Updated: Sep 9
If you intend to embark on a bodyguard career, take a look at the following article providing you with all the subtleties and insights about close protection.
This article takes realistic and modern views of close protection, and it is aimed at those of you looking for some useful, open-source information about how to become a professional bodyguard. After going through the provided information, you will get a better understanding of what steps you should take towards a successful career in the close protection industry.
Let's start with who the modern-day bodyguards are. Many people associate bodyguards with men of great physical stature, who are skilled at arms and martial arts only, and who are nothing more than bullet catchers waiting for attacks on their clients and then react in a Rambo style; however, this is a wrong picture of professional bodyguards and a too simplistic interpretation of their role. Contemporary personal protection specialists are highly trained professionals relying on their wits and proactivity—identifying and mitigating threats before they eventuate. Also, many of today's bodyguards hold a university degree or equivalent qualification and speak at least one foreign language.
Providing personal security in the private sector has changed a lot lately; this is mostly due to the globalization and digitalization that have been leading to vulnerabilities facilitating dangers like organized crime and terrorism. Threats and vulnerabilities have dramatically transformed, causing a threat environment to become more dynamic and unpredictable—threat actors have got more capable of carrying out a wide range of threats (conventional and unconventional). All of these have resulted in a new approach in the area of personal protection, which is based on action-oriented and integrated solutions. A bodyguard method in the 90s differs a lot from a modus operandi applied by nowadays personal protection specialists; so, in sum, modern-day bodyguards are uniquely qualified and extraordinary individuals.
Bodyguards and Private Military Contractors
For years, bodyguards have been hired across the world to protect dignitaries under the increased security risk; bodyguards have been mostly engaged in the government sector (the military/police), looking after diplomats and politicians; however, with the growth of the corporate sector, bodyguards are now engaged in the private security industry (Commercial Close Protection/Executive Protection) and the private military sector (PSD Protection); additionally, conducting close protection in the private sector is a horse of a different color—because of limited resources/authorization.
As for the private security industry, various wordings are in use for bodyguards, depending on what part of the world you are; for example, a Close Protection Officer/Operative (CPO) is a more predominant expression in the UK; in the US, the Executive Protection Agent and Personal Protection Specialist (Personal Security Officer) are more common terms; as for the rest of the world, the word Bodyguard dominates.
Bodyguards also operate in the private military industry (aka Private Military Contractors); with situation developments in Iraq and Afghanistan, resemblances between close protection in the private security industry and the private military sector have become obvious. PSD (Protective Security Detail, Protective Services Detail, Personal Security Detail, and Personal Security Detachment) and PPD (Personal Protection Detachment) are the US terminology (taken from the military) for close protection teams in the private military industry; also, these expressions are often in use in private security, referring to protective teams in hostile environments. A PSD/PPD team looking after a US diplomat in Afghanistan has much in common with an executive protection (EP) team looking after a corporate CEO in the States; the aspect of protection, methods, approach, level of security, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will differ here, but the goal is the same: protect a client. Additionally, don't mix up bodyguards and private military contractors with mercenaries.
The vast majority of successful personal protection specialists are former military/law enforcement personnel—in particular, those engaged in the private military industry and high-risk environments. The most favored operatives are those with distinctive skills—favored backgrounds by employers/clients—like experience in special forces, governmental units specialized in close protection, and intelligence agencies; however, those without such experience aren't excluded from the industry; there are examples of true professionals with a civilian background who operate successfully in commercial close protection/executive protection.
Roles and responsibilities
Bodyguard's work varies and involves lots of different tasks, depending on three major factors: your client's profile, the threat type/risk level, and the operational environment; these three factors refer to operational requirements that determine the SOPs and level of protective measures implemented, including your roles/responsibilities assigned. Personal protection specialists integrate different techniques, tactics, and procedures, like threat assessment, risk analysis, reconnaissance, counter-surveillance, and intelligence gathering/analysis to protect a client. If/when an incident happens, personal security specialists deal with it carefully and appropriately—doing what is necessary (e.g., applying controlled violent actions and removing a client from danger as soon as possible).
