The security industry is growing at a higher than average rate in many communities around the globe; and with the increase in security concerns, there has been an increase in demand for qualified security system installers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for security and fire alarm system installers were expected to grow much faster than the average for all jobs – at 33 percent in the period 2010-2020.
Currently, there are more than 65,000 security installers working in North America. While a security alarm installer is commonly known to be someone who can install, program, maintain, and repair security and fire alarm wiring and equipment, it may be most important that they ensure work is done in accordance with relevant laws and codes.
To protect consumers, many states regulate the security industry with licensing rules. There is no national licensing standard – every state has different laws and requirements for licensing; and there are some states that have no licensing requirements at all for alarm installers.
The states provide some level of control of the security industry and their services through licensing requirements. The licensing requirements are typically established at the state or jurisdictional level via the work of licensing boards, and the goal of the requirements is to decrease liabilities from poorly-installed alarm systems. This may include incorrectly located system components, cabling and battery backup that cannot meet system electrical demands, and inappropriate maintenance.
Licensing By the Numbers
Some argue that licensing and continuing education requirements are not equitable for smaller security firms vs. the larger regional, national and global firms. As in other industries, approximately 80 percent of security firms employ 1-9 employees, while approximately 70 percent of the employees of security firms are employed by companies with 100 or more employees. Regardless of the company’s size or the number of technicians they employ, the licensing requirements for that firm are the same.
Another consideration that impacts licensing is what functions are outsourced by security firms. Alarm installation and repair is outsourced 69.4 percent of the time, and alarm monitoring services are outsourced nearly 69 percent of the time. Still, it is the responsibility of the security firm – whether outsourcing jobs or not – to make sure that all employees who need a license do, in fact, have a one.
In all, 44 states and the District of Columbia require a license to work as a security alarm installer. Getting that license is not always an easy task – on average, the requirements to get a license cost aspiring security alarm installers 535 days of education and training, $213 in licensing fees and require them to take one exam.
To put this in some perspective, licensing requirements for an alarm installer are just short of those required for an EMT, and are more than those required of a dental assistant.
License requirements for security alarm installers vary widely across states. For example, Delaware only requires the installer to register, whereas Vermont has the most burdensome requirements at more than five years of time given to experience, $250 in fees and one exam.
In 17 of the 45 locations requiring a license, security alarm installers are required to have a year or more of experience – often to obtain a level of electrician's license – while another 14 states do not require any education or experience at all. Except for Pennsylvania, the 10 most populous U.S. states require that firms be licensed. Licenses are valid for between one (Texas and Ohio) and three (Florida and Illinois) years.
In terms of security managers, all of the most populous states except Pennsylvania have experience requirements. Seven states require an exam to become a manager (Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina do not). Only eight of the most populous states have a minimum age requirement to be a security manager, ranging from 18 (California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina) to 25 (New York and Michigan).
Just as important as the licensing process is the compliance management side of things. Having a system that tracks, automates and provides metrics on the license holders and the company can be the difference between staying legal and not.
PSA Security Network recently saw the critically-important need here, and it made a system available to all member companies called the Compliance Management System (CMS), developed by The CMOOR Group and SecurityCEU.com. The CMS provides a mechanism by which security companies can keep industry certifications and licenses up to date and in compliance.
“We are always looking to provide our owner companies with resources that bring significant value to their organization,” says Anthony Berticelli, PSA’s Director of Education. “Everyone has issues tracking certification and license compliance, and the CMS is a difference-maker.”
There are many opportunities to get the training and experience needed to find work in the security field. One of the best ways to become a security system installer is to obtain education through an industry-approved training course. There are courses in security concepts and technical installation requirements available at many colleges, trade schools and universities that provide adequate training needed for this line of work. In addition, there is often security training opportunities available through online coursework that can lead to certification in security installation.
Most states with licensing requirements have established continuing education unit (CEU) requirements to maintain and renew licenses. Of the 45 locations with a license requirement, 34 have a CEU requirement to renew or maintain the license.
The requirements are as varied as the states themselves. In some jurisdictions the installer may need to take six hours of CEU training over a two-year period; in other jurisdictions, it may be a 36-hour requirement within a three-year timeframe. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the installer to self-report their fulfillment of CEU requirements.
The motivation in requiring CEU training to maintain an active license is to produce competent, qualified and current security professionals. All things being equal, the idea of maintaining skills through quality education programs seems reasonable; however, in the world of alarm installer education, the quality of security training is as varied as the actual CEU requirements.
Many times an organization desiring to become an authorized CEU provider only has to submit a form, an outline and a check – and their courses are approved. Never is the training reviewed to verify its quality and fulfillment of outlined CEU standards. This can lead to a maze of providers offering CEU training that is neither high in quality nor maintained as
Before investing time and money in CEU training, here are some questions you should ask the provider:
- Are instructors professional facilitators or just part-time trainers?
- What instructional design methodology is used to develop the content?
- How often is course content updated?
- Is the training built to standard?
- Is online training compliant with the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) – a set of technical standards for eLearning software products?
Another big concern is so-called industry certificate mills. These organizations are easy to spot – they claim to be small organizations, yet they offer an enormous training catalog; they make outrageous claims about course quality yet adhere to no design standards, and perhaps the biggest giveaway is they offer training content at an extremely reduced cost or even for free but charge for “authorizing” CEUs or providing course certificates.
The risk of an enterprise losing its investment in trained security staff to its competitors is real and often causes a circumspect approach to training; however, the reality is that the development of a security industry training system will increase the pool of industry expertise, reduce the risk of defection of valuable employees, foster a more open approach to training, and create a more flexible workforce.
Connie Moorhead is President of The CMOOR Group (www.cmoor.com), a provider of security training and education services. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10546338.