Confused about whether You Need a PSO Card or a Guard Card?

Yes, it can be confusing to know when you need to have a PSO registration or a security guard license.  The table below summarizes which BSIS security license you need.  Below this table we explain what all the acronyms mean and the differences between PPO, PSE, security guards and PSO.

Security Guard PSO
Type of security ID card you must carry Guard Card PSO Card
You must also carry a picture ID authorized by the BSIS Yes Yes
If armed you must also have a valid exposed firearm permit or baton permit Yes No, because you can’t carry a baton or firearm as a PSO
Hours of training required 40 16
Training and application fees Higher Lower
Type of on-going training required 8 hour refresher course every year 2 hour continuing education class every year
Registration / license renewal Every 2 years Every 2 years
Type of employers you can work for PPO, PSE or multiple PSEs PSE or multiple PSEs
Fingerprinting and background check required Yes Yes
Wear a distinctive uniform at work Optional (Required only if you are an armed guard) Yes


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Two Types of Security Employers: PPO & PSE

The Bureau of Security and Investigative Services has defined tow types of security employers in California. Each type of employer has different requirements and different types of security employees. The type of security employer a company or person is determines their required training, experience and insurance to be able to hire security personnel. The security employer type also sets the security personnel types they can hire and whether or not their security officers can be armed or only unarmed.

Private Patrol Operator or PPO

A person or company in order to be a PPO has:

  • To meet more and stricter requirements.
  • Pays more to get a PPO license.
  • To have  experience in providing security.

A PPO:

  • Has flexibility in the assignment of security officers to various job locations and posts.
  • Can employ armed security guards, if the PPO and guards take additional firearm training and have firearm permits from the state.
  • A PPO can only hire security guards.

Proprietary Private Security Employer

Also known as a Private Security Employer or PSE. A person or company  in order to be a PSE has:

  • To to meet fewer and less strict requirements.
  • Pays less to register as a PSE.
  • Doesn’t need experience in providing security.

A PSE:

  • Usually only needs a small number of security officers and doesn’t need the flexibility to assign their of security officers to various job locations and posts.
  • Can never employ an armed security officer.
  • Can hire both PSOs and security guards.

You can check for valid PSE and PPO licenses online at the BSIS License Verification page.

Two Types of Security Employees: Security Guard & PSO

The BSIS has defined two types of security officers, security guards and proprietary private security officers. Each security officer type has different requirements for licensing. The type of security employee sets the required training and if they can be armed with a weapon.

Security Guard

A security guard:

  • Requires more training (40 hours).
  • Costs slightly more.
  • Needs to take a refresher course every year.
  • May carry a firearm or other weapon on the job only if they have additional training and a license from the BSIS, such as firearm permit or baton permit.
  • Are usually unarmed as opposed to armed.
  • May or may not wear a distinctive uniform that identifies them as part of the security team.
  • Must wear a distinctive uniform if they are carrying a baton or exposed firearm.
  • Must carry a photo ID authorized by the BSIS with them as well as their Guard Card.

Proprietary Private Security Officer

Also known as Private Security Officer or PSO. A private security officer:

  • Requires less training (16 hours).
  • Costs less to register.
  • Needs to take a continuing education security class every year.
  • May NEVER carry a firearm or other weapon on the job even if they have additional training and a firearm permit from the BSIS.
  • Must wear a distinctive uniform that clearly identifies them as part of the security team.
  • Must carry their PSO Card and a valid photo ID card authorized by the BSIS.

You can check for valid Guard Card and PSO Card licenses online at the BSIS License Verification page.

Why Two Types of Security Employers & Security Employees?

By having different types of security employers and security officers, the BSIS allows flexibility for companies and people get the credentials that are right for them without needing to spend lots of extra time or $$$.

It’s a like being a doctor instead of a nurse. Doctors and nurses both provide health care services, but how much time, education and money it takes to become a doctor are a lot more than to become a nurse. So, in California it takes more time, training and money to become a PPO or get a Guard Card as compared to a PSE or PSO.

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