This is one of the most frequent questions that people ask me about breaking into security contracting.  Somebody will send me a link to a training class or a fee-based service and ask if I think it’s worth shelling out the money.  Almost always, I’ve got to give them same useless answer:  “Man, I have absolutely no idea.”

I don’t mean to blow off the question because it’s definitely a good one, but remember that everything is going to depend on your point of view.  Personally, I think that paying extra money to put chrome rims on a Cadillac Escalade is a waste of your hard-earned cash, but there’s plenty of people out on the highway who disagree with me!  And besides, you’ve got to keep in mind that we haven’t completely turned into a socialist nation yet.  If you want something, you’ll probably have to pay for it.  But before you pay money for any fee-based service or training classes, remember that they all have one thing in common:


                Guys, if you’ve got any training or services that you’re looking at and just need a second opinion on, feel free to keep sending them my way.  But in general, and keep in mind that I’m a cheapskate by nature, here are a couple of things that I would at least consider paying for:

                ACCESS TO JOB OPPORTUNITIES-    The reason most people hate applying for jobs is that it takes up so much damn time to search through all those different websites.  Web forums that compile security job postings in one place will save you a lot of time, especially since employers tend to rely on these sites when they need a position filled quickly.  In my mind, a reasonable membership fee would be worth the price when you compare it to the cost of unemployment. 

                HIGH-VALUE TRAINING-   You can never have enough training!  Every course you go through is just one more piece of knowledge that can save your life someday, but make sure to spend your money wisely.  Do your research on any company before you sign up for the class, and always get the opinions of previous students.  Also, make sure to take a critical look at which skills are actually in demand.  Holding an EMT certificate or being fluent in a foreign language is much more likely to get you a second look from a recruiter than being just one more candidate with a high-speed pistol course on your resume, even if the class is a week long and costs $3000.

                LOGISTICAL CRAP-   Face it, you’re not getting on that plane without a passport in hand.  If it’s getting close to your deployment date and you still haven’t gotten yours, it’s probably time to shell out the money for a passport expediting service or else face being recycled to the next group.  The pre-deployment routine usually involves a physical and a dental exam as well, so I’d also be willing to cough up the loot to get any dental work done, and maybe a gym membership to get in shape as far in advance of your deployment as possible.  (Note:  Simply owning the P90X DVDs will not get you in shape!  You have to actually press the Play button every day, then do the workout!)

                BETTER EQUIPMENT-   Your company will probably provide you with a basic gear kit, but it’s okay to spend a couple bucks on upgrades as long as you don’t turn into a complete Geardo.  I might have only spent about 200 bucks on gear during my time in Iraq, but that got me some stuff I was comfortable with:  a good knife, quality protection for my eyes and ears, a holster I was comfortable with, and an upgraded weapons cleaning kit.  One of the important things to consider when buying gear is how long you plan to have it.  Things like knives can be tough to mail home at the end of your tour, and it’s always hit or miss bringing weapons accessories back through customs, even in your checked baggage.  Last, keep in mind that even in a war zone, paying retail is for suckers.  You can score a lot of quality equipment from the outgoing contractors who went through their whole tour without managing to save any money but have some nice gear to show for it (never mind that they can’t take it home). 

                Look, how you spend your dough is entirely up to you, but the whole point of working on any job is to earn money.  If you find yourself handing out lots of cash and getting nothing in return, that might be a clue that you’re doing something wrong!