Salary Survey: the results are in
Lack of training opportunities and limited salary potential are hampering growth in the security industry, according to a recent poll of Canadian security professionals.
The poll was conducted over a two-month period by Canadian Security Magazine and the Canadian Society for Industrial Security (CSIS), and sponsored by AFI International. A total of 814 security professionals responded to the survey where they provided information about their salary, qualifications (professional designations, training and education), and experience. They also shared their opinions on the state of the industry and its appeal as an environment in which to work.
By Neil Sutton
Job description (title)
|Front-line security employee||21.7%|
|IT security professional||6.4%|
Salary (full time)
|Less than $30,000||9.94%|
|$30,000 to $50,000||24.4%|
|$50,000 to $70,000||18.1%|
|$70,000 to $90,000||29.4%|
|$90,000 to $120,000||13.1%|
|More than $120,000||4.8%|
A total of 41.5 per cent of respondents said that wages are the most
pressing issue facing the security industry. Lack of training was cited
by 56.7 per cent as their immediate occupational concern.
One industry observer isn’t surprised that wages ranked so high on the
list of concerns. It’s human nature to want more money, says Kevin
Spagone, director of Reitman Security Search, a recruitment agency
based in Branford, Conn.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years now, and no one’s ever told me, ”˜I’m
overpaid.’ Everybody always thinks that they’re underpaid.”
Spagone says the survey’s wage results shouldn’t necessarily be taken
as an indication that the security industry is undervalued or its
workers aren’t fairly compensated.
Spagone works with clients to place them in suitable security
positions. Money is always a factor, but “our unwritten rule around
here is, we don’t work with candidates that are purely money motivated.”
But compensation can be something of an uphill battle for security
professionals, says Kevin Murphy, director of security operations for
Woodbine Entertainment as well as president and chairman of the board
Security is perceived as an overhead cost for most businesses since it
does not contribute to the bottom line. Nothing that a security
department does is going to generate revenue, he says, “so everywhere
you go, you’ve got that pressure.”
Compensation also depends greatly on whether an employee is working
in-house or contract. A total of 66.3 per cent of survey respondents
work in-house. Of those, 34.2 per cent rated wages as the most pressing
concern for the industry. 33.7 per cent described themselves as
contract employees. Of those, 57.9 per cent said wages were the most
The wage gap is probably higher in Canada than the U.S., says Murphy.
Salary is also inextricably linked to training and experience, he says.
It isn’t uncommon for relatively low-paid security professionals to
interview for a position and find themselves on the job a matter of
According to the survey, 82.2 per cent of all respondents said they
feel adequately trained for the job they currently occupy, but 56.7 per
cent listed lack of training as the most immediate occupational concern.
Those numbers present something of a contradiction, but training (or
lack of training) is also linked to upward career mobility. It’s a
problem for many security-based professionals, says Murphy. Companies
have a hard time coming up with the math that would allow a worker to
pursue training on company time. Not only do they have to pay for the
training, but they also have to compensate the employee for his usual
“It hasn’t been financially viable for a lot of companies to do it,” he says.
“I could make that investment in you, and next week you could quit and
go work for somebody else, so it’s a disincentive for the employer to
invest in training.”
But expectations are beginning to shift, and the onus is on the
employee to bring his training up to speed on his own time and on his
own dime. According to the survey, the majority of respondents are
willing to accept this responsibility: 84.4 per cent said they are
willing to be trained during off-hours.
“Companies may expect people to come in with training before even showing up to the job interview,” says Murphy.
Larger companies may be willing to foot the bill for training, says Spagone.
But training isn’t a sure thing, even for companies that may be willing
to make the investment. “How much do you want to free your people up to
be out of the office sitting in a classroom all day?” says Spagone.
Certification equals salary boost
According to the survey, 35.8 per cent of respondents said they
currently have a security designation. Of those who have a designation,
the most common responses were: certified security officer (CSO) at
35.7 per cent and certified protection professional (CPP) at 30.4 per
cent. Of the respondents who do not hold a designation, 58.3 per cent
said they are interested in attaining one.
Security designations, training and certifications can certainly help a
security professional’s earning potential, says Spagone. This is partly
being driven by the rapid pace of technology development in the
“We are squarely in an industry where the technology is rapidly
outpacing the talent base, big time,” he says, adding that a lot of
work that would have traditionally gone to security personnel is being
turned over to IT staff.
Many businesses are now faced with a decision: hire more IT
professionals to manage security products that increasingly utilize an
IT interface, or train existing security staff to meet the needs of new
It behooves security workers to take note and attempt to improve their
technical skills, he says. “There’s a lot of folks who are kind of
sitting it out. They’re getting left behind.”
Security designations and training are increasingly important, says
Spagone, and may tip the balance of favour in an interview situation.
However, experience and tenure (the ability to accrue several years of
work with a single employer) are still more important.
Wages, experience and training are all part of the same security
formula, says Murphy; if you change one variable, you have to change
the others to compensate.
It’s difficult to reach a balance, he says. You have to pay better in
order to hire the best people, but management will only consent to pay
increases provided the right candidates with the right skills show up
in the first place.
“So which one of those is going to come first? Somewhere we need to
break that cycle and provide that training and those opportunities.”
Overall, survey respondents recommend security as a good environment to
work in ”“ 78.4 per cent said they would suggest it to a friend.
“It is not the same every day. Every issue is different. It is a
challenge and a great way to learn,” wrote one survey respondent.
“It’s a booming industry with more and more opportunities,” wrote another.
But some respondents felt like they are unable to advance in the industry.
“Due to my circumstances, there simply isn’t any support, funds or
training offered,” wrote a respondent. “I feel the executives are not
taking security as serious as they should.”
Murphy acknowledges that there is much work to be done.
“I think we can improve,” he says. “With my work with CSIS, that’s what
we’re trying to do: raise the standard of the whole profession and
bring everybody up to that level through training and education so we
don’t have that stigma of: you’re retired and now you’re the plank
guard at the gate. There’s more to life than that.”