Helene Kaplan’s Protection ProfessionHelene Kaplan’s Protection Profession

Helene Kaplan's Protection Profession

Njnextstop.org's researcher bees are busy at work behind the scenes to bring New Jersey high school students and all-around jobseekers new information about some of the state's most exciting careers and industries. A chunk of this new research will focus on security jobs—not necessarily of the Law & Order variety. If ever there was a career that has become really important to our society in recent years, it's the field of security and safety. Especially since 9/11, most companies have gone into a proactive protection mode, requiring thousands of security officers (not the ones who carry guns) to fill their needs. New Jersey is home to companies, both big and small, that employ security officers to put their clients and employees at ease.

"The image of the old night watchman of years ago is gone," says Helene E. Kaplan, director of training and organizational development for Gateway Security, one of the largest privately held security corporations in New Jersey. This Newark-based company currently employs about 4,000 people in New Jersey to provide physical security and customer care services. "Today we see a well-trained, savvy individual who is part of the corporate environment. It took our country's awareness of global and domestic terrorism to boost the industry even further," adds Kaplan.

Kaplan, who started out as an English teacher and then worked for another security company for 10 years before joining Gateway in 1994, says safety and security is an emerging field for many high school grads, especially women. The hours are flexible and the pay and opportunities for advancement are strong.

Wondering about the paycheck? Hourly rates depend upon client contracts. The median rate for entry-level security officers is $10.50 per hour with an officer's earning potential at $16.00 an hour. Medical and other benefits such as vacations, personal sick days and 401(k) programs are available to security officers. Officers must work as full-time employees before they are eligible for some of these benefits.

"As a security officer, you're trained to have a heightened sense of vigilance in everything from report writing, patrolling techniques, controlling access and using communications equipment," explains Kaplan. "The security industry also focuses on good public relations skills, the importance of having a positive appearance, and public perception of the security image. Candidates get a well-rounded education in all areas of security through on-the-job training before they are approved for a specific client site." Think you might want to put safety first on your career path? You are eligible for a job in the security industry if you are at least 18 and have either a high school diploma or GED.