How to Become a Surveillance Officer

As a surveillance officer, you’ll work with members of a company’s security department in order to patrol certain areas and prevent crime from happening. You could work in a variety of environments including department stores, casinos, apartment buildings, schools, or even theme parks. A number of techniques could be used to detect crime, including using closed circuit cameras, hidden microphones, or physically observing people by attempting to blend in with them.

Working as a surveillance officer requires certain skills and abilities in order to be successful. You should be naturally observant and curious about the things that are going on around you. Having a good memory is also helpful, as you may not always be able to take notes about what you have observed. It also helps to have a “sixth sense” that lets you know when something just doesn’t seem right. An eagerness to protect others is an important characteristic for you to have as well.

Skills & Education
$24,380
High School or GED
None

1,090,600
18%
200,200
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

A first step toward becoming a surveillance officer is to obtain an Associate’s degree in criminal justice, police science or a related field. In some instances, education may not be required, however in most cases, it distinguishes a potnetial candidate from others.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that specific educational programs geared toward police and security guards are also offered at many community colleges. One of these programs would help you concentrate more heavily on the surveillance aspect of law enforcement, in order to build you knowledge in criminal justice, law enforcement and, specifically, surveillance.

Some of the courses you can be expected to take over the course of a academic program include:

  • Constitutional Law
  • American Government
  • Introduction to Public Safety
  • Psychology
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal investigation
  • Police Systems and Practices
  • Criminal behavior

In addition to these classes, foundation courses in English, Math and Science might also be needed. These classes will likely require a great deal of writing in order to prepare you for making written reports once you actually become a surveillance officer.

Additionally, completing an internship program with a local security company. During one of these programs, you will shadow other surveillance officers while they are performing their normal duties. You could also work under the supervision of a licensed private detective as well. Completing an internship could allow you to hone your observation skills, while putting the knowledge you’ve learned during the course of your studies into practical application.

After graduation, you’ll be able to apply for work as a surveillance officer. Along with your resume, you’ll need copies of your college transcripts. Before being hired, you could be asked to submit to a criminal background investigation and drug screening as well.

Additional Information

Most companies provide on-the-job training for new surveillance officers that include policies and procedures and how to operate specific pieces of equipment. When working for an institution such as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you may also be required to undergo firearms training along with meeting certain height and weight requirements.

In order to advance to a supervisory role, you should consider obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice along with two to three years of on-the-job experience as a surveillance officer. Some of the classes you could be expected to take while earning this degree include:

  • Criminal Justice Information Systems
  • Safety and Risk Management
  • Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Vice, Narcotics and Crime Intelligence

The work of a surveillance officer is often done behind the scenes, yet is crucial to keeping members of the public safe. These workers also help protect billions of dollars worth of assets in public and private property alike. The work is often strenuous; however, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you were able to make a difference in the lives of others.

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