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Why Colleges and Universities Should Hire Veterans For Campus Safety Officers

For campus safety managers, hiring a team of safety officers and security personnel who are able to handle a range of emergency situations, from an active assailant on campus to a student who needs medical assistance, can be difficult. One of the most important security measures college or university administrators can take is to hire high-skilled workers who can handle compex safety concerns with sensitivity and ease. Veterans, service members, and reservists are uniquely qualified for campus safety roles, as these individuals possess unmatched technology, organizational, and communication skills. Hiring managers should make a proactive effort to include veterans in their search, as these individuals are likely to be among the strongest candidates. 

In fact, due to veterans' unique skillset, many college or university safety teams give priority to ex-military applicants. For example, the University of Florida found that many law-enforcement officers, non-sworn officers, and safety-related personnel have been successful in their positions due to the experience and accomplishments they achieved during their military service. Military veteran applicants claim veteran preference when applying with the University of Florida Police Department, due largely to the unique set of skills these individuals bring to the role.

Campus safety officers with military background also find their military experience to be well-suited for law enforcement or security jobs, and on the UFD website, officer Henri Belleville wrote how his prior military work informed his campus safety role. “My experience in the Marine Corps helped me stay prepared for whatever was thrown my way and to recognize that the unexpected requires instant decision making,” Belleville wrote. “The ability to quickly assess and make a quick decision is an essential part of being a law enforcement officer.” 


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects veterans from from employment discrimination based on their military status or military obligations. The law also protects veterans reemployment for individuals who leave their jobs voluntarily or involuntarily to serve in the armed forces, including the United States army reserve or state National Guard, according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Despite protections, veterans often still face bias in the hiring process, based on assumptions about military life and service. For this reason, college or university administrators should consider making an active effort to recruit veterans for campus safety officers, security personnel, and other safety roles on campus. 

Why Veterans Make Good Campus Safety Officers 

One reason veterans are well-suited to campus safety is a strong work ethic, meaning these individuals are able to rise to the many challenges a college or university may face. Military experience prepares people remain calm and decisive during difficult emergency situations, which for campus safety, could mean handling an active assailant on campus to managing a mental health emergency. Veterans understand the importance of implementing the appropriate protocol to expedite response. On campus, the challenges a campus safety officer may face can change daily, and military personnel are also able to adapt quickly. If a situation escalates or changes, veterans are likely to have good instincts for a response strategy.   

Related Blog: Dealing With A Major Crisis On Campus

Another reason to hire veterans is the potential for future leadership. Many veterans possess traits which will allow them to evolve and move up the ranks of a campus safety department, since the military rewards hard work and adaptability. Military experience also teaches recruits the proper balance between commanding authority and respecting protocol. For any college or university looking to create a safety team with longevity, leadership potential a key reason to hire veterans. 

In October, Steve Jones of Allied Universal outlined five reasons why campus security departments should hire veterans, noting that workers with military background often have unique skills which prepare them for the physical security sector. Jones’ five reasons to hire veterans included: 

  1. Military Background Checks - Military background checks are rigorous as many military positions involve classified information relevant to national security, so any veteran candidate hired for a campus safety role has been vetted for being “reliable, trustworthy, and of good conduct and character” 
  2. Teamwork - For veterans, teamwork is a vital lesson all service members learn. Veterans are taught to support each other and efficiently collaborate throughout their time in the military, and 
  3. No Military-to-Civilian Decoding - For many veterans, translating skills from their military experience into the corporate workplace may be difficult, but this task is unecessary for those going into the physical security field. 
  4. Talent For Technology - Military personnel who are transitioning to civilian jobs offer high-tech skills with sophisticated software skills

Technology is increasingly a critical aspect of a campus safety plan, and hiring campus safety officers with a high-tech skillset is essential. Given contemporary safety risks, access-control or ID badge systems, mass notification, physical security measures are commonplace, and effective, solutions on campus. Management of campus safety technology is a growing aspect of a security role, and candidates with a military background will not only be adept at technological tools, but will also likely be fast learners, able to leverage new and innovative technology to improve safety. 

Many campus safety officers must also understand the importance of collaboration with members of the community. A campus safety app can be a powerful medium for safety officers hoping to better understand and communicate with the student body. The tool contains an 2-way anonymous tip-texting system, which allows students to reach out to campus safety. Students are also able to use the app to connect with local law enforcement or campus safety directly during an emergency, providing first responders with critical location data. 

Best Hiring Practice For CSO 

In the United States, law enforcement is among the top fields for people who are ex-military. Military veterans demonstrated work ethic, as well as ability to work in teams and navigate challenging situations. In fact, the United States Department of Justice Officer of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS), funds grants to create or save law enforcement positions designated for military veterans who have served over 180 days since 2001. In 2014, the Obama Administration created a program which gave COPS and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs to districts which recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters. 

For college and university officials looking to hire employees, it's recommended to learn from COPS and make an active effort to do veteran outreach. Many organizations - