The Earnings Factor

By Teresa Anderson

The median salary for security professionals in the U.S. rose 8.3 percent from 2002 to 2003, according to the ASIS International 2004 U.S. Employment Survey. Security professionals employed by publicly traded companies and managing facilities in more than one country saw the greatest increases. The sectors that saw salaries rise the fastest were entertainment, hospitality, and gaming.

The survey, conducted by ASIS International and Security Management, analyzed 2003 employment data from 3,861 responses. Among the factors examined were salary, type of company, number of employees, annual company revenue, level of education, certifications, service in the armed forces, age, geographic location, and years of experience. Companies were also asked about hourly rates paid to guards and investigators.


This year, the survey methodology was changed. Rather than mail surveys to only a random 500 ASIS members, the survey was given to the entire U.S. membership via the April issue of Security Management and was available online for U.S. members via a secure Web site. A total of 3,861 valid responses were received.

As a separate question, respondents were asked to provide their salaries for 2002 and 2003. The 1,771 responses to these questions comprised the salary portion of the survey. When salaries are stated in this article, they refer to this group of respondents rather that the general survey population of 3,861. Therefore, comparisons in this survey between 2002 and 2003 do not refer to our prior survey but to the numbers provided in this survey for both years by the same pool of respondents--a more reliable comparison.

Also, in previous surveys, salaries have been stated as an average, which is the number reached by adding all of the salaries in a given category and dividing them by the number in the group. In any respondent sample, however, it is inevitable that some salaries will be far outside of the norm, much higher or perhaps lower than the rest, skewing the average.

To solve this problem, salaries in this study are stated as the median number, which is the middle of a distribution: half the scores are above the median and half are below the median. This represents more accurately what any one person in the given category is likely to be paid. In some cases, however, the high-end averages are noted to indicate the upper-level range of a salary for that category.

Respondent profile

More than half (57 percent) of those surveyed worked for a private company, while 22 percent were employed by a public company. Government workers accounted for 14 percent of survey responses, and 6 percent owned their own companies or were employed by other types of groups such as nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. (One percent of respondents did not answer the question.)

These results show that a larger percentage of respondents report working in government in the current survey. In the 2003 survey, the number of respondents employed by private and public companies was almost identical to this survey (at 57 and 27 percent, respectively). However, in the previous survey only 4 percent of respondents worked for the government as compared to 14 percent in this survey.

Most of the shift to government seems to be from the "other" category--which includes those who are self-employed and those working for nonprofits or educational organizations. In the 2003 survey, 12 percent of respondents categorized their employment as "other."

In the current survey, those working in the "other" category fell by half to 6 percent. The shift may reflect the growth in government security. However, it should be noted that the increase in survey size from the previous survey to the current one is substantial and may have influenced this percentage


Personal information.
Respondents had an average age of 48 and had been working in the security field for 20 years, including in a supervisory position for about 14 of those years.

Education. More than one-third of respondents (35 percent) had earned an undergraduate degree. A significant number (22 percent) had completed a master's degree. Fourteen percent of respondents had some educational experience at a four-year college and 10 percent had completed a two-year associate's degree.

Certifications. More than a quarter of those surveyed either held a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation from ASIS International (22 percent) or were working on attaining the certification (6 percent). Four percent hold the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation and 6 percent hold certifications from other professional sources.

Respondents were asked about their time on the job, company locations, whether they managed the security budget, and how many employees they managed. On average, survey respondents had been employed at their current job for two years. This number is significantly lower than that of the previous survey, where respondents had an average of 10 years at their current job. While one must be a bit cautious about drawing conclusions from survey data, the change may indicate shifts in the job environment since 9-11.

More than a third (35 percent) of respondents held positions at the headquarters level in their organizations, and 19 percent were employed at the branch or facility level.

Budgets. In the current survey, less than a quarter (22 percent) managed a security budget. (However, of the 1,771 respondents who gave their salary information, approximately 39 percent managed a budget. The percent correlates with the 37 percent of respondents who served in the top-level security position.) This is a departure from the previous survey, in which 65 percent managed a budget. But the difference is likely due to the fact that this year's survey went to the entire U.S. membership and drew a much larger response, while previous surveys have gone to randomly selected members with senior-level titles.

