Alternate Career Titles:
Bodyguard, Executive Protection Professional, Close Protection Officer, Security Guard
Career Overview: Celebrity Bodyguards keep clients safe and happy. They must assess and deter possible threats from stalkers, paparazzi, and even ex-boyfriends (!) while also ensuring that the celebrity is relaxed and receives a high standard of service.
Average Annual Earnings: $100/hour is standard for top security agencies, although this varies with experience level and threat level
General Earnings Range: $25,000 to $500,000+
Become a Celebrity Bodyguard
A day on the job for a Celebrity Bodyguard can include anything from escorting the client to dinner, business meetings, music video sets, shopping excursions, or awards ceremonies. Often working in teams, the advance security team prepares an area for the client’s arrival by making an initial sweep of the location, ensuring its security before moving on to their next location. The celebrity and Bodyguard then arrive together—the Bodyguard always careful to open the door and help his client out. “If they’re safe but unhappy, you’re not doing your job,” says Richard Davis of The Bodyguard Group of Beverly Hills, Southern California’s longest running and most prestigious Bodyguard firm. He describes this approach to security as a protective bubble, policed by different layers of security professionals, all focusing on different things to ensure the team is getting the whole picture when it comes to client safety.
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Celebrity Bodyguards can be assigned to higher status or higher threat clients as their experience grows. That means a larger paycheck. Celebrity Bodyguards can also open their own agencies, or be promoted to executive positions within the agency.
Education & Training
Celebrity Bodyguards always have some form of special military or police training. Top security firms exclusively hire elite U.S. veterans and law enforcement officials, including Navy Seals, U.S. Army Delta Force, and other special ops vets. College is not essential, although some training programs do exist.
Experience & Skills
As mentioned above, military or law enforcement experience is essential, with the most prestigious firms accepting applicants only from the highest ranks of military service or law enforcement. Celebrity Bodyguards must possess higher than average strength as well as intelligence, so that they can fight off an assailant as easily as they can zero in on potential threats in a crowded room.
Personality-wise, Richard Davis says that the most important thing needed to become a successful Celebrity Bodyguard is the training and desire to help those who can’t help themselves “stand up against the bullies. Ex-boyfriends, the paparazzi ‘stalkerazzi’, psychotic fans.” Essential qualities for a Celebrity Bodyguard include “composure, strength, stamina, the statuesque appearance of an agent on the Presidential Protection Division, and [the] common sense” to be a “consummate professional.”
“The only consistent thing in our business is it’s completely inconsistent,” Davis says. The amount of time spent with each client depends on the celeb’s personal preferences. Bodyguards can work eight or twelve hour shifts. They can work shorter shifts, say, for example, if the client just wants protection while she’s going to get her hair fixed before a Grammy appearance. And bodyguards can also work around the clock. “When they’re awake, you’re awake,” he adds. To facilitate around-the-clock protection, Bodyguards work with Managers, Agents, Attorneys, Personal Assistants, Promoters, Producers, Bar/Restaurant Owners, and other Celebrity Bodyguards.
Employment prospects are strong, for those with the necessary background—which isn’t everybody. “There’s no entry level program. You start at the top of the game; you’re either qualified, or you’re not,” Davis says. Successful applicants all come from the highest ranks of military service or are high-ranking, specialized veterans with a law enforcement background. At the country’s most prestigious security firms, potential employees can wait up to two years to even get a first interview.
Bodyguards at elite firms start off at $100/hour, and usually work 8-12 hour shifts. Earnings can vary based on the guard’s experience level and the level of security threat to the company.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
Groups like the North American Bodyguard Association (NABA) exist to provide support and networking opportunities to members. The NABA’s Facebook page is open to non-members, who can ask questions and try their skill at assessing threats in photos posted by veteran Bodyguards. However, there is no one union or group that Celebrity Bodyguards must join. The majority of Celebrity Bodyguards are part of a community of veterans from their specific branch of service.
- Research groups like Navy Seals, US Army Delta, and other special forces command positions to see what the training and skills required are like.
- Start training with law enforcement or an elite branch of military service.
- “Make sure your alarm clock is set to the James Bond theme song so you can get in the right mindset.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Tip every valet like you’re having a love affair with them” so they keep the area free for celebrity security and the client never has to wait for parking. Treat restaurant staff right and tip them right. These people know their workplaces and if anything’s out of the ordinary. “Everybody should be part of your team.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“It’s not about who’s the bigger guy. Don’t try to outfight or outrun, just outsmart.”
What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?
“Who’s the nicest celebrity and who’s the meanest?”
Richard Davis is the International and Special Operations Director for the Bodyguard Group of Beverly Hills, southern California’s oldest and largest bodyguard company, and the nation’s only private sector firm to offer 100% free job placement service for elite veterans and law enforcement officers. An elite special ops veteran himself, Davis has been serving since he was a teenager on Catalina Island, and is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.