For example, protecting a movie star who may face the hysteric crowd differs a lot from looking after a high-net-worth individual traveling to Mexico—where s/he may face a potential threat of kidnapping; as for the former, you may work solo and perform dual duties—driving and protecting—including safeguarding a client's residence (e.g., managing CCTV operations); regarding the latter, you may work in a close protection team (security detail)—where each team member will get different tasks; also, other teams can be assigned here to enhance security, such as reconnaissance, counter-surveillance, and counter-assault teams; further, you can work armed and use some equipment like bulletproof vests, armored vehicles, two-way radios, and technical surveillance countermeasures.
Regardless of the task, the primary aim of every personal protection specialist is to enable normal functioning for their clients—i.e., business and living—by ensuring/maintaining secure environments for them; for achieving this, two major responsibilities are in common for all close protection specialists: protecting and investigations.
The clients are diverse—varying in profiles, threat types, risk level, and their needs for close protection services. The client is an entity—e.g., person, group, corporation, or government—hiring and paying for the bodyguard service; the Principal (not a principle!) or VIP is a person receiving the protective service; also, the client and the Principal can be the same subject. You may have more than one Principal/VIP at a time. Client industries can include oil and gas, government, media, NGOs, mining, IT, and finance, etc. Principals can be high-net-worth individuals, CEOs, celebrities, royal families, diplomats, and politicians, etc.
The reasons for close protection are many (like prevention, compliance, necessity, and luxury), depending on a Principal's profile (threats/risks); for example, some clients hire personal protection specialists to prevent indirect threats; namely, they face non-specific dangers because of their high-profile status or unsafe operational environment (e.g., traveling to a crime-affected country), which make them vulnerable and can become a target of an opportunistic crime (such as assault, robbery, and kidnapping). Other clients engage the close protection service to protect them against direct threats; that is, they face specific dangers directly (e.g., blackmails, extortion, and death threatening) by criminals, terrorists, and other threat actors (i.e., a person or entity who intends to compromise the security and safety of your Principal).
Women in close protection
Contrary to the common belief, the bodyguard profession isn't just for men. Although close protection is a predominantly male occupation, a woman can be successful in this industry, too; there are many examples of excellent female protection specialists; besides, women can better blend into some operational environments because of their low profile—not attracting too much attention—which gives them many strategic advantages. For instance, some female clients prefer being protected by same-sex operatives (culture/customs); therefore, a female bodyguard fits the bill. As a result, there is a growing demand for female personal protection specialists globally.
Why become a professional bodyguard?
Alike any other profession, there are some advantages and disadvantages of being a personal protection specialist. Anyway, before entering close protection, you must first ask yourself why you would like to become a close protection officer. If it is due to money or fame, you will get disappointed very soon. If it's because you want to see some action, you'll be disappointed again. If it's since you are a person enjoying helping others by risking your own safety and security and not getting credits for it (at least not in public), and you perform well under pressure, then this career might suit you.
Private close protection and private military industries depend on the current market demand impacted by many factors. As a result of recent crises (e.g., economic downturn and Covid-19), there are fewer employment opportunities with a six-figure salary nowadays; however, numerous political turmoils around the world have deepened the security instability in many regions because of the increased threat of violent crimes, political violence, and terrorism. The volatile security situation affects businesses, people, and governments; consequently, there is a growing need for close protection services worldwide.
Close protection requires lots of planning, preparation, constant situational/security awareness, and mental/physical readiness. Even though it is a challenging endeavor, looking after someone is not as much as exciting as it's displayed in popular Hollywood movies; there are no action-movie scenes like chasing cars, shooting around, and kung-fu fighting. Although on many occasions bodyguards work armed—especially PSD/PPD Operatives and security details in high threat environments—they use weapons very rarely. In terms of close protection, if a bodyguard has to apply a weapon/violence, the threat has already been eventuated; therefore, the bodyguard has failed in one of his/her main duties: preventing threats before happening.
Anyway, it doesn't mean that personal security specialists never use weapons/violent actions; it just means that the main goal of professional bodyguards is prevention rather than reaction; however, if/when an incident occurs, the primary aim of close protection is removing a Principal/VIP from danger as soon as possible. Violent actions are a last resort in close protection; if/when it comes to that, professional bodyguards apply controlled, careful, and adequate response promptly and accordingly—repelling enemy attacks while keeping the Principal/VIP safe.
