TL;DR: There is a good career path for our security officers as the landscape changes!
A question that probably every Singaporean was asked while growing up: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Parents ask this question partly out of curiosity, but it’s also to see if their children are well on their way to becoming the doctor, lawyer or engineer that they can showcase during family gatherings — or at least those were considered the ‘sure-win’ careers back in the day.
Since then, career choices have opened up for Singaporeans. Beyond your doctors, lawyers and engineers of the world, there is a viable path to success for most professional careers out there — take the job of a security officer for example.
Now, we know what some of you are thinking. Being a ‘night watchman’ at the airport doesn’t necessarily sound like a viable career plan — but hear us out. With the right training opportunities, and the willingness to work for it, there is a career in being a security personnel! Allow us, then, to dispel some common misconceptions about what it means to work in the security industry.
There are things you got wrong about security officers…
It is understandable why some Singaporeans have misconceptions about this line of work. First of all, the security guards at entrances of schools, condominiums and shopping malls are usually our first touchpoints with the profession. Sure, they keep watch over the premises to prevent unauthorised entries and, in the last two years, even take temperatures and make sure that fully vaccinated visitors check in via the TraceTogether app. However, these tasks do seem, at least on the surface, a far cry from white-collar office jobs. It also doesn’t help that the only times security officers make the news are when they are verbally or physically abused or when nefarious security companies make them work up to 20 hours a day for six days a week.
“Telling people to put on a mask or stop smoking and chatting can be confrontational as the job is to enforce measures and get the public to follow the rules,” The Executive Secretary of the Union of Security Employees, Mr Steve Tan shared that trying to enforce Covid-19 safety measures can be tough.
Combine the supposed lack of career progression, extremely long hours and the potential to be verbally or physically abused by random strangers, it is no wonder some Singaporeans couldn’t be bothered to check out the opportunities that the security industry provides!
Misconception 1: Easy-peasy job, no training required
The first big misconception is that all security officers are simply poorly trained police officers or retired army officers — if they are trained at all.
The fact, however, cannot be further from the truth. Security officers that belong to security companies have to undergo training on how to control certain situations, perform first aid and communicate with the authorities and members of the public in case of emergencies — the list goes on.
It’s not a walk in the park, either. There is a slew of tests to clear and certificates to earn before they are allowed to wear a badge and don the security officer uniform. Sure, they may not be out and about to ‘catch the bad guys’ all day, but to say no training is involved is just plain wrong.
Misconception 2: They only take care of low-priority properties
It’s true that there are security personnel who guard schools, condominiums and shopping malls, but that’s not all they do.
In fact, security officers in Singapore significantly augment the capabilities of their counterparts in the Ministry of Home Affairs, especially in certain key sites. For example, they are often in charge of security and access-control points at important buildings. Furthermore, many security officers are stationed at logistics hubs. Beyond the usual security functions, they also perform checks on cargo trucks and are trained to detect possible threats and profile potential offenders. Again, these skills don’t come with no training, either.
Misconception 3: Stagnant pay and barely any career opportunities
A quick search of MyCareerFuture’s job portal brings up a number of positions in the security industry.
For example, a Security Supervisor executes evacuation plans and exercises, and is also in charge of incident management and reporting. This person can expect to earn a basic salary of up to S$3,000. Then we have the Senior Security Supervisor, whose job is to oversee security or fire command centres with more than three crew members. He or she would also be conducting security audits and risk assessments. This person can expect to earn a basic salary of S$3,200.
Then we get to the upper tiers of the security industry. A Security Consultant performs risk assessments and recommends various integrated security solutions. This person’s salary can range anywhere between S$5,200 to S$9,700.
If pay is somehow still a concern, get this: real incomes, which account for inflation, grew cumulatively in the security sector by about 36% between 2014 and 2019 — that’s higher than the 21% growth in national median income over the same period!
Misconception 4: Training opportunities? Where got?
Doing a quick search on Google, it doesn’t take long to discover that there is a course for just about everything in Singapore — including those specifically tailored for security officers.
For example, remember the job of a Security Consultant? Temasek Polytechnic offers a Specialist Diploma in Security Consultancy. The course enables participants to become competent security consultants and is aimed at professionals in the private security industry and in-house security staff who wish to specialise in security assessment and consulting.
The National Trades Union Congress’s (NTUC) LearningHub also has its very own Security Academy, which provides a comprehensive range of training courses, from advanced certification for security personnel to basic security skills for those new to the industry. Psst, NTUC is also the largest WSQ security training provider for SkillsFuture Singapore!
Upgrading the entire industry
Support for the security industry does not stop there, either. In November 2021, the Government announced that the baseline wages of security officers will more than double from S$1,650 in 2023 to S$3,530 by 2028. Well, this came after recommendations were put forth by the Security Tripartite Cluster, which is made up of representatives from the unions, industry associations and the Government!
The security landscape is changing every day. Aside from petty crimes that everyday security officers have to take care of, there are wider safety and security concerns to think about as well, from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the rise of global terrorism… The security industry does have a big role to play in the near future, and career opportunities are aplenty if one knows where to find them!