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Do You Need a Security Guard License in Massachusetts?

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Massachusetts is one of 10 states in the U.S. that does not require individual security guards, whether armed or unarmed, to obtain specific licenses; the state does, however, require prospective security guards to be over the age of 18, possess a high school degree or GED, complete classroom training, pass a background check, and pass a drug screening. Massachusetts does require licenses for the companies that hire security guards and for private investigators.

Armed Guards

Armed guards and special police often have better salary and employee benefits, increased job security and a wider scope of responsibility compared with unarmed guards. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that armed security guards complete eight hours of instruction on gun safety law and Massachusetts laws regarding the use of lethal force and also requires more stringent background checks and entry requirements than unarmed guards. Individual security companies may impose even stricter background checks due to the liability increase from employing armed guards. Unarmed guards are not required to take any training courses.

Security Guard Training

Massachusetts does not require training for security guards, though useful training courses could include patrol and observation, incident response and first aid overview. Guards may also receive training in proper arrest procedure and other legal procedures, as well as firearm training in safety, marksmanship, cleaning and storage, and Massachusetts firearm law. Training can also ensure guards remain physically fit and maintain good physical conditioning, are able to stand for long periods, and allows them to hone their communication and customer service skills.

Security Company or Business

Security companies in Massachusetts must obtain a "Watch Guard Patrol Agency License" from the state. This includes an original application of $550, an annual renewal fee of $150, and a $5,000 surety bond. Massachusetts does not require a license for security guards, but each security company must keep records of all employees and register them with the state upon date of hire. Massachusetts State Police regularly makes random checks of Watch Guard licenses.

Private Investigators

Private investigators, or PIs, often have duties very similar to security guards, but must obtain a license from Massachusetts to practice. PIs must be licensed to legally guard, watch, or patrol, and must have a work history of at least three years of detective work, or 10 years of police work in Massachusetts or another state. Felons can never obtain a license to practice private investigation in the state.


Erica Dreisbach is a freelance writer and artist, and has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written articles for eHow and Constant Content, and blogged for Social Venture Network and Open Produce.