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You Earned It

COMPENSATION FOR SECURITY professionals in the United States in 2009 rose 4 percent to a median of $90,000. The average for 2009 is $102,000. That’s according to the 2009 ASIS International U.S. Security Salary Survey, which collects data from participants for the current and preceding years in order to capture an accurate representation of a single group’s experience year-to-year.

The survey examines trends in both average and median salary, because the two measurements can offer different perspectives; the average is a total of all items in the sector divided by the count in the sample, while the median is the precise midpoint of the range of all items reported.

Forms of compensation other than salary are also examined. The average performance bonus in 2009 is $10,000. This figure is unchanged from the 2008 salary survey.

But the percentage of those receiving a bonus dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent this year. Also noteworthy is that while the median value of bonuses rose, the average value remained unchanged, indicating stagnation at the upper levels of bonus packages.

Just 11 percent of respondents received any compensation from profit-sharing, continuing a march back from 13 percent in 2008 and 15 percent in 2007. The average value of that profit-sharing package fell by a median of 4 percent to $5,000, representing the first fall in value in the 5-year history of this survey.

Stock options are also fewer, dropping from 16 percent receiving them in 2008 to 13 percent in 2009, though the median value remained constant at $10,000.

Amidst these medians and averages are industries and regions that are compensating at rates far higher and lower. Independent factors such as job duties, personal qualifications and experience, and the size and structure of the employer are also indispensable in benchmarking compensation rates.

Public or Private Sector

More than half (56 percent) of respondents work for privately held companies, a sector reporting an average compensation of $98,000 and a median of $85,000. Their peers working for publicly held (stockholder-owned) companies report the highest average compensation in this comparison at $118,000, with a median of $100,000—up 1 percent over the year prior.

By contrast, federal government/law enforcement employees report an average salary of $107,000 and the highest median of any sector at $105,000.

The distinction between the federal sector and the publicly held commercial sector provides a useful illustration for assessing compensation characteristics using both averages and medians (see chart, page 72).

For publicly held companies, which tend to be larger than sole proprietorships, there was a spread of $18,000 between the average and median; the spread shows that there is more upward potential. The federal sector had the higher median with a difference of just $2,000 between average and median, showing much less range overall in what one can earn in that sector.

The survey shows that most security professionals are apt to be better paid in the federal sector. What the publicly held companies offer in comparison is the opportunity to earn far more at the top end of the pay scale.

The 90th percentile of security practitioners in the federal sector earn an average salary of $153,000. Their peers employed by publicly held companies report an average of $200,000.

This year’s survey also provides an interesting glimpse at the effects of the economic recession and its relative impact in these sectors. Median salaries among those working for publicly held companies rose just 1 percent this year. Those in the more sheltered waters of the federal sector saw median compensation increases of 5 percent.

Those in the lowest 10th percentile of the compensation range report increases of 8 percent in the federal sector versus just 3 percent in publicly held companies. That difference reverses in the top 10 percent (the 90th percentile), not surprisingly, because there’s more room for salaries to rise at the high end of the private sector than in government, as noted earlier. Thus, median compensation among that top slice rose 4 percent among publicly held companies and 3 percent in the federal sector.

Municipal government/law enforcement compensation rose just 2 percent, with an average of $84,000 and a median of $78,000. State government/law enforcement again ranks lowest in this year’s survey, with an average compensation of just $82,000 and a median of $75,000.

Industry Hierarchy

The hierarchy of industries as gauged by compensation has remained both stable and substantial for the five consecutive years this survey has been conducted (see chart below). The natural resources and mining industry continues to have the sector with the most highly paid security professionals, with an average compensation of $158,000 and a median of $142,000. This sector is also one of the smallest each year, with respondents totaling just 1 percent of this year’s survey population.

The construction sector ranks second among industries for security compensation with an average of $126,000 and a median of $114,000. Construction also reports the second fastest growing median income, rising 9 percent over 2008, just behind the wholesale/retail trade sector in which median compensation rose 10 percent.

The manufacturing sector ranks third among sectors with the most highly paid security professionals, with an average compensation of $118,000 and a median of $106,000.

The largest population in this year’s survey is the professional services sector, which includes security services and comprises 26 percent of respondents. Security and Professional Services reports an average compensation of $97,000 and a median of $82,500, which grew 6 percent over 2008.

The professional services sector also represents the widest distribution of compensation rates, with the 90th percentile reporting an average of $164,000 and a median $157,000. The 10th percentile in this sector ranks as the lowest recorded at just $37,000 average and $36,000 median.

Education—the perennial bottom rung on the pay scale—this year reports stagnant wages for security, with virtually no change in the median salary between 2008 and 2009. Those working as security professionals in this sector have an average compensation of $81,000 and a median of $76,000.

Company Size

The size of the company determined by both number of employees and gross revenue has a strong correlation to the rate of compensation, with larger companies offering progressively higher salaries. The number of employees, rather than the gross revenue, is the more important gauge for compensation. The historic exception, which holds true this year as well, is that the smallest companies—those with fewer than 100 employees and less than $5 million in gross revenue—offer a slight advantage over somewhat larger organizations.

In these smallest companies, compensation for security professionals is an average of $99,000 and a median of $85,000. This median figure trumps salaries at companies in both the 100-499 employees range and the 500-999 employees range, coming in at $80,000 and $83,000, respectively. It matches the median salary for companies with 1,000-4,999 employees.

What’s in a Title

Security managers’ duties can vary as widely as their salaries. The same is true for security directors, chief security officers (CSOs), loss prevention directors, and every other title captured in this survey.