Whether you will experience dangers, it depends on your clients, threats/risks, and the operational environment; for example, Private Military Contractors (PMC) usually work in conflict-affected regions (such as Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Mali, Niger, and Somalia). So, if you provide close protection as a PSD/PPD Operative in the private military sector, you may find yourself in life-threatening situations (like road ambushes, improvised explosive devices, and terrorist attacks). However, operating as an Executive Protection Specialist in commercial close protection/executive protection can be as much dangerous as PSD Protection Ops; for instance, if you're looking after a Principal/VIP traveling to a high-risk environment (e.g., Venezuela, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, DR Congo, and Haiti), you can face some serious threats ranging from organized crime to political violence to unconventional dangers—like natural disasters and infectious diseases.
Even if you should do everything you can to prevent negative events from occurring, it is not always possible; in reality, providing close protection is always a compromise: giving and taking; it's about making informed choices: whether opting for plan A or plan B. So, there will be cases when stopping dangerous situations isn't doable; the reasons for this could be many, such as human errors, insufficient resources, and force majeure. Anyway, if/when a situation goes south, you must be ready and plan for it—i.e., have a contingency plan for an emergency in place; therefore, you will apply a backup plan and extract your Principal/VIP to safe heaven (out of harm's way) ASAP.
All close protection operations (EP and PSD) entail certain risks; personal protection specialists put their lives in danger to protect someone else's life. It is up to you whether you will accept a task; you need to balance the risk associated with doing the job and the pay. The close protection career is worthwhile; it's an invaluable experience for true aficionados in this walk of life—constantly pushing you (your mind/body) to the limit.
Some clients will treat you better than the others and vice versa; however, regardless of clients' profile and the way they treat you, close protection specialists must act professionally and always provide the highest level of services possible. Because of the nature of a job, active EP/PSD Operatives always stay below the radar—not attracting too much attention, nor receiving kudos in public, and never exposing private matters about their current/former clients publicly. For instance, commenting on Principals/VIP and taking/sharing photos of them on Social Media are unethical; additionally, sharing sensitive info about your clientele, can—not just tarnish their reputation—but put them in greater jeopardy.
Close protection requires integrity, honesty, trust, and loyalty; only true professionals possess these core values. For those who cannot keep their mouth shut, this industry is not for them. Being a bodyguard is a stimulating experience since you have an opportunity to make a difference and help someone by protecting his/her most important asset: a life; however, this career comes with great responsibility—only the fittest individuals can succeed.
What is Close Protection?
Close protection is a comprehensive and interconnected security system for the protection of high-ranking individuals under the elevated security risk of threats to their safety because of their employment, high-profile status, wealth, associations, geographical location, or any other reason that would make them vulnerable and the target of a physical attack, harm, blackmail, or kidnapping. Close protection does not only concern physical safety—like protection against physical threats such as armed robbery, ambush, and hijacking—it also concerns personal, emotional, and financial security, health, and well-being, and safety needs against accidents and diseases and their negative effects. Therefore, the main goal of close protection is to meet all security and safety needs of a Principal/VIP by implementing protective measures commensurate with the threat.
Conducting close protection is more than escorting and securing Principals/VIP from point A to point B; it includes protecting a broad range of a client's assets, which—aside from life—involve well-being, reputation, information, property, operations, and finance, etc. Preventing security threats demands fully integrated and comprehensive solutions. Thus, close protection encompasses a full spectrum of security systems like static security (such as protection at a venue/event, residence, building, office/workspace, and yacht), mobile security (e.g., protection on foot/vehicle and secure transportation/security driving), cybersecurity, investigations (private/corporate), technical security (CCTV, TSCM), and surveillance (foot, mobile, static, technical, and aerial surveillance).
The level of protective measures assigned depends on threats, risk level, a profile of Principal/VIP, and operational environments; the measures can involve different methods (such as covert or overt protection or their combination thereof), a range of protective tools (e.g., armed/unarmed protection, armored/soft-skinned vehicles, and technical security measures), various aspects (e.g., celebrity protection, corporate protection, high threat protection, diplomatic protection, high-net-worth/luxury protection, and PSD protection), and additional protective teams (like reconnaissance, counter-surveillance, and counter-assault teams).
