Bob Shepherd giving his Kalakov assault rifle it’s weekly run through. Afghanistan 2006.

Having dug around in the last year to see what’s going on with security training courses at home and overseas, it would appear that there is a gap between what’s acceptable, to what’s a complete rip off, and that gap is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Ask yourself some simple questions before putting good money forward: 
If the course is offering a myriad of subjects in a very short space of time, then am I really going to be qualified to operate on the ground after this course?

If so, what quality of individuals will I be operating with?

I’ve been astonished by just how many subjects are squeezed into one course.

A basic close protection course (5 day week) should be a minimum of 6 weeks for anyone with an ex military or police/law enforcement background alone.

A basic surveillance course should be a minimum of 8 weeks…and that’s absolute basic! I’ve seen a combination of both subjects advertised giving a qualification in only 2 weeks!

A basic medical course to incorporate into a close protection operative’s box of tricks, should be a minimum of 6 weeks.

Evasive, surveillance and counter surveillance driving skills, linked to advance level and armoured level driving, an absolute minimum of 6 weeks…but again I’ve seen courses advertised and running for much less.

I see shooting skills as different. Don’t even think about a job that entails weapons in private security if you’re not already trained with weapons and their carriage. Every shooting opportunity is advantageous to the individual, whether it’s an hour on the range or a week on the range.

To give you an idea of the top level military skills set for these subjects (all of which are way way longer in duration to what I’m suggesting for commercial purposes)…not every Tier 1 Special Forces individual is cut out to be a surveillance operator. Not every SF individual is cut out to be a close protection operative. Therefore, if that’s true of the top end, then in my view, to run commercial security courses with an almost nil failure rate is completely “playing at it for profit!”

As an example, not every ex soldier having had a career with the SAS/SBS (Tier 1 SF), or in an SF support role, is fully close protection or surveillance trained. So if a commercial instructor is ex SF, don’t be afraid to ask what his skills set is. For example, I had a full career in the SAS, but even then didn’t cover all the courses and skills that I would have liked to. Therefore, someone who only spent a handful of years in SF would have a lot less skills. It’s not about cap badges out on the circuit though. I learnt that, having entered the circuit many many moons ago…it’s all about real skills and real experience, no matter who you are and where you came from.

If the commercial security world (The Circuit as it’s known) was externally regulated, none of this would be allowed to happen, and there would be an adequate and acceptable failure rate from each and every course out there.

To advertise a course and guaranteeing a job at the end of that course is a giant red flag for me… so beware! Even though you are paying, you should still not be guaranteed to pass the course and/or get a job at the end of it.

In the last 20 years I have expected to see these courses tighten up on many of their amateurish descriptions and practices. However I’m saddened to say that they are getting worse by the week.

There are good courses out there, run by individuals who really do care. I’m not writing this to push particular companies. Carry out your due diligence, ask the advertising companies plenty of pertinent questions. Then ask yourself…am I bluffing myself, and therefore others too…and do I really want to be taken for a ride?

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com

Categories Uncategorized13 Comments


  1. Absolutely on the ball with this one Bob. Comments on sites promising work if you do our course is a massive no no in my book as well. It is great to see you are still so passionate about this.

  2. This is well written and highlights some true points. I have visited some of these type of companies that offer the world and run shabby courses. But more still working in the pit i get to see a lot of these operators turning up on contracts and when you see the mistakes they make and ask them what course provider they did, it shows. one of the biggest questions i ask is who is checking some of these peoples skills background. ie. where they served and who with etc

    1. Thanks for your comment David. As for who’s checking? I’ve been fighting for years to come up with an external grouping to regulate the industry from a British perspective. I firmly believe that if it ever happened, we would then lead the way Internationally for others to follow. Headed by a serving MP with no financial ties to the industry would be a good start in my opinion. If you haven’t already, take a look at some of my posts on the industry, or read The Circuit by Bob Shepherd. You can download it from Amazon, or buy it second hand as cheap as chips again from Amazon…it’s now been out for over 10 years. Cheers again, BS.

  3. Agree with your post Bob. I did RMP CP Course at longmoor. Only served 12 years then went civpol before getting on the circuit. I had to complete a civvi cp course so called a friend at CPU who gave me some recommendations. I went with Phoenix and thought it a good course, very similar to longmoor but without the phys and weapons. I know guys that have done 2 week courses too. I have heard operators say things like, ‘an operator is a full screws role’, or ,’only infantry should be doing cp’. Mostly by guys that are not well thought of in the job and who are generally belters.
    Dont get me wrong, there are a lot of good operators who just get on with it. There are a lot of walts who lie, get caught out and are still employed. Most companies just want bums on seats so they can make a nice profit.
    Pay is being cut all the time, morale is a dirty word and you cant trust a word most of the management say.
    I hope it goes full circle and quality, skills and experience earn what they are worth before it all goes pete tong and avoidable losses start to escalate. I like the old addage,’Pay peanuts, get monkeys’.
    SIA has just made the training providers rich, as you pointed out, I have yet to hear of anyone failing a civvi cp course. absolutely unbelievable.
    My last point, they cant teach the softer skills that I believe all CPOs should possess, and it has a detrimental effect on teams, companies and clients.
    Best wishes for the festive season Bob.


  4. The industry needs to self Police/Certify.
    All of the main Contractors need to come together, set a standard and make an association.
    Then have that association monitor the standard of certification under that association.
    Clients will soon pick and choose once a standard is set.
    That ball needs to start somewhere, it would probably take a few big hitters to come onboard before others follow.
    Good Luck Ben, you are passionate enough to take the helm.

    1. Dav P, what I would like to see is the industry externally (not internally as it is now) regulated, with a serving MP heading it up with no financial ties to the industry. The British security circuit could become world leaders if the will was there to attempt it.

    2. The danger with certify/external certify, is that you eventually end up with clipboard waving chairwarmers running the top, and instructors cutting things to fit the skill list just so they get a good pass rate in the “right” subjects. In civy education world this is known as “teach to the test” and results in cookie cutter thinking, and “hard to teach stuff”getting left out of course just so instructors and schools can survive and make coin. Those who don’t tow the line get marginalised until they find something more rewarding to do with their time, as they constantly get told they crap teachers and have useless students because the don’t pass the “think by the book” exams in large numbers and their own students have a high fail rate in their own exams.
      That’s because teaching and military/security go in opposite directions – business sales and teaching is profitable by churning out as much minimal cost stuff as you can – high threat security, is the opposite, you only need a certain number of the best people, and you’ve really got to male sure you’ve only got the best. Preferably without destroying too many people ni the process…

  5. Excellent and true commentary Bob. Sadly, there are so many “pay to play” courses out there worldwide that the average aspiring security professional is easily duped. Here in the US many of these courses can now be paid for with veterans educational benefits. A sad state of affairs that I am glad you addressed.

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