So you are about to spend your hard-earned money taking some executive protection training or attending one of the “bodyguard schools.” Perhaps, you are already working in the industry. Have you done your due diligence yet? Would you walk into a car dealership and write a check for a car you know nothing about and have never seen? Then please don’t do it for training where you are responsible for the safety of another human being.

Stop and think about some of these tips, it is your responsibility!

I usually get a phone call or email every couple of weeks from someone asking me if it’s worth taking “ABC Executive Protection School training.” While I haven’t been to all of them, I usually can say that I know someone who has been to one I haven’t. I will admit here that I have been an instructor at one of the better known schools, and that I am a bit biased in terms of who I will go to for training, that does not mean I won’t consider others. The purpose of this is not to bash any one school, but just to make you aware that not all of them are created equal.

So in my own self interest of saving a little time, and of course being helpful, here’s how I approach any training that I’m going to pay for.

How long has the school been in business?

While I do like to know how long a school has been in business, it is by no means a reason to discount them. I can think of one course that I’ve heard very good things about that just hasn’t been in business for all that long. I also know a handful of people who could get together, start a school tomorrow and have it be a top-notch school. I have a good friend that just started his own firearms training company, if I had the time I would go take his training because I know he has relevant experience. What is the schools reputation? Ask around on social media, talk to your friends that have been to one of the schools. Will the school provide you with names of prior students you can contact for reference? What follows is more important to me personally.

Instructor Experience?

For me this is a big one. Do the instructors at the school you are considering have relevant experience? Do they currently work in this industry? Are instructor bios available on their website, or will they provide them? I want to know that my hard-earned money is going to be spent on learning from someone that has different, better, more, and most importantly relevant experience as to what they are teaching. Look at it this way, would you take drivers training from a car salesman just because he says he knows something about cars? Just because he sells cars doesn’t mean he is a good driver, let alone a good instructor.

Here’s an example; We were approached by an organization to give a presentation on some of our training. After the presentation the organization wanted to “buy” our training and teach it themselves while selling it to their students. Our answer, ABSOLUTELY NOT. How can you “buy” training and just have anyone teach it without the instructors having relevant experience? That is not providing a value to your customer (students), and you are taking money from unwitting people who may then be put in a dangerous situation with training from someone with NO experience. That’s not only crazy but dangerously irresponsible.

How relevant is the course material?

Is the course material relevant to executive protection? I’ve seen all kinds of different courses teaching things that just aren’t relevant to what is the reality of working in this business. I’ve even attended some that taught irrelevant material. Let me ask you this, do you really think you’ll be carrying a rifle on an assignment for a CEO? Yet there are courses out there that seem to focus way too much on firearms training. Don’t get me wrong, you do need to know how to safely operate firearms, but the chances of you walking around with an M-4 in the US are close to ZERO. What they should be teaching you is advance work, threat assessment, how to properly work with a principal, dress, protocol, placement, personal appearance, manners, etiquette, procedures for aircraft and yacht security, protective methods for children, family members, visitors, how to deal with household staff and in offices, working estates, and during recreational activities, and attacks on principals to name a few. Are they teaching you WHY you are doing it?

There is a multitude of other topics they should be covering as well. If you want super ninja shooting skills go to a shooting school, carrying a gun in this business is just another tool available to you, but should be your last resort, not your first. Your job in this business is to keep your client safe, cover and evacuate, in other words grab your client and run away. Nothing like in the movies, or that fancy brochure from the latest super-ninja bodyguard school is it?

The only time I have worn tactical gear and carried weapons openly was in Iraq, and after a while we concealed our weapons for the most part. So if they are teaching you to run around with M-4’s in tactical gear you may have just spent your money unwisely. If you spend 3 hours a day in class getting beat up by the resident karate expert you may be spending your money unwisely. I can always learn something at a training course, however the one thing I don’t want to learn is that I just wasted my money on irrelevant training.

How long is the course?

There seems to be a wide variety of thought on how long an Executive Protection course should be. I have taken courses ranging from 2 days to over a month. For the purpose of this article we will assume that you are looking for an introductory course here in the US. European courses are another matter.

This is a real sore spot with me. Since leaving overseas work I have noticed a number of “become a superstar” type “bodyguard” schools. Most of those seem to be a 2 or 3-day course. Often their claims make you think you’ll be the next Kevin Costner and in 6 months you’ll be driving a new Lamborghini. OK, that’s a bit of a stretch but you know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen the pictures of the 6 guys in black suits with the tall blonde they are protecting at the local mall.

I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years and I’m still learning, believe me I have plenty to learn. How anyone can teach you executive protection in 2 or 3 days is a mystery to me. When I look at these courses I often find someone with little, or questionable experience and qualifications is teaching it, or they don’t even list it. That is not to say that only people with over 20 years experience can teach you something. I know there’s a good course out there that is 5-days, has excellent instructors and reputation. Is the course a 9 to 5 class, or is it more realistic with 12+ hour days? I would take the one that is 12+ hours per day. Get used to working 12 hours a day or more.

What is the cost?

For a lot of people this may unfortunately be the deciding factor on what training they attend. I don’t believe the most expensive, or cheapest price is always the better value. The term “comparison shopping” comes to mind. Sit down with a note pad and write down the Pro and Con of each thing about the school. Decide what school will offer you the best training for your money. Once you have done that then factor in what your travel cost will be, are you flying or driving? Will you need to get a rental car, will the school pair you up with another student to share that cost? Are there any other associated costs?

Now days many of them will offer a financing plan, often at no interest. Some schools may even be approved for GI Bill use. Just make sure that before you commit funds under the GI Bill that you select a course that is worth it, there are places out there taking advantage of unsuspecting former military members.

Placement Services?

If a school is touting their placement services then ask them for proof of how successful it is. Any school who is promising or pushing their “employment placement” programs need to publish and support their claims with bold and hard numbers, as well as the names to support their claims, especially if they want you to pay for it. Some schools have their own alumni association where you can network, either by having a list of previous graduates or even a message board, or Facebook group.

The fact is there are a limited amount of full-time details around the US, so chances are you’ll be working for more than one security company on shorter part-time jobs.  Even those are not easy to come by, you’ll need to network with as many people as you can, especially your fellow students. This is a tough business to get into, and just as tough to stay in once you get your foot in the door.

Some final thoughts.

I have spent thousands of dollars on professional training over the years, some has been good, and some not so much. There is no one course that is going to turn you into the next great bodyguard. A two or three-day class is going to teach you enough to get yourself into trouble, potentially putting you and a client at risk. Save your money, even if you have to wait a bit longer to get the training, it will be worth it in the long run. Even a 7-day class is only the beginning of your training, it should continue until you retire.

This job is NOT about becoming some super-ninja that can catch an arrow in his teeth while skydiving, or running around in tactical gear with M-4’s. What this is about is working with high net worth clients, and you want training that is appropriate for that. Bad training teaches bad habits, and good clients are not fooled very long by amateurs.

Remember; If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Thanks to Colin at EVO Consulting & Operations for assisting with this article.