Covert protection/protective surveillance and overt protection
Most of the activities carried out by protective specialists are/remain confidential, discreet, and unnoticed to bystanders. Many today's clients prefer unobtrusive protection—which is hardly possible to achieve if/when employing overt protection (i.e., arm-length protection) because security detail is highly visible (e.g., foot formation, motorcade, and equipment). From the Principal's point of view, arm-length protection is a too intrusive way of bodyguarding; it's more suitable and often seen in the government sector—since there are a lot of resources available to enhance security and support a close protection team in emergencies. From an operational standpoint, overt protection is limited in terms of operational effectiveness; a highly visible close protection team can be easily spotted by a threat actor; therefore, the CP team is vulnerable and less effective.
Contemporary security companies have adopted a subtle approach to conducting close protection operations; that is, they use a specialist method of close protection—Covert Protection/Protective Surveillance—which is inconspicuous protection involving clandestine tactics such as low-profile driving, low-key foot formations, concealed equipment, covert communication, and personal protection specialists who blend into the operational environment as much as possible. Covert protection gives them many strategic advantages like timely identifying threats, unobtrusive protection for Principals, reducing location-specific risks, and better operational efficiency; however, overt protection can still prove of use in certain circumstances. For instance, overt protection is still widely spread in high threat protection and close protection ops within the private military sector due to the increased security risk/type of threats; therefore, for the best outcomes, the combination of covert and overt protection (integrated protection) is broadly used nowadays.
Looking after someone bears a lot of responsibilities and requires considerable physical, technical, and mental resources. It maybe sounds exaggerating, but professional bodyguards are closest to a know-it-all type of person; professional bodyguards are multi-skilled operatives. For becoming an EP/PSD Operative, individuals undertake a range of specialist training programs to build considerable professional acumen. First, they must have a certain personality; however, this is not so easy to learn; it is inherited—something that a person is born with and is strengthened over time through practical experience. Your traits depend on the mental and moral qualities distinctive to each individual; therefore, there is a long list of qualities required for personal security specialists, like resourceful, intelligent, and robust character, a can-do attitude, excellent people skills, reassuring behavior, nice manners, and common sense. Speaking of physical appearance and attributes for professional EP/PSD Operatives, they aren't brainless, 6-ft-6 gorillas armed to the teeth, nor they rely heavily on muscles, guns, and mixed martial arts; both intelligence and physical fitness are needed in close protection. Every bodyguard who worth his/her salt is proficient in weapon handling, unarmed combat, and has a high level of fitness. The physical size of a person providing close protection isn't much important—bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Although there are no standardized requirements regarding the physical appearance of a bodyguard, s/he must look presentable: be clean, tidy, well-dressed, and physically fit. Sometimes, employers set specific requirements for EP/PSD roles—such as height, weight, look, sex, age, background, and nationality of candidates—which is because of client preferences/operational requirements. In essence, it is all about whether you are fit enough to perform your EP/PSD duties professionally. Muscularity doesn't carry any weight in close protection work; however, your physical fitness (functional strength) does, along with your professional competence, knowledge, attitude, and mindset.
Regarding professional know-how required for EP/PSD Protection Ops, it involves a broad spectrum of competencies that can be grouped into two major categories: hard and soft skills. The former refers to tactical competencies like weapons handling, tactical procedures, close protection foot/vehicle formations, reaction to attacks, evacuation techniques, hand-to-hand combat, tactical knife combat, close-quarters combat, defensive/evasive driving, emergency first aid, and anti-kidnapping. While the latter relates to more sophisticated techniques such as threat/risk assessment, intelligence gathering/analysis, hostile surveillance detection, anti-surveillance, counter-surveillance, reconnaissance, search procedures, Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), communication, conflict management/verbal judo, contingency planning, situational/security awareness, behavioral intelligence, crowd management, computer literacy, cybersecurity awareness, and business etiquette; both hard and soft skills are required to be successful in close protection.
Rapid advances in technology have introduced new pathways for carrying out threats; therefore, EP/PSD Operatives must stay technologically relevant to be able to recognize and mitigate new threats. You don't have to be a cybersecurity expert, but some knowledge about IT is must-have nowadays; for example, for collecting all-source intelligence (e.g., about threats, clients, and employers/employees), OSINT skills come handy; also, understanding social engineering will help you identify threats associated with social media and internet use like financial scams, phishing, reputation damage, and information loss.
