California Loosens Security Licensing Requirements

California’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services waives the two-year in-the-field prerequisite for integrators to take the test to get an alarm license.


One of the primary reasons many CE pros do not offer security services to their clients is the sometimes rigorous licensing requirements. Many states have separate licenses for low-voltage, electrical and security, with each one requiring a pre-requisite number of hours in the field and the passage of an exam before you can get licensed.

California is one state with a tough one. The licenses are administered by the state Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS), and require an applicant to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have at least two years of paid experience totaling not less than 4,000 hours in alarm company work or the equivalent
  • Undergo a criminal history review by the Department of Justice and the FBI
  • Pass a written examination.

The 4,000-hour requirement (equivalent of 2 years) has been the hiccup for many A/V integrators, who already are required to have low-voltage C7 licenses but found it almost impossible to find two years of “extra” time to devote working in the field as a security technician (with an Alarm Company Employee (ACE) permit in addition to their regular job.

But that has changed now.

As of January 1, 2013, the 4,000-hour requirement for low-voltage C7 license holders (0-91 volts) in the state has been waived, allowing home theater and other A/V specialists to immediately take the Alarm Company Qualified (ACQ) Manager exam. Once that test is passed, an integrator simply needs to apply for an Alarm Company Operator (ACO) license to get into the security business. There is not a separate test for an ACO license. (The 4,000-hour requirement had previously been waived for electricians with state C10 licenses (0-high voltage) and for ACEs with 2 years of experience in the field.)

The new rule is great news for distributors, like Volutone, that have been encouraging its integrators to diversify into the security industry for several years. Volutone recently held a training session at its Van Nuys branch featuring security industry veteran trainer Vince Nigro of Vital Services Inc.

“Anyone that has worked in the alarm industry for say 10 years and does not have a ACE permit cannot take the exam,” says Nigro. “Once you have or are a Qualified Manager you can buy and ACO license. There is no test for an ACO license the only test is for the Qualified Manager ACQ.”

Already, California does not require a security license to install CCTV surveillance cameras or access control systems.