Security and Fire Alarm System Installer Careers

In 2014, FBI statistics showed there were 8.28 million property crimes reported by local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, including home burglaries, commercial burglaries, larceny, and motor vehicle thefts.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that in 2013 alone there were nearly half a million structure fires (487,500) that caused $9.5 billion in damage and 2,855 deaths.

Security and fire alarm systems are often the first line of defense against property crime, potential fatalities, severe injuries, and crushing expenses. Those who install these systems must know and abide by their jurisdiction’s training, education, and certification requirements.

According to the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), 33 states currently have licensing requirements for professionals engaged in low voltage installations, including security and fire alarm systems. 19 of those states specifically regulate security alarm installers, and 22 of those states specifically regulate fire alarm installers. A complete list can be found at the bottom of this page

Working in a Vital Profession: Job Duties of Security and Fire Alarm System Installers

As a security and/or fire alarm technician you typically work with low voltage (0-49 volts) electrical alarm systems. Installing, maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting alarm systems involves:

  • Installation of properly graded conduits and cables, such as cat 5/6, coaxial, twisted pair, and fiber
  • Reading blueprints, schematics, and sketches of systems
  • Use of low voltage power sources, including backup DC sources
  • Pulling wire and using terminating devices
  • May involve interfacing between low voltage systems and 110 volt systems
  • Use of control system software programs such as AMAG, Lenel, Genetec, and Software House
  • Wiring low voltage circuits
  • Engaging in preventative maintenance and regular system inspections
  • Installation of switches and relays
  • Installation of control systems/centers

Installing fire alarm systems can be more involved than a basic alarm system. In addition to those activities mentioned above this can also include:

  • Installing strobes and lighted exit signs powered by backup systems
  • Installation of smoke detector/heat detector systems
  • Installation of sprinkler systems
  • Installation of ventilation equipment
  • Use of fire-retardant and fire-protective materials
  • Familiarity with old fire alarm systems as well as the latest versions like the Simplex 4100 family

Installing a closed circuit television (CCTV) system also involves certain unique activities, especially if it is equipped with an audio system:

  • Installation of intrusion systems
  • Installation of card access systems
  • Installation of microphones and audio cable
  • Installation and mounting of video cameras and their connecting cable system to a control center
  • In today’s market IP video is a popular feature that also involves integrating the security system with a computer

Education and Training to Become a Security and Fire Alarm Technician

The best way of knowing what the licensing regulations are where you live is to check with your local regulatory agency or local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Some jurisdictions may refer to licensing as “certification.”

Licensing regulations in this profession run the gamut. While states can implement statewide regulations, your local jurisdiction – be it a city or county – can also implement its own licensing requirements.

On one end of the spectrum, you may need to earn a full electrician license. This starts at the apprentice level, which can last between four and six years. During this time you complete an education program that is up to 1,000 hours in length and then progress to hands-on training. As your training nears its completion you take a test to qualify for the next level: journeyman. Once you’re a journeyman you can usually perform tasks independently working as part of a team that, among other things, installs security and fire alarm systems.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may find you don’t need to meet any licensing requirements imposed by the jurisdiction where you live. Somewhere in between these boundaries are two other common licensing requirements you may encounter depending on the laws in your area:

  • Low voltage license (19 states) – Some jurisdictions offer a low voltage electrician license. Training and education for this may also start at the apprentice level, however low voltage licenses usually don’t take as long to earn as a general electrician license. This is usually on the order of several months to a few years.
  • Specialty certification/license (22 states) – Some jurisdictions may offer specialized education and training programs that teach you exactly what you need to know about installing security and fire alarm systems. These courses may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months and include hands-on training and a final exam. Alternatively, some states have multi-year specialty training programs.

In addition to meeting required government regulations, as a security and fire alarm installer you also need to pay attention to what the industry demands. Even when it isn’t required by law, employers may require:

  • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Some type of electrician license (even if not required by jurisdictional regulations)
  • Professional certification from an independent national certifying body

Professional Certifications for Security and Fire Alarm Installers

National certifications for security and fire alarm installers are offered by private organizations across the United States. Each of these organizations has its own certification policies you must meet to gain the credential. This involves completing a training course, often offered online, and then passing the sponsoring organization’s exam.

National certifications are most certainly a preferred qualification you can present to prospective employers. Depending on your jurisdiction, they may also fulfill education or training requirements where you live. Check with your local jurisdiction’s regulatory agency to find out whether national certifications can fulfill your licensing requirements, or if they are an optional credential.

