It’s easy to romanticise the work of bodyguards, especially since most of what we see on TV and movies glorifies the job. If they’re not saving the president from violent terrorist attacks, they’re busy protecting celebrities who (by the end of the film) miraculously fall in love with them. And while real life inspires some of these stories, there’s no denying that becoming a bodyguard is one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the world.
But if you think you have what it takes to beat the odds and you’re seriously considering pursuing this career path, then read on. Here’s how to become a bodyguard.
1. Research the Profession
As with any job, it’s important to gather enough information so you can come to a sound career decision. To help you through it, we’ve noted down some of the most critical aspects of this profession.
A bodyguard’s primary responsibility is to protect their clients from all kinds of fatal incidents, including – but not limited to – kidnapping, stalking and harassment. Apart from this, they’re also expected to:
- vet guests and assess potential threats in any location or situation
- research and check premises to plan possible escape routes
- search cars and do surveillance in unfamiliar areas
- create contingency plans for both local and foreign trips
- perform first aid if necessary
- accompany clients during all social and business meetings.
Essential Skills and Qualities
While being built like Captain America or Wonder Woman presents an advantage, you’ll need more than washboard abs and bulging biceps to succeed in this job. Here are some of the characteristics and traits you’ll need to stay ahead of the game:
- physical strength and stamina – you’ll be exposed to different difficult and dangerous scenarios that will test your endurance and strength
- mindfulness – you should be vigilant at all times to prevent any possible outcomes
- confidence – you’ll be pitted against other strong and experienced people; you need to project confidence if you want to stand out
- flexibility – your workweek will depend on your client, and you must adapt to it, no matter the circumstances
- loyalty – the key to a lasting career is to earn and build your client’s trust through allegiance
- altruism – it takes more than courage to put someone else’s life before your own, and that requires selflessness
- observational skills – you must know how to read body language to vet potential threats
- driving skills – dangerous situations can happen anywhere, including the road; you must be able to navigate safely
- networking skills – most bodyguards rely on word-of-mouth marketing; to make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle, you need to work your social circle
- organisational skills – you’ll always need to plan to make sure your client is protected
- multitasking skills – when dealing with dangerous situations, you should be able to juggle multiple things at the same time, which requires focus and a calm state of mind
- attention to detail – you should be able to scan a room and immediately notice if something is not in order
- decision-making skills –you’ll need to make choices fast in life or death situations, and each decision you make will be critical.
Your salary will depend on your experience, your client and the amount of risk involved in your duties. For example, some clients who are regularly exposed to danger, typically celebrities or politicians, prefer to get the services of their bodyguard on a long-term retainer. But there are also others who have high-profile positions like judges or lawyers who may only need a day or a week’s worth of protection services.
According to the National Careers Service, entry-level bodyguards can get as much as £100 to £150 per day, whereas more experienced ones receive around £500. Meanwhile, in the US, PayScale puts the average salary of a bodyguard at around $64,000.
As a bodyguard, you can work for multiple clients but only in so far as your schedule and clients allow it. If you don’t want to work as an independent contractor, you can also opt to work in a security agency where you’ll get paid on a monthly basis.
Working Hours and Conditions
A bodyguard’s schedule can be incredibly stressful. Aside from being constantly exposed to high-risk situations, their schedule is also primarily determined by their client’s lifestyle – meaning wherever he or she goes, you go, too. For some, that might sound like a dream come true, but living out of a suitcase may not be the ideal scenario, especially if you value work-life balance.
Due to the rise of a new breed of celebrities, the need for bodyguards has increased. Nowadays, YouTubers and social media influencers require just as much protection as A-list superstars. The demand for female bodyguards has also risen, especially within prominent Islamic families. Meanwhile, the job outlook for this profession in the US is good with a projected 6% growth in the next few years, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook.
2. Get the Qualifications
Military and police officers who retire at an early age sometimes end up as bodyguards because most of them have a difficult time adjusting to a 9-to-5 job. While this gives them a huge advantage, it also doesn’t mean you can’t be a bodyguard just because you don’t have a military background.
Apart from being physically fit, you must be at least 18 years old, have a clean criminal record and a high school diploma to qualify as a bodyguard in the US. You’ll also be required to go through a bodyguard training programme.
The UK has similar requirements. However, to work as a bodyguard in England or Wales, you must carry a close protection licence which is issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA). Also, unlike in the US, bodyguards or close protection officers in the UK are prohibited from carrying firearms.
3. Land Your First Job
One of the best ways to get a job as a bodyguard is to work for an agency or a private security firm. Not only will it help you practise your skills outside of the training programme, but it will also introduce you to people who may end up as long-term clients. Most cities require the services of a bodyguard, so it’s best to check local ads.
Another essential aspect in this job is networking, primarily if you’re working as an independent contractor. As with most businesses, it’s not what you know but who you know that can help you get ahead, and the more extensive your circle of friends, the better chances you’ll have of getting more clients. Try enrolling and training in your local gym, and chances are you’ll meet other bodyguards there.
4. Develop Your Career
Like most jobs, specialising is key to getting ahead. Most, if not all bodyguard training programmes offer courses on specific kinds of protection services. For instance, some want to learn more about VIP protection services, while others are interested in becoming bodyguards for children. Typically, each course has three levels: basic, advanced and team leader status. Naturally, the higher your level, the higher your chances of getting hired.
You can also improve your chances by learning a new language. Most clients prefer bodyguards who are multilingual, especially if they often travel abroad.
It goes without saying that becoming a bodyguard involves both brawn and brains and, perhaps most of all, a genuine calling to serve and protect others.
Which high-profile personality would you be willing to protect with your own life? Let us know in the comments section below.