Of those who managed a budget, 20 percent dealt with a budget of less than $250,000. Seventeen percent managed a budget of more than $4 million. Those managing a budget of more than $250,000 but less than $1 million made up 28 percent of respondents. Thirty-three percent managed a budget of $1 million or more to less than $4 million. Two percent of respondents did not answer the question.

The survey asked whether the respondents' security budgets had increased, decreased, or stayed the same. Of the 1,752 respondents who answered this question, almost half (45 percent) reported that their budgets had stayed the same. A third (33 percent) said their budgets had increased, and 22 percent said their budgets had decreased from 2002 to 2003.

Personnel. Most of the respondents (83 percent) directly managed security personnel. Of those managers, 40 percent directly managed 1 to 5 employees. Fifteen percent oversaw 6 to 15 staff members, 15 percent directly managed 16 to 50 people, and 10 percent managed more than 50 workers.

Locations. A little over half of respondents (53 percent) had security responsibilities in two or more locations, while 23 percent managed a single facility. Of the 53 percent who had responsibility for two or more locations, 18 percent managed two or more locations in one state, 21 percent managed two or more facilities in different states, and 14 percent managed locations in more than one country. (Twenty-four percent of respondents did not answer the question.)

The respondents who had spent the most years in the security field were more likely to manage multiple sites in more than one state or country.

Organizational structure.
Nearly two fifths (39 percent) of those surveyed worked in standalone security departments, while 61 percent were in a company where security is located within another department. In the 2003 survey, 41 percent indicated that the security department was separate, while 49 percent were in another department.

Of those security functions located within another department, 18 percent were structured under facilities or property management, 18 percent under operations, 15 percent under human resources, 13 percent under administration, 10 percent under legal, 6 percent under finance, and 3 percent under information technology. Fourteen percent reported working under a different department such as health and safety or environmental. These numbers are similar to those indicated on previous surveys, suggesting that the way security departments are structured within organizations has not changed significantly.

Nearly one-fifth of respondents (17.5 percent) said that security reports directly to the CEO or the president. Of the remaining respondents, most reported to a vice president, a senior vice president, a CFO.

Business sectors.
Twenty-six percent of those surveyed worked in security services as consultants or investigators. Nine percent worked in the banking industry, 9 percent in manufacturing, 7 percent in IT/telecom, 5 percent in the healthcare industry, and 5 percent in the utilities and energy fields.

Four percent worked in the entertainment, hospitality, and gaming industry; and 4 percent worked in the retail industry. Three percent were employed in each of the following fields: architecture and engineering, education, and transportation.

Two percent worked in commercial real estate, and 1 percent were employed by museums, libraries, and cultural properties. (Eighteen percent marked the "other" category.)

Company revenue.
Nearly two-fifths of respondents (39 percent) worked for companies with gross revenues of more than $500 million. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed worked for companies that earned $1 million to $100 million. Eleven percent were employed by companies earning under $1 million, and the same number worked for companies that grossed from $100 million to $500 million. (Eleven percent did not answer the question.)

Number of employees. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed worked for companies that employed more than 10,000 workers. Nineteen percent worked for organizations with 1,000 to 4,999 employees, and 18 percent worked for companies with under 100 employees. Twelve percent of respondents were employed by companies with 100 to 499 workers, and 11 percent worked for organizations with 5,000 to 10,000 employees. Seven percent of respondents worked for companies that employed 500 to 999 employees. (Two percent of those surveyed did not answer the question.)

This category was expanded from previous surveys to yield a wider range of information. On previous surveys, only four categories were tabulated--under 100 employees, 100 to 1,000, 1,001 to 10,000, and more than 10,000.

The current survey, with three extra categories, shows that respondents are fairly evenly spread over the categories, but with somewhat more being employed by small companies--under 100--and by larger-sized companies--1,000 to 4,999.

