You see them at banks, schools and malls: uniformed security guards watching for signs of trouble. There were more than 1.04 million of these men and women patrolling their turf as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Who the top-paid guards were depended in part upon the industry, as well as the city and state, in which they worked.
According to the BLS, the average annual salary for security guards as of May 2012 was $27,240, equal to $13.10 an hour. The best-paid 25 percent, however, could make $31,610 or more -- the equivalent of $15.20 an hour. The top 10 percent earned $42,490 or more, equal to $20.43 an hour.
The best-paying industries for security guards involved getting people from here to there. The guards employed by ground passenger transit and transportation earned the highest average annual salary, at $68,980, or $33.17 an hour, according to the BLS. The guards employed by the taxi and limousine industry earned the second-highest wage, at $52,430 a year, or $25.21 an hour. Guards working in commercial building construction earned the third-highest average pay, at $47,310, or $22.75 an hour.
The nation's capital ranked first in the BLS' list of top-paying states: Security guards who worked in Washington, D.C., earned an average of $37,010 a year, or $17.79 an hour. Those working in Alaska made the second-highest salaries, averaging $36,610 a year, or $17.60 an hour. Security guards working in Maryland ranked third, with averages of $33,020 a year and $15.87 an hour.
Top-Paying Metro Regions:
For security guards looking to make a top salary, the El Centro, California, metropolitan area was the place to be, according to the BLS. The guards working there earned a yearly average of $51,780, equal to $24.89 an hour. The Burlington, North Carolina, area ranked second, with guards averaging $49,240 a year, or $23.68 an hour. Ithaca, New York, ranked third, with an average salary for security guards of $43,340 a year, or $20.84 an hour. The top-paying non-metropolitan region in the survey was Los Alamos, New Mexico, where guards averaged $65,950 a year, or $31.71 an hour.