Confused about whether You Need to be a PSE or PPO?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who is confused about when you need to register as a private security employer (PSE) and when you need to get a Private Patrol Operator (PPO) license. The table below is a summary of the differences between PSEs and PPOs.  In general, unless you are forming a Security Guard Company, you are probably a PSE. Companies whose primary business function isn’t security, but rather focus on things like hospitality, retail or education, are most often PSEs. When in doubt contact the CA Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

PPO PPO Qualified Manager PSE
Registration or License Fee $1200 $500 $75
Registration or License Renewal Frequency 2 years 2 years 2 years
Registration or License Renewal Cost $700 $500 $35
Fingerprinting and Background Check Required Yes Yes No
Required to Pass a Psychological Exam No Yes No
Training Required No Yes No
Experience as Security Guard or Equivalent Experience Required No 2,000 hours No
Can Train Own Security Employees with BSIS License Yes Yes Yes
Required to Keep Security Employee Training Records Yes Yes Yes
Company Insurance Required $1,000,000 No Unknown
Security Employees can Be Armed Yes, with proper BSIS permits Yes, with proper BSIS permits No
Security Employees can be Undercover Yes Yes No


Q. Can a PSE  contract out the services of their security guards or PSOs.
A. No.  Even if you hire someone with a Guard Card instead of a PSO Card, you can’t hire them out to other locations. You must be a Private Patrol Operator (PPO) to contract out your security personnel.

Q. I run a small jewelry store and I hired a security guard to work when my store is open. The guard works for me, not a Private Patrol Operator (PPO). Do I need to be a PSE?
A. Yes, you must register as a PSE as you are paying him directly to provide security.

Q. I hired a bouncer to work at my bar only a few nights a week, do I still need to register as a Private Security Employer?
A. Yes, if you pay him directly, then you must register as a PSE. The number of hours a person works for you doing security duties doesn’t factor into whether you need to be a PSE or not.

What should I Read Next?

  • If you need tips on what to look for in a licensed PSO Training Provider, read How to Select a PSO Training Provider.
  • If you want have questions about being a Proprietary Private Security Employer that aren’t answered anywhere else on this site, read More PSE FAQs.