There is a gap, however, between those working for companies with 1,000 to 4,999 employees (19 percent) and the highest category--those companies with more than 10,000 employees (31 percent). A new category marking the mid-point between these two--5,000 to 10,000--garnered only 11 percent of respondents, one of the smallest categories.

The survey found, perhaps not surprisingly, that companies with larger revenues had more security personnel. The median number of security staff members for companies grossing more than $500 million, for example, was 27. Companies in both the $100 million to $499 million and the $25 million to $99 million ranges had a median of 19 security employees.

Companies with $5 million to $24 million in revenue had a median of 12 security employees, and those in the $1 million to $4 million group had 10. For those companies making less than $1 million, the median number of security personnel was 3.

Salary Correlation

Salaries varied depending on whether the employer was a publicly held company, a privately owned business, or a government/law enforcement institution. As in past surveys, respondents who were employed by publicly traded companies earned more than those in the private sector.

Those managing two or more facilities in more than one country had the highest average salary in 2002 and 2003 and saw the highest jump in salary. Respondents managing more than one facility in only one state had the lowest average salary in both years and saw the smallest increase.

Type of company.
Security professionals working for a private corporation earned a median salary of $72,000 in 2003, around 10.8 percent less than those working for a publicly owned company ($77,000). However, respondents at privately owned companies saw salaries grow slightly faster (10.8 percent) than those in public companies, with a 10.3 percent increase.

Government and law enforcement professionals earned the same median salary as their compatriots in privately held companies, but saw the smallest increase, a 5.9 percent raise from $68,000 in 2002 to $72,000 in 2003.

By business sector, the highest paid security professionals were in architecture/engineering ($88,000), followed by utilities/energy ($84,000) and IT ($83,000).

Looking at the range of salaries in the various sectors, it's interesting to note that some have a greater disparity within their ranks. That was true in the entertainment and lodging fields, where high-end earners drove the average salary to $145,000, while the median salary was only $60,000.

The same was true for the banking industry, which had a median salary of $71,000 and an average salary of $124,000, and the manufacturing field, which had a median salary of $74,000 and an average salary of $121,000.

For other lower-paying sectors, this disparity did not exist. Respondents in the healthcare industry, for example, earned a median salary of $61,000 and an average salary of $73,000. Similarly, those working in museums and cultural facilities earned a median salary of $60,000 and an average salary of $67,000, and those working in education earned a median of $58,000 and an average of $66,000.

The best-compensated workers were not necessarily those seeing the greatest increase in salary from 2002 to 2003. On average, those in entertainment and lodging saw a 22 percent raise. Professionals in the architecture field got a 12.8 percent raise. Respondents in the utilities and energy industry earned a raise of 12.1 percent.

The education field was among the lowest paid, but security professionals there saw one of the greatest salary hikes, 12.6 percent from $52,000 to $58,000.

Security salaries did not seem to be tied to the number of employees in the company or the number of security staff managed. Respondents in companies with more than 1,000 employees earned the highest median salary, $80,000, in 2003, and received the highest raise (13.6 percent). But the next highest salary, $75,000, was earned by respondents in companies with fewer than 100 employees.

Respondents in companies with 100 to 499 employees saw lower salaries in 2003 ($68,000) than those in other categories, but received a 9.3 percent jump in salary from $62,000 in 2002. This pattern is even more striking in companies with 500 to 999 employees, where security professionals earned the lowest median wage of the group at $63,000. However, they also received the second highest annual raise, 9.6 percent, over the 2002 salary of $58,000.

Respondents who worked among a staff of more than 500 people earned the most ($86,000) in 2003, though the numbers do not show consistent correlations throughout the range of categories. Those with 251 to 500 employees earned a median wage of $70,000; those with 101 to 250 employees earned $82,000; those with 51 to 100 employees earned $73,000; and those with 26 to 50 employees earned $67,000.

At the low end, those in companies with 11 to 25 employees earned $72,000; 6 to 10 earned $76,000; 1 to 5 earned $77,000; and those with no employees earned $70,000--as much as those at firms with 251 to 500 people.