Some of the most popular national certification organizations and their relevant certification programs include:

Competitive Salary Statistics Nationwide

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the national average salary for security and fire alarm installers has increased by 6.5 percent over just the last five years:

  • $42,110 – average national salary in 2011
  • $43,210 – average national salary in 2012
  • $43,870 – average national salary in 2013
  • $43,910 – average national salary in 2014
  • $44,860 – average national salary in 2015

The average for those earning within the top ten percent is also up from 2011 levels, recorded in 2015 as being $64,350.

The BLS also released statistics for the top ten highest paying metro areas for security and fire alarm system installers in 2015:

  • Baltimore, Maryland – $55,320
  • Tacoma, Washington – $56,540
  • Phoenix, Arizona – $56,640
  • Lowell, Massachusetts – $56,650
  • Buffalo, New York – $57,070
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado – $57,250
  • San Jose, California – $58,860
  • Boston, Massachusetts – $58,870
  • Peoria, Illinois – $61,100
  • Anchorage, Alaska – $64,150

You may also find it helpful to review the following sampling of salaries (sourced in July 2016, these examples represent the types of salaries available to properly credentialed security and fire alarm system installers. These are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide an assurance of employment or level of pay):

  • Security and Fire Alarm Installer with MultiLink Security in San Antonio: $37,400 – $49,920
  • Security Fire Alarm Technician with Fairview Protection in Allen, Texas: $30,000 – $62,500
  • Fire Alarm Technician with Kinetix in Columbia, Maryland: $45,000 – $65,000
  • Fire Alarm Technician with CyberCoders in San Jose: $60,000 – $75,000
  • Senior Fire Alarm Technician with Rotator Staffing Services in Long Island City, New York: $54,080 – $62,400
  • Fire Alarm Technician with Outsource in San Diego: $41,600 – $62,400
  • Fire Alarm, Burglar Alarm Technician with Double R Security in Deer Park, New York: $52,000 – $62,400

Careers for Security and Fire Alarm Installers Across the Nation

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of security and fire alarm installers nationwide has increased by 20 percent since 2012. As of 2015, there were 64,730 security and fire alarm installers employed throughout the nation. The major employing industries for these professionals are:

  • Investigation and security services – employing 38,830 of these professionals
  • Building equipment contractors –       employing 18,410
  • Durable goods merchant wholesalers (misc) – employing 1,960
  • Household appliance and electronic goods merchant wholesalers – employing 1,000
  • Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers – employing 680

Major employers of fire and security alarm installers in the nation’s largest job markets include:

Dallas

  • Western States Fire Protection Company
  • Archon Inc
  • Monitronics
  • Facility Solutions Group
  • Marriott International

New York City

  • DGA Security Systems
  • Tyco
  • TEKSystems
  • Liberty Personnel Services
  • Sentry Communication and Security

Chicago

  • Protection One Alarm Monitoring Inc
  • Tyco
  • Abt Electronics
  • MasTec Advanced Techonologies
  • Extended Stay Hotels

San Jose

  • Red Hawk Fire and Security
  • Stanley Black and Decker
  • Protection One Alarm Monitoring Inc
  • Bay Alarm Company
  • Delta Construction Partners Inc

Phoenix

  • Safeguard Security and Communications Inc
  • Armstrong Group of Companies
  • Sterling Bank Services
  • Benson Systems
  • Kratos Defense

Security and Fire Alarm System Installer Regulations by State

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) maintains a database of states that have specific licensing requirements for security and fire alarm installers at the state level, which are as follows (if your state is not listed you still may have to abide by licensing requirements imposed by your local jurisdiction, and/or may need to obtain a general electrician license):

  • Alabama – low voltage systems in general
  • Alaska – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Arizona – fire alarm systems
  • Arkansas – security alarm systems
  • California – low voltage systems in general and security alarm systems
  • Connecticut – low voltage systems in general, especially those that relate to security systems
  • Florida – security alarm systems, fire alarm systems, and low voltage systems in general
  • Georgia – low voltage systems in general
  • Illinois – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Kentucky – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Louisiana – security alarm systems, fire alarm systems, and CCTV security systems
  • Maine – fire alarm systems and low voltage systems in general
  • Massachusetts – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Michigan – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Minnesota – low voltage systems in general
  • Missouri – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Montana – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Nebraska – fire alarm systems
  • Nevada – fire alarm systems and low voltage systems in general
  • New Jersey – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • New Mexico – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • New York – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • North Carolina – low voltage systems in general
  • Oklahoma – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Oregon – low voltage systems in general
  • Rhode Island – low voltage systems in general
  • South Carolina – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Tennessee – low voltage systems in general, including security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Texas – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Utah – security alarm systems
  • Vermont – residential fire alarm systems and commercial fire alarm systems
  • West Virginia – security alarm systems and fire alarm systems
  • Wyoming – low voltage systems in general

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