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Pay for Performance

AFTER DIPPING SLIGHTLY IN 2009, wages for security professionals are on the rise again, with median compensation for 2010 reaching $93,000, a 6 percent increase, according to the 2010 ASIS International U.S. Security Salary Survey. Respondents who had a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification earned a median, $118,000 in 2010.

The average compensation for all respondents was $108,000 (the median salary is the mid-point of the range of reported compensation. The average salary is simply the sum of dollars divided by the number of people). 2010 marks a continuation of a 5-year trend in which average compensation for salaried security professionals has risen 19 percent from $88,000 in 2006 to the current $108,000 this year.

The bottom rung of earners—those in the 10th percentile—rose from $46,000 in 2009 to $52,000 in 2010, and those at the top of the scale—the 90th percentile—saw their compensation go from $163,000 to $180,000.

There are many factors that can impact earnings. One is whether the employer is in the government sector or the private sector. Because the upside in the private sector is far greater than the upside in the public/government sector, the data show a spread in the medians and averages for those two groups.

The federal government/law enforcement sector has a median compensation of $101,000, compared to a median of $90,000 for privately held companies and $100,000 for publicly held (stock) corporations. The average compensation in this sector is 11 percent higher, describing a relatively even distribution of the total compensation pool. In this sector the 10th percentile earned $82,000 and the 90th percentile earned $155,000.

The average compensation is substantially higher among publicly owned companies, and the disparity between median and average is a far more pronounced 24 percent. Here those in the 10th percentile earn just $53,000 and the 90th percentile earn $209,000.

If you are at the peak of your security career looking for the highest compensation, pay attention to the averages. If you are not yet a rock star in your field, disregard the average salaries for now and focus on the medians. A career path that would maximize lifetime compensation would begin where median salaries are highest and then transition to where average compensation is highest.

The complete analysis of the survey, found in ASIS International U.S. Salary Survey Results, 2010, offers medians and averages for each response in every industry and geographic sector. Apply this framework to any scenario to determine whether your compensation is right for you at this point in your career.

Apart from the issue of public versus private sector, there are a handful of factors closely correlated to compensation for security professionals. Primary among these are education, the size of the security budget, and the number and geographic range of the facilities for which a manager is responsible. For example, someone with responsibility over multiple international facilities would earn a median salary of $140,000, about 71 percent more than someone managing a single location, who would earn $82,000. Someone with a master’s would earn a median of $122,000 versus the median $79,000 earned by respondents with only a high school education. Security professionals overseeing budgets of $10 million or more earn a median of $150,000, while those managing budgets of only $500,000 or less earn about $91,000. Certifications matter as well.


The sector within which you manage a security program also has an impact on how well you are likely to be compensated. Traditionally, natural resources and mining has been not only the top-scoring sector but one where wages rose robustly year after year. But that trend has reversed in 2010, and while it remains a good sector, with a median of just under $142,000, it suffered a 10 percent drop from 2009 compensation levels.

Taking the number one position in 2010 is the information sector—up 16 percent from 2009 to a median of just over $142,000. This sector, encompassing much more than just IT, is defined as consisting of traditional and Internet publishing industries, software publishing, the motion picture and sound recording industries, traditional and Internet broadcasting industries, telecommunications, Web search portals, data processing industries, and the information services industries.

Respondents in this sector were also younger than most respondents, with 66 percent between the ages of 30 and 50. Most had been with their present company for 10 or fewer years, but unlike the overall sample in which tenure correlates roughly to compensation, those earning the most in this sector had been with their companies just six to 10 years.

Construction also took a big hit this year after a surge last year, while some sectors, such as health services and transportation and utilities, have seen compensation jump from 2009 levels. For example, health services is up to $113,000 from $84,000—a 7 percent change in median earnings.


Compensation is also affected, of course, by location. The Mid-Atlantic Region continues to offer the security jobs with the highest compensation ($105,000 median), up by 5 percent from 2009. The Mountain and East South Central regions, conversely, offered the lowest rates of compensation, and unlike every other region in which compensation rose, these regions show stagnant or dropping wages.


Of the 784 respondents to the survey, 58 percent work for privately held companies, 27 percent work at publicly owned companies, and 15 percent work for government or other institutions.

Respondents at companies with more than 5,000 employees were 49 percent of the sample. Respondents in companies making more than $1 billion in gross revenue were 41 percent of the sample.

Among all respondents, 39 percent are the top-level security person at their organization; 20 percent report to the CEO. These positions do not necessarily earn more as a median, however, because they are often at smaller organizations.

Overall, the survey shows that security professionals are weathering the economic difficulties reasonably well as a whole, with growth rebounding for some sectors. For the harder hit sectors, however, wage increases have been put off and could be further delayed depending on how the economic recovery proceeds.

Mike Moran is special projects editor. ASIS International U.S. Security Salary Survey Results, 2010 will be available for purchase in October 2010 at the seminar and exhibits in Dallas—members: $135; nonmembers: $195.

The book breaks out responses in 11 industries and 9 geographic regions. Each section drills down into 18 specific factors that affect compensation. Survey participants can claim a $50 discount by [email protected] or calling 412/741-1495.