As for salary increases, those at companies with 101 to 250 people earned raises of 14.6 percent, moving salaries from $70,000 to $82,000. Those with 51 to 100 employees earned 11.2 percent more, going from $65,000 to $73,000. Those seeing the smallest raise (2.9 percent) worked among 251 to 500 people.

The number of facilities and the locations of those facilities had a correlation to salary. In the survey, those who managed facilities in more than one country had the highest median salary, $100,000, followed by those managing multiple facilities in more than one state, at $77,500. Those respondents overseeing more than one facility in a single state earned a median salary of $64,000, and those managing one location earned $60,000. (See chart.)

However, there were some high earners in categories with lower median salaries. For example, as stated, those managing only one facility earned a median of $60,000 in 2003. The average salary for this category was $109,000, meaning that several professionals earned almost twice that of the remaining respondents.

Professionals who served as the top-level security person in their company earned a median salary ($80,000) that was 8 percent more than those who did not lead the security function ($69,000). However, the top brass received lower salary increases at 2.6 percent than those not in charge, who earned a 10.7 percent increase.

Annual revenue seemed to correlate, overall, to the salary of security professionals, meaning that those who worked for the companies with the highest revenues made the most money, while those at the companies with the lowest revenues made the least.

Respondents who worked for companies with gross revenues of more than $500 million earned a median salary of $80,000, and those working for companies in the $100 million to $499 million range earned $69,000. Respondents working for companies with revenues of $25 million to $99 million earned $62,000.

Professionals who worked for companies with revenues of $5 million to $25 million saw median salaries of $67,000. Security professionals whose companies had gross revenues of $1 million to $4 million earned $63,000. The lowest category, of less than $1 million, bucked the trend. The median salary was $70,000.

In terms of salary raises from 2002 to 2003, there seemed to be an overall pattern of higher raises for those in companies with higher revenues. Those in the more than $500 million category saw 10.3 percent raises.

Security professionals in companies earning $100 million to $499 million saw a wage increase of 6.5 percent. In the $25 million to $99 million slot, respondents earned 6.9 percent more in 2003 than in 2002. However, those in the $5 million to $24 million category saw higher raises at 8.1 percent. Security professionals in companies earning $1 million to $4 million saw a 5 percent increase in salary, while those in the lowest category--less than $1 million--earned a 2.9 percent raise in 2003.

In general, salaries correlated with the amount of a company's security budget. Those in companies with a budget of more than $20 million earned a median salary of $95,000, and those in company's with budgets of $10 million to $20 million earned $110,000.

Respondents in the lower categories earned less. In companies with security budgets of $100,000 to $250,000, security professionals earned a median salary of $72,000. In companies with security budgets of less than $100,000, they earned $66,000.

However, salary increases for security professionals did not correlate to the amount of their company's security budget. For example, the largest salary increase (16.6 percent) was for those in companies with a security budget of $250,00 to $500,000. The next highest increase, at 11.8 percent, was for those with a budget above $20 million.

In general, those with more experience in the security field--though not necessarily in management--had higher median salaries. Those with 30 to 39 years of experience earned the most at $85,000, followed by those with 20 to 29 years, who earned $76,000. Those with the most experience--more than 40 years--earned the next-highest wage at $75,000, followed by 10 to 19 years with $69,000 and 0 to 9 years with $60,000.

In terms of years in the field, security professionals earning the least saw the highest percentage raises from 2002 to 2003. Those with 0 to 9 years of experience received raises of 14.5 percent, and those with 10 to 19 years saw an increase of 9 percent. However, security professionals with 30 to 39 years saw the lowest wage increase at 6.3 percent, and those with 40 or more years got increases of 7.1 percent. Those with 20 to 29 years experience saw a raise of 7.4 percent.

The age of respondents revealed a more striking trend. Those in the highest categories, age 60 or more years, had the highest salaries at $80,000. Those aged 50 to 59 years earned almost the same wage at $79,000. In the 40 to 49 category, security professionals earned $75,000. This was followed by those aged 30 to 39 years, who earned $61,000, and those aged 22 to 29 years, who earned $51,000.

