How to eliminate some ”new guy” mistakes in EP (certificates, association memberships, licenses)

Even though I addressed this subject over twelve years ago, the same still rings true. In the world of executive protection/close protection, there are already so many distractions, pitfalls, and misunderstandings that I believe there is a veritable need to, again, address the distinction and perceived necessity surrounding certifications, licenses, and memberships/associations that so many new practitioners fall prey to in their quest to achieve their career goals of becoming a truly professional executive protection or close protection agent. Let’s take a few minutes and see if we can answer a couple of your important questions and get you headed in the right direction…

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What are you getting yourself into?

      There seems to be a considerable amount of confusion, with many prospective close protection agents that I’ve spoken with, surrounding the topic of executive protection/close protection certifications and licenses. I believe this to be the direct result of the prospective executive protections agents trying to break into the industry and while they sift through a multitude of training schools, associations, and over-inflated topics and titles, they are being inundated by misleading marketing language, “tactical” descriptions, “networking” events, and a misguided list of ‘must haves’ before they can really become an EP agent.  I’ve found myself answering these questions very frequently during the last few years, which indicates that these topics remain unanswered or ‘’hidden’’ to new practitioners. And sometimes the confusion seems to be not only limited to the new practitioner’s understanding but also, unfortunately, accredited to lackluster security company managers and their job postings. (Example: “Hiring for an armed EP agent that can travel to X, Y, and Z countries” and those countries listed are those where EP agents cannot be armed). So, I would like to put this out there to all those individuals who haven’t asked for one reason or another but would really like to know.

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     There are multiple associations for executive protection/close protection agents, most of which charge some type of fee to be a member. Some are better than others as far as what benefits they offer their members. An association is nothing more than a group of people who have an interest or purpose in common. They usually have some considerable experience in the field and would like to further the industry as a whole and provide guidance, training, and leadership. Some achieve this quite well while others fall short. Either way, there is nothing particularly unique that is needed to create an association other than the desire and willingness to work with and cooperate with others in the respective field and, perhaps if it is needed, a business license. They are not “sanctioned” by any authority. They intend to be or act as the authority, or subject matter experts, in their field of interest. members-only-stamp600x600-600x600

    Many associations or boards are trying to “standardize” the industry by offering their own ‘certification’. Their certification will be awarded to those who possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities that they think an executive protection/close protection agent should have to be professional and successful. Here again, while the particular association chooses what to include in their certification, there is not any one set of standards. They are trying to create their own set of standards. There are many differing opinions on a vast number of topics in this industry, so you must weigh how much credibility each one has and how well it fits you or what your career requirements may be. Is it mandatory to be part of an association? Absolutely not. Quite often, even on the job descriptions, you may see ‘’X or Y association membership preferred’’ or ‘’Must be able to obtain X or Y association membership within X amount of time from hiring”. Will an association membership be helpful? Yes and No. You see, success is based on many more characteristics than just a certificate, a membership, a networking event, etc. Some colleagues give credit to an association’s membership, and others give it no credence at all.

     A training certification is nothing more than a piece of paper proving you attended a course, and according to their certifying board, have achieved some level of operational status, that you can then put on your CV or resume to show to a prospective employer. Many new practitioners fall prey to the thought process that these ‘certifications’ are required in some way. They are not. While there is always some type of thorough training required, no one school may claim that theirs is what is necessary or the ‘’standard’’. These certifications represent training validation in that organization’s system only. Some employers will feel these cover some aspect of experience or training they are looking for, while others won’t even recognize the organization and it will not matter at all (Although most of us in the industry may be able to categorize and talk about any one particular school’s ‘’rank’’, you should never forget that for the majority of the time, your hiring and selection will be made by people who have no idea about our industry and have little to no idea about the schools or certification programs or what they even mean). Some certifications will make you look better than others because of the school’s credibility or standings in the particular field they affect. Keep in mind…These certifications are opinions only of the school or organization that you’ve received them from. Everyone feels quite differently about training, operational standards, professionalism, and the overall “way it should be done”. How many schools have you seen publicly claim responsibility for their students’ failures or operational mistakes on the job? NONE. But I am sure you have seen plenty of them claiming their students’ successes all because the student attended their training. (Stories in the media, getting an award, saving someone’s life, etc.)

     A license is what the governmental unit of your area grants to individuals that allow them to work as an executive protection/close protection agent legally within their jurisdiction (area). Certifications are not Licenses and mean nothing in the licensing process unless that particular training school is part of a governmental process by which licensing is achieved. Every governmental unit has different requirements to get a license. Many do not even require you to have a specific certification because it doesn’t mean anything to them, nor do they recognize it as a measure of your skills or training.

     There are some students that are coming to us saying that they are interested in an International Executive Protection course, or they want to apply for a job with us and have mentioned in their CVs that they are Internationally certified EP agents. This, of course, will not give you any more privileges or abilities than a course simply called EP Training. There are several schools and training facilities that cater to this type of thought process, but it is mostly for the sake of charging more money for a title that means nothing to the governing bodies outside your own country. These schools might give you instruction slanted towards how to operate across country lines, which is helpful, but there is no international license or certification that will provide you with anything beneficial. You still must obtain a license or certification in every country, state, area, province, etc. that you intend to work in.

     Some prospective students have been led to believe that they will be trained by US Federal Agencies or that their training is ‘certified’ by a government agency for work in specific fields. This is not true. US federal law enforcement agencies do not train EP/close protection agents for civilian purposes. They train their own staff and personnel for their needs, but for a civilian-owned school to claim that their training is ‘certified’ by a government agency is misleading and false advertising. If any school makes that claim, it should be seen as a red flag. Pay careful attention to the language. It may be that one of the instructors used to teach at a US federal law enforcement academy prior to training civilians, and this happens quite often, but the curriculum you will learn while attending their school is not sanctioned by that agency. There are companies that have contracts with the federal government to provide training, but again, if you are not part of the agency they are training personnel for, you won’t get that training material. You will get a civilian version or a close protection version, but not a military or law enforcement version.

     Bottom line, no one should tell you which association to join or which school to attend. This is something that you must research thoroughly. Only you should decide what’s in your best interest for your career. Ask different people that you know and respect in the business. Read reviews about the groups or associations you might be interested in joining. You should get as much knowledge and training as you can from different sources. Keep in mind that any job or task that you apply for is looking at you, not only from a ‘certificate’ aspect but also from life experience and past history. Your success is not based on anybody’s certificate or any one course. Your success, or lack of it, is based on a total number of factors. Through your work ethics, education, training, and reputation, you will be vetted. You control how you appear.  Remember, nobody takes care of you better than you. Just make sure the choice you make is your own…Because it IS yours…Your career, your reputation, your training, your Craft…. Your life. Make it count!

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

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