As has been discussed, you must get a full spectrum of skills to be able to conduct EP/PSD duties professionally and to be employed in the first place; however, keep in mind that it takes years of constant/practical learning to become a professional bodyguard—professionalism entails a never-ending learning process. Therefore, personal protection specialists maintain their skill set by regularly practicing and learning new things to stay at the top of their game. Regarding EP/PSD training, there are many training companies nowadays; when seeking a training provider and starting your career, you should consider several things, including the following.
First, make a career plan, involving analyzing your opportunities that depend on your profile—your strengths/weaknesses. Do you want to work in the commercial close protection/executive protection industry or the private military sector? For instance, you intend to work as a PSD/PPD Operative but don’t have any military/police experience (five years of service is considered as a minimum nowadays); you should know that the lack of such a background will be considered as your weakness, and you will struggle to find a job upon attending a course; however, it doesn’t mean that you are not the right fit for close protection; it’s just that you should change your approach/goal. Therefore, don’t focus on your weakness, look at your strengths; for example, you may have one-year military service and experience working as a door supervisor/bouncer in nightclubs; hence, your transferable skills can be useful in celebrity protection since you better understand/fit in the operational environment. Keep in mind that many transferable skills from your current job occupation can be useful in the close protection career. Proper career planning will enable you to select a training course that suits your needs best and to point you in the right direction.
Risk-taker and assertive person
You must take risks when starting a career in close protection (as it is a situation with any career); that is, no one can know whether you will find a job after a course and if it's a worthwhile investment. Believe in yourself! No matter what, you'll be successful in this industry only if you have self-assurance; likewise, if you lack confidence, you can have the best close protection course and the most favored experience, you won't succeed.
The reputation of a training provider
It is essential to consider the reputation of a training provider; you don't want to waste your time and money by attending a course delivered by a training company being known for second-rate training.
You should also check out the experience of instructors teaching the course. You cannot learn from a person who doesn't have any operational experience in the industry; also, you will learn the most from instructors who are still active in the industry.
Course quality is best assessed by considering two factors: a syllabus and teaching method. Go through the course syllabus and always aim at training that meets your individual needs; for example, if you are at the beginning of your career, focus on training programs with a comprehensive syllabus that will equip you with versatile skills; if you are experienced EP/PSD Operative and are looking for a training program to enhance your professional competence, look at courses with a specific syllabus covering particular topics in-depth like surveillance, covert protection, protective driving, tactical medicine, high threat protection, and corporate executive protection. Finally, check out the teaching method on the training course, which should always be based on the practical approach.
For the price of EP/PSD training, it is understandable that everybody wants cost-effective training courses; however, don't confuse cost-effectiveness with low-priced and low-quality training. Stay away from cheap courses—buy cheap, buy twice. If you want a training company with a good name in the industry, skilled instructors, and a high-quality training program, know that it isn't cheap.
Certificates awarded on a training course are important for several reasons; nationally recognized certificates are required for licensing. Commercial close protection comes under the private security sector; thus, it is a government-regulated industry. Every country has its own laws/regulations regarding licensing for work in the private industry; for example, an SIA license is required in the UK, PSIRA is mandatory in South Africa, CNAPS is compulsory in France, and each state in the US has its own license required for work as a bodyguard.
What qualifications you will need depends on where you intend to work. For example, for operating as a CP/EP Operative within the commercial close protection/executive protection industry in the UK, you have to have an SIA front line close protection license issued by a government body SIA (Security Industry Authority). Candidates have to meet several requirements to obtain the SIA license; one of the mandatory requirements is to have the Close Protection Level 3 qualification—which is awarded upon completing an accredited close protection course delivered by an approved training organization. The latter means that a training academy is assessed/approved by an awarding body; there are four awarding bodies for assessing/approving training providers delivering the CP Level 3 qualification: HABC/Highfield, BTEC/Pearson, IQ, and AoFAQ. You can check approved training academies on the official SIA website. So, go after the CP Level 3 qualification if you plan to operate in the UK.