The youngest security professionals, however, saw the greatest salary increase from 2002 to 2003. The 22 to 29 age category saw a salary jump of 28 percent, from $40,000 to $51,000. (However, this category had the smallest number of respondents--57 out of 1,771.) Those aged 40 to 49 years earned 8 percent more. Those in the 50 to 59 category saw a 6.8 percent increase, those 30 to 39 years old earned 6.6 percent more, and those over 60 years earned a 6 percent raise.

Seniority. The number of years that a security professional has served with a particular organization also seems to correlate to salary, but not precisely. Those in the second-highest category, 20 to 29 years with a company, earned $83,000, while those with the most years--more than 30--earned $78,000. Those security professionals with 10 to 19 years in the same company earned $74,000, and those with 1 to 9 years working with the same organization saw annual wages of $71,000.

However, those with the most experience--30 or more years--earned the greatest increase in salary, 11.4 percent from 2002 to 2003. Those with the least amount of time spent with their organization, 1 to 9 years, saw the next highest increase at 9.2 percent. The raises fell off sharply in the 10 to 19 year range to 3.3 percent and then to 2.5 percent for those in the 20 to 29 year category.

Military experience. In a new category, respondents were asked whether they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Respondents who had earned slightly more ($75,000) than those who had not ($71,000). However, those who had not served saw an 8.6 percent average salary increase from 2002, to 2003, while those who did serve saw a 7.1 percent increase.

Staff salaries.
Respondents were asked about the salaries they paid to in-house and contract workers. The survey also collected data on wages of security officers, investigators, and console operators.

Unarmed proprietary security officers earned between $11 and $17 per hour in 2003. Armed proprietary officers earned between $15 to $23 an hour. Unarmed contract officers made between $11 and $15 per hour, and their armed counterparts earned between $15 and $22. These numbers, according to previous surveys, represent an across-the-board raise of $2 to $3 per hour.

In-house investigators earned salaries of between $23 and $35 per hour. Contract investigators garnered hourly salaries of $42 to $73. Both categories saw an increase in hourly pay from the 2002 wages. In-house investigators earned up to $4 more an hour in 2003, and contract investigators earned from $11 to $17 more.

In-house console operators made slightly more per hour ($13 to $17) than contract console operators ($12 to $15). These numbers are fairly consistent with 2003 wages, which ranged from $12 to $15 for both categories.

Of the 1,771 respondents who reported compensation, 772 held at least one professional certification, with 484 naming the CPP.

CPPs earned a median of $80,000--11 percent more than the overall median for respondents ($73,000); they averaged a 6.5 percent raise. Physical Security Professionals had a median of $83,000, up 11 percent from last year.

Respondents who held the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) designation saw the highest salary increase at 22.7 percent, from $110,000 in 2002 to $135,000 in 2003. Respondents who held the Certified Protection Officer (CPO) designation earned 12.5 percent more. 

In the survey, 808 respondents indicated that they did not hold any certification. These security professionals earned less ($70,000) than most of their certified counterparts. Their salary rose 9.4 percent from 2002 to 2003, however, roughly mid-range when compared to those who are certified.

Educational achievement correlated directly to salary, according to the survey. However, those at the highest end of the spectrum earned similar salaries, while those lower down on the educational scale saw big increases as educational goals were met.

Those with juris doctorate degrees earned $85,000, while those with a doctorate earned $80,000. Professionals with a master's degree earned salaries of $79,750, followed by those with an undergraduate degree ($76,000).

Larger gaps exist between undergraduate degrees and two-year degrees ($67,700), some college ($66,000), and technical school ($60,000). Those who had graduated high school earned significantly more ($58,000) than those who had not ($49,000).

As these numbers show, compensation levels in the security field are as wide ranging as the types of businesses security professionals serve. But overall, salaries are trending up, reflecting the greater emphasis on security and the growing range of responsibilities





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