im not sure how that is possible when most companies are only advertising for experienced CPO'S.
Hello Nomad.
Thanks for the great thread, I found it very helpful. I'll be out in the free and job looking for world in a couple of years, and I'm hesitating about doing my HECPO/PSD course in 2010 or wait till the end of my ongoing contract. You think there willl be some major changes about the SIA licensing in the future, or the prices for the CP courses?
when you send off a resume make sure you write an introduction which is apropriate to the position you are applying for, some companies get up to 60 resume per day,make sure your have spell check,you have a good resume lay out,a recruiter will decide within reading the first paragraph whether to bin it or keep it.
a police or militray background will help, but make sure your are trained for the position you are applying for. if you have someone thing unique that other do not have will help, eg:
-protection surveillance/ surveillance detection trained
-maritime secutiy courses
-counter terrorism/insurgency
-having/learning languages will help you gain international work, South america/Mid East /Asia etc.
-keep your mind and body fresh,with training
-network hard,keep in touch with new/old contacts ,you never know when they may have work for you but they dont remember your availible for a gig.
-try to stay on good terms with team members/TLs /management, you may leave a job but find out your future ones are working with the same people. so if you quit try to leave on good terms not always easy.
-tactics- learn as much as you can,use whats best for you or what is apropriate for the job,no one has the perfect model.
-always stay professional/act/react apropriately
people sometimes even cameras will be watching you, old saying takes years to build a reputation seconds to ruin it.
hope this has been of some help

Samson Operations (Asia)
Israeli Security Consultants & tactical Training
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