As for international close protection work and the private military sector, there is no officially compulsory license for close protection; however, the vast majority of British PSC/PMC (Private Security/Private Military Companies) will demand either an SIA license or the CP Level 3 qualification for overseas work; also, other companies from Australia, Canada, the EU, and the US will follow this model if/when they have British clients. Anyway, have in mind that a CP Level 3 course is aimed at commercial close protection/executive protection and is unfit for the private military sector (PSD Protection Operations) and hostile environment protection ops; further, the CP Level 3 syllabus covers merely 140 hours of training (12–14 days)—missing many core topics such as weapons training. So, if you need the CP Level 3 qualification for international work, combine the CP Level 3 course with some other courses to achieve full competency required.
Certificates also come handy in job hunting; employers will ask your portfolio, including completed training courses testifying your capabilities/continual professional development. The bottom line, if you are looking for a close protection course to get licensed, check out your country's licensing policy, and attend the nationally recognized training. If you're after a training program for continual professional development, focus on skills and not just on qualifications.
Stay away from training organizations that promise you a job if you buy their course firstly; it is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and a mere marketing strategy to sell their courses. In reality, to find employment in the private close protection industry/the private military sector, it depends on two major factors that are subject to change: market demand and client preferences; also, another critical element is your abilities; it's not possible to know in advance whether you are fit for a position.
The role of training providers in job landing cannot be completely excluded; although professional training academies don’t guarantee employment, it doesn’t mean that they won’t help you get an opportunity eventually. By providing ongoing, post-course support (e.g., networking, career advice, references, recommendations, and interviews), reliable training organizations assist their graduates; also, many PSC/PMC offer EP/PSD training and hire directly from their pool of graduates when an opportunity arises. Therefore, use your common sense/due diligence when choosing the right training provider.
Close protection is a complex, challenging, and demanding undertaking that requires considerable physical, technical, and mental resources;
Close protection is related to the private security industry (commercial close protection/executive protection) and the private military sector (PSD Protection Operations);
Both physical fitness and intelligence are required for close protection;
Both males and females can be a successful EP/PSD Protection Operatives;
For becoming a professional bodyguard, you should possess a distinctive character: mental and moral qualities;
For getting employed, you should attend EP/PSD courses providing you with professional know-how; also, focus on developing both hard/soft skills;
For staying at the top of your game, continue training and learning new stuff; remember that professionalism entails never-ending learning;
For legally operating in your country, get licensed; check out your country's law and go after a training course in line with it;
Although the vast majority of successful personal protection specialists are former military/police personnel, people from all walks of life can make it in close protection as long as they meet all professional requirements and are self-confident;
Plan your career in accordance with your profile/experience to achieve success; be realistic; work hard; take risks; focus on your strengths and transferable skills.
As for high-quality bodyguard training, check out the Advanced Close Protection Training Course by Nemesis Protection Global LLC; it is the 8-week of hands-on learning and scenario-based training designed to prepare you to operate both as an Executive Protection and PSD/PPD Protection Operative. The course is very demanding and based on government-level training—culminating in an extensive exercise in which the candidates will have to protect a Principal/VIP in a real-time close protection operation over 14 days. The 56-day course is suitable both for experienced individuals who want to enhance their professional skills and for newbies who intend to gain hard and soft skills required for close protection in all threat environments; additionally, check out our other training programs for personal protection specialists: 28-day Executive Protection and 28-day Hostile Environment Close Protection Ops.
#professionalbodyguard #howtobecomeabodyguard #closeprotectioncourse #executiveprotectiontraining #nemesisprotection #sialicense #closeprotectionlevel3 #bodyguardtraining #privatesecuritycontractor #privatemilitarycontractor #protectivespecialist #executiveprotectionspecialist #securityconsultant #careerincloseprotectionindustry #cpo #pmc #psd #commercialcloseprotection #privatemilitaryindustry #privatemilitarycompany #hecpo #weaponstraining #tacticaltraining #personalsecuritydetail #personalsecurityofficer #personalprotectionspecialist #nemesisprotectionglobal #protectivesecuritydetail #protectionspecialist #closeprotectionofficer #closeprotectionoperative #closeprotectionspecialist #vipbodyguard #celebrityprotection #vipprotection #protectiveservicesdetail #personalsecuritydetachment #personalprotectivedetachment