Protective Service


A high school diploma is the minimum degree usually required, but not all employers demand it. Vocational and trade schools offer training programs and companies often give employees further in-depth training on the job. Workers can also expand their skills through individual classes or shorter programs. For certain more specialized careers, university programs are offered; they often provide an education on the larger processes of the manufacturing business to prepare students for career advancement and better job opportunities overall.


When you choose to pursue a career in this category, it is important to consider whereor at which tier--you want to work. While you dont have to be a college graduate to be in the protective services, you do have to have some education. At minimum, a high school diploma is required. After that, the requirements can vary widely depending on where the worker is employed. Working as a correctional officer for a federal prison requires a bachelors degree, but local correctional facilities may only ask for some college work, or even less. There are usually physical fitness standards and tests that applicants must pass. Other requirements can be for a minimum age of 18-21, U.S. citizenship, and a drivers license, but the specifics can vary by state.

Training programs for most careers is mandatory and is where workers learn the skills to do their jobs. The intensity and duration of this training can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the job requirements. Jobs on the federal level, like working for the FBI, typically have stricter prerequisites and require training that is much longer and more in-depth. Firefighters and police officers attend formal academies, where they learn laws, codes, ethics, techniques, and other subjects relevant to their chosen career.

Some careers in this category are more strictly regulated than others, requiring licenses, certifications, or registration in addition to the other training and qualifications. Firefighters can also be certified as EMTsemergency medical technicians, or paramedics. Some fire departments require it to work. This involves a training program and passing exams to earn the appropriate certification. Registration is increasingly required in order to work as a security guard, and there are a number of rules and regulations workers must meet if they work as an armed guard. Private investigators, especially those who carry a weapon, also need a license or certification to work. (It is important to check the exact requirements in your state because they can vary widely).


  • Communication skills Much of the work in this industry is specifically for a customer-installing, maintaining, or repairing a person's car, refrigerator, computer, or appliance. Knowing how to interact with customers, how to explain assessments and fees, and solve problems is a critical, overlooked aspect of these jobs.
  • Decision-making skills. The bigger the job, the more parts involved. Machines and technology involve complex designs and structures and problems arise when even the smallest piece malfunctions. Workers need to be able to focus and have a critical eye for all parts of the project.
  • Good judgment. Because so much of the work is physical, workers know they will have to get their hands dirty. Pieces, parts, and technology can be delicate and the work precise.
  • Patience. The mechanical side of the work can be very physically demanding. Machinery and parts must be hauled to the place of installation or replacement, with heavy equipment making the process tiring. The job isn't done until the new fridge makes it from the trunk to the kitchen, no matter how tired you are!
  • Physical strength. In order to fix something, you have to understand how and why it broke in the first place. Isolating problems and coming up with practical, workable solutions is important, especially when the work only requires one person's effort.


There is typically strong competition for jobs in this category, and unfortunately projected growth is, at best, on par with the national projections for all jobs, and at worst, much slower. The more limited job opportunities largely come from local, state, and federal government as economic growth is lower, budgets are smaller, and priorities shift. There may be more opportunities in the private sector, especially in the security sector. Applicants with strong relevant backgrounds, education, volunteer experience, etc. may have a better chance to get hired. 

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Correctional officers Correctional officers

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in a jail or prison.'

High school diploma or equivalent $38,970
Fire inspectors and investigators Fire inspectors and investigators Fire inspectors examine buildings to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions.' High school diploma or equivalent $53,990
Firefighters Firefighters Firefighters control fires and respond to other emergencies, including medical emergencies.' Postsecondary non-degree award $45,250
Police and detectives Police and detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.'

High school diploma or equivalent $56,980
Private detectives and investigators Private detectives and investigators

Private detectives and investigators find facts and analyze information about legal, financial, and personal matters. '

High school diploma or equivalent $45,740
Security guards and gaming surveillance officers Security guards and gaming surveillance officers Security guards and gaming surveillance officers patrol and protect property against theft, vandalism, terrorism, and illegal activity.' High school diploma or equivalent $24,020

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