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Security guards in California need either a “guard card” or a PSO license.

A “guard card” is a license issue for a “Security Guard” under the Private Security Services Act.

A “PSO license” is a license issued for a Proprietary “Security Officer” under the Proprietary Security Officer Act.

What Is the Private Security Services Act?

The Private Security Services Act is a set of California laws that govern Private Patrol Operators (a/k/a PPOs) and security guards. You can find the law here at BPC § 7580.

Here’s what’s important to know.

A business that employs security guards and contracts them out to other businesses must have a PPO license. If you’re a security guard working for a PPO, you must have a “guard card.” A PPO cannot contract out someone with a PSO license, only someone with a “guard card.”

Also, a PSO cannot carry a weapon.

What Is the Proprietary Security Officer Act?

The Proprietary Security Officer Act is a set of California laws that govern Proprietary Security Employer (a/k/a PSEs) and security officers. You can find the law here at BPC § 7574.

The Act defines a PSE as “a person who has one or more employees who provide security
services for the employer and only for the employer.” See BPC § 7574.01(e).

It defines a “security officer” as “an unarmed individual who is employed exclusively by any one
employer whose primary duty is to provide security services for his or her employer, whose services are not
contracted to any other entity or person…and who meets both of the following criteria:
(1) Is required to wear a distinctive uniform clearly identifying the individual as a security officer.
(2) Is likely to interact with the public while performing his or her duties.” See BPC § 7574.01(f).

If someone is providing security for one employer (e.g., a bar or restaurant) and wears a shirt that says “Security” and interacts with the public, that person needs a PSO license.

Who Issues The Licenses For Security Guards In California?

California’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (a/k/a BSIS) issues licenses for “guard cards” and PSO licenses. BSIS regulates the security industry in California through the Private Security Services Act and the Proprietary Security Officer Act.

Do Security Guards Need To Be Licensed In California?

Yes! See above.

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation!

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.


  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce