Licensing and Continuing Education

Feb. 11, 2015
How to get the training and experience needed to find work as an alarm installer

The security industry is growing at a higher than average rate in many communities around the globe. 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 55,000 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 codes.


To protect consumers, many states regulate the industry with licensing rules. Every state has different laws and requirements for licensing — there are even some states that have no licensing requirements at all for alarm installers. The states, through legislation, provide control of the security industry and their services.

Some level of control is achieved through licensing requirements. The goal of the licensing requirements is to decrease liabilities with poorly installed alarm systems. This may include incorrectly located system components, cabling and battery back-up that cannot meet system electrical demands, and inappropriate maintenance. The District of Columbia, along with 33 states, require a license to work as a security alarm installer.

Obtaining a license is not always an easy task. On average, these requirements 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 fall below those required for an EMT and above 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 lost to experience, $250 in fees and one exam. In 17 of the 34 states, 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. 

Finding Training

There are many opportunities to get the training and experience needed to find work in this field. One of the best ways to become a security system installer is to obtain learning through an industry-approved training course. There are courses in security concepts and technical installation requirements available at many colleges, trade schools and universities which 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. 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 jump to 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. And all things being equal, the idea of maintaining skills through quality education programs seems reasonable. But in the world of alarm installer education, unfortunately all things are not equal. 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. The training is never 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 current. The negative impact this has on the industry is wide-reaching.

Before investing time and money in CEU training, here are five questions you should ask the provider:

  1. Are the instructors professional facilitators or just part-time trainers? It tends to be that a part-time trainer will “tell” whereas a professional facilitator will go above and beyond and “show.” Facilitators know how to include real-world, practical examples into their instruction, which helps the student apply the course material to their personal situation.
  2. What instructional design methodology is used to develop the content? Does the content adhere to adult learning models? For example, online training can be eReading or eLearning — it depends on the effort the company creating it put into exercises and interaction that keeps the student engaged.
  3. How often is course content updated? With the rapid pace that security technology changes, a training course cannot be developed once and taught forever. Course materials must be constantly updated to keep up with changing technology, codes and standards.
  4. Is the training built to standard? In the eLearning community, there is a development standard called SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. Quite simply, it means that the course was developed to a standard that allows it to play well with others. If content is not SCORM-compliant, course and LMS integration costs can be astronomical.
  5. Is the training provider an education partner or a “certificate mill?” In security training, all that glitters is not gold. Certificate mills are easy to spot — they claim to be small organizations yet 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 danger with certificate mills is they provide low-quality training, rarely educate the student and can have hidden costs leading companies to spend much more than necessary.

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. Given the size, scope and importance of the security industry, the availability of quality training is very limited at all levels.

Training is mainly in response to legislative and enterprise requirements, and based on a workforce trained in other industries. On-the-job training is provided for unqualified intruder alarm systems, with just-in-time on-the-job technical training supplied by the manufacturer for new products or technology. Nevertheless, some major security companies offer electronics servicing apprenticeships based on enterprise standards.

An excellent way to maintain licenses through CEUs is through ( The site includes more than 100 hours of online continuing education training approved for CEUs at the national and state level. And probably the best thing about the site, besides the quality of the training, is the Library Model pricing plan that gives students access to the entire online catalog of courses for a 12-month period for one low price.

Connie Moorhead is President of The CMOOR Group (, a provider of security training and education services. To request more info about the company, please visit