The survey showed that compensation benchmarks are more directly related to the duties of the position, the nature of the employer, and the nature of the candidate than to titles, which often appear to be handed out in lieu of legal tender. Even so, when prospective employers or employees seek salary information, they most often ask what a given title is paid on average, perhaps because it offers an easy benchmark. According to the survey, security professionals with “loss prevention” in their titles are among those seeing the fastest compensations rise.

Rank. Forty percent of this year’s respondents are top-level security professionals at their organization; this group earns an average salary of $118,000 and a median of $100,000.

Top-level security professionals do not always report directly to the CEO or president, but that does not determine whether they will be among the most highly compensated professionals in the industry.

Only 25 percent of respondents report directly to the top executive at their company; these individuals earn an average of $105,000 and a median of $90,000.

In some companies, security positions are organized within other business units or departments. Those who report directly to the legal department earn the highest compensation, a 2009 average of $127,000 and a median of $108,000. Closely behind are those reporting through the IT department: They earn an average of $124,000 and a median of $105,000.

Duties. Responsibilities also affect compensation, relative rank being equal. Among the higher compensated are security professionals performing VIP security off premises—they earn an average compensation of $119,000 and a median of $98,000. Also well compensated are those tasked with IT/ logical security of the company, who earn an average of $113,000 and a median of $104,000.

For those charged with physical security, among the most reliable indicators of compensation based on the responsibilities specific to the job are the size and geographic range of the facilities. Nineteen percent of respondents indicate they are responsible for security at facilities in more than one country; they cite an average compensation of $138,000 and a median of $123,000.

Security professionals responsible for facilities in multiple states report an average compensation of $109,000 and a median of $100,000. Those overseeing multiple intrastate facilities report an average of $89,000 and a median of $82,000. Finally, those charged with a single facility report an average of $80,000 and a median of $71,000.

The number of staff within the overall security function appears to have no appreciable correlation to compensation. Just 24 percent of respondents indicated that more than 40 staff worked within the overall security function. Similarly, the number of staff reporting directly to a security professional appears to have no substantial connection to compensation, which is probably fortunate as 64 percent of respondents had 5 or fewer employees reporting to them.


Two clear indicators of compensation for security professionals are the size of the security budget and the respondent’s overall influence over it. Twenty-five percent of respondents work with a security bud get exceeding $5 million and receive an average compensation of $132,000 and a median of $122,000. Thirty-three percent of respondents have a security bud get between $1 million and $5 million and report an average compensation of $109,000 and a median of $98,000. Twenty-three percent of respondents report an annual security budget of less than $1 million and have an average compensation of $87,000 and a median of $80,000.

A security professional’s level of responsibility for that budget is a strong indicator of compensation. Eleven percent of respondents have no control or influence over the security budget and report an average compensation of $86,000 and a median of $78,000. Thirty-three percent of respondents are responsible for making budget recommendations and report an average compensation of $97,000 and a median of $87,000. The 41 percent of respondents who are responsible for planning and submitting security budgets report an average compensation of $106,000 and a median of $96,000.

Fifteen percent of respondents are in a position to approve security budgets and report an average compensation of $123,000 and a median of $109,000.

Human Capital

Professional certifications, formal education, and years in the security field and in security management are all bellwethers of earnings potential.

The 40 percent of respondents whose highest level of education is an undergraduate degree report an average compensation of $107,000 and a median of $93,000. Fully 28 percent of respondents hold a master’s degree and report an average compensation of $112,000 and a median of $102,000.

Established professional certifications demonstrate tested knowledge of best practices within a professional discipline. In the security profession, holding one of the core certifications correlates to compensation that is 10 percent to 12 percent higher than the compensation of peers with no certification (see chart, this page).

Approximately 50 percent of respondents hold a professional certification. The most popular certification among respondents is the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), which is held by 32 percent of the respondents. Those holding the CPP report an average compensation of $114,000 and a median of $104,000. Those holding a Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) designation earn an average compensation of $120,000 and a median of $105,000. Those who earned the Physical Security Professional (PSP) credential report an average compensation of $102,000 and a median of $104,000.


Years of experience in the security field are another good predictor of compensation rates. Respondents with 1 to 9 years in the industry earn an average compensation of $81,000 and a median of $72,000. Those with 10 to 19 years in the field report an average compensation of $85,000 and a median of $95,000. If experience ranges from 20 to 29 years of experience, respondents earn an average compensation of $112,000 and a median of $103,000. Those with more than 30 years’ experience in the field report the highest average salary of $115,000, though the median dropped slightly to $99,000. Respondents are evenly distributed throughout this range.

Respondents were asked how many years of their experience have been in a security management capacity. Here, too, the population is evenly distributed and progression up the compensation scale is commensurate with years of service. Those with 20-plus years in security management earn an average of $122,000 and a median of $109,000. Respondents with 10 to 19 years of security management experience earn an average of $101,000 and a median of $90,000. Those with nine or fewer years in security management earn an average of $81,000 and a median of $76,000.

Respondents were also asked about the number of years they have been with their current employer. Fully 46 percent of respondents have been with their current employer five years or fewer, while just 22 percent have been at their current company more than 10 years.

Like years of experience and years in security management, compensation rises with time with an employer, though here the progression curve is shallow, with a tight range from $97,000 to $110,000. Other correlations to compensation noted in this survey have a far wider range with lower lows and higher highs. In short, fidelity to a specific employer is not well rewarded.

Overall, security professionals seem to be weathering the recession fairly well, though it has definitely dampened increases in compensation. The general factors affecting salary increases remain the same as in past years.

Mike Moran is special projects editor for the Publishing Department at ASIS International. He conducts and analyzes results of the ASIS Salary Survey each year.

The 2009 ASIS International U.S. Security Salary Survey Results will be published in book form next month and will be available for purchase at the ASIS International 55th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Anaheim, California. The book will also be available for purchase from the ASIS Online bookstore, accessible, in October.