Selecting a Executive Protection Training Program

Dedicated training vs. an introduction, know the difference

  • Updated August 10, 2018

Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker

Chief Executive Officer of Independent Security Advisors LLC

In keeping with my two recent posts on EP training, I wanted to readdress what I believe to be a common misunderstanding by students looking for EP training.

OK, Google executive protection training, you’re going to see different training providers with different programs, so before you commit to one you really need to know what the program offers? I will try to answer that question with a dissection of a typical ad and what to look for as a student.

It begins with the title, for instance, Execution Protection Training, pretty vague, look for specifics in the title such as EP Protection Specialist Course, Security Drivers Program etc.

Then you normally see marketing claims such as “comprehensive” “most in-depth” or “best” used to describe the program. Well, this is your invitation to really dig into their curriculum and see just how “comprehensive” they are. I mean you can read their curriculum right?

Rule of thumb, No curriculum or course description then no attendance.

If they provide a description look at the length of the class, this varies from three to seven days normally, but be careful at this point because days of training is not the same as hours of training. A full day of training should be 8 full hours at least with some exceptions. So seven days should be 60-70 hours of training. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Personal Protection Specialist program, for example, mandates 60 hours of training. So when I see three-day intensive training from 8 am to 2 pm I know we have a problem. That’s a seminar, not a course.

Look carefully at the day/hour ratio and avoid courses with less than an 8 hour day unless you’re not prepared for full or extended learning days. There are some programs that advertise 100+ hours of training in seven days, which is mathematically 14.2 hours per day.  At some point, the learning effect may be lost due to fatigue, and often these programs include a 24 hour overnight training event, are you prepared for the lack of sleep?

ISA programs follow the DCJS regulations on training. Classroom instruction shall be provided in no less than 50-minute classes, or “blocks”. Training sessions shall not exceed nine hours of classroom instruction per day. (Range qualification and practical exercises shall not be considered classroom instruction); however, total training, including the maximum allotment of nine hours of classroom instruction and applicable range qualification and practical exercises, shall not exceed 12 hours per day. This does not include time allotted for breaks, meals, and testing.

Now let’s take a look at a typical seven-day program marketed online. Two days of EP training, one day of medical training, a day on the range and three days on the track driving. Hmm, well stealing a quote from the movies, “what we have here is a failure to communicate” 

Warning: This is not an executive protection training course, this is a two-day seminar on EP operations, with CPR qualification/recertification, a day of shooting and a driver’s course thrown in. This is not a training program that will fully prepare you to work in the EP field. In fact, there isn’t a program under 14 days that really prepares you for full executive protection operations.  But this type of program is a great way to get an overview of what EP skills you will need to master to make it in this field, and these programs are also a great way to get continuing education credits once trained so don’t completely ignore them.

The ISA training program is 32 days long, broken into 8 different modules. EP seven days/70 hours; Drivers training four days/ 40+ hours; Medical training three days/ 30+ hours; Surveillance (detection, counter surveillance) three days/ 30 hours; Use of force (range and non-lethal) five days/ 50 hours of training; Terrorism awareness two days/20 hours; Advanced EP (scenario based) eight days/80 hours.

What many training providers have long realized is most students don’t have the time and money for 32 days of dedicated focused training, so many trainers will schedule their different modules over the course of a year. Programs that cater to the GI Bill or vocational training may run for 30+ days, but care should be taken to prepare your family for the bills that don’t stop while you’re in class and for your absence. How are the kids getting to school when you’re gone?    

What other industry leaders think: In May 2016 Joe LaSorsa correctly pointed out in an article that training needs to be “Realistic, relevant and practical” so when you review the curriculum of a training program look at the topics, are they focused on executive protection and do they make sense. Should you really need to attend executive protection training to learn to swim? and why does the course include behavioral health assessments? And what are you going to learn about behavioral health in a two-hour class?  That’s fluff, some “good idea” fairy sprinkled that in to try and look different. BTW, Behavioral health assessment training with an introduction to handwriting analysis is 3 weeks long, or a few semesters in a conventional college or university

What does right look like? What should an EP course cover? well, what are the conditions the students are going to operate under after graduating? Are you hoping for a corporate EP position or going to Iraq? At a minimum, you should learn how to prepare threat assessments, know how to conduct open source intelligence gathering, know how to conduct an advance and site survey, know how to plan an EP mission based on the threat assessment, how to prepare a movement plan and conduct arrival and departure procedures. Foot movement techniques is a staple of EP training but a day of walking around in a “diamond” formation is a waste of time. Surveillance detection is a must, but it should include an introduction to cybersecurity, mobile IT and the use of drones. Finally, you need to put all your training to use in a live exercise under real-world conditions.  

“What no weapons, medical or drivers training?” Really, in a basic course? All of these topics are specialized programs of instruction that require special training facilities, subject matter experts, and highly qualified instructors, and are days or weeks in length. Each should be a totally separate module of training. But remember some courses are a buffet, you get some EP, some weapons, some driving. They are a great way to get an overview and really help a lot of students decide what type of EP work they want to specialize in.  For experienced agents, these programs can serve as an “in-service” or refresher program as well.   

Accredited VS. Non-Accredited: We have addressed the title, length of training and curriculum so let’s look at the cost-benefit analysis. The tuition for seven days is say, $1000.00, you get 60 hours of training and a certificate. But this program doesn’t meet your state requirements for training, you’re going to still need additional training to be able to get your state license. Walk away, what good is training that doesn’t meet an established standard or help with licensing.

 If you don’t have a state requirement ask the hiring managers of the EP companies what they require. What does your insurance company or attorney recommend to keep your liability down in the event of an “incident”? 


Option two, same course but it meets the Virginia personal protection specialist training requirements, you may not be in Virginia, but you earn the PPS designation and through reciprocity agreements, your training may cover your requirements for a license in another state. For the money, you earn a credential so not a bad deal.

Option three, the same program but it’s also recognized for college credit towards a degree or certificate. An education crosses state lines and enhances a resume, so this program should move up on your list of choices.

Option four, same program but the curriculum and instructors are vetted and accredited from an official state agency or law enforcement. For instance, ISA programs are accredited by the Maryland police training commission, the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, the North Carolina Private Security Board and in Virginia, New Hampshire and Georgia. When hiring managers look at your resume, education, and training you can honestly say you graduated from a program state approved for law enforcement or private security, and in comparison, your peers who attended a non-state accredited program may not get a second look.

Also, for you the student it means you have the assurance the program you’re considering has been vetted and if it fails to live up to its marketing you have an avenue to file a complaint. No school wants to lose an accreditation. So do a cost-benefit analysis and see what you receive from the program that will be helpful to you in the future.

Your expectations: Now we need to discuss you the student’s expectations for the training course you are considering. With no previous experience, you will not be fully trained and ready to work a detail alone after a typical seven-day program, focused or not. Even after thirty days of intensive training with ISA, you may only be ready to serve as a rookie agent and you will still need experience.

Another consideration for most students is job search/placement. As that goes Joe LaSorsa has a well-established program I understand has seen great success, but if anyone promises work walk away. ISA has a scholarship program that includes a mentor from a fortune 50 company to help guide you after graduation, and we have placed many of our top graduates with great companies, but we don’t offer a job placement service. Don’t confuse job placement for training, these are two totally different considerations.

Follow on training and education is a must, so don’t think your initial training course will address all your needs. Expert focused drivers training can be found at the Vehicle Dynamics Institute and medical training is available at locations nationwide. So see if your initial training provider has agreements with these specialized courses, ISA graduates receive discounts on tuition at many well-respected training centers and with Henley Putnam University.

So keep your expectations in perspective and do your homework. Consider the overview type program that don’t normally offer accreditations but introduce you to different aspects of EP work. Once you have decided EP is for you look at a focused program of instruction that offers accreditations and other resume builders.

Then if you still have questions you can always reach out to industry leaders like Eric Parker, Joe LaSorsa, Joe Autera or myself for additional information.


About the Author:
 Matthew Parker is a Dept of Defense executive protection, terrorism, and physical security specialist, with over sixteen years of experience in executive protection & security operations, he and his company actively provide close protection services to diplomats, candidates for office, corporate executives and other “at risk” individuals. 

A professional trainer and certified master instructor, Mr. Parker has extensive experience as a training program manager and course developer and is a state certified law enforcement instructor and subject matter expert in multiple disciplines.  He has developed training programs that were awarded law enforcement accreditation in six states, continuing education credits for private security in two states, recognized for college credit by Henley Putnam University and received the first-ever endorsement of an executive protection training program by the International Foundation of Protection Officers.

Mr. Parker presently oversees the ISA Training Division and serves as the course lead and master instructor for the ISA instructors basic course and ten programs of instruction relating to dignitary and executive protection, and has worked with students from the federal, state, & local law enforcement, the US military and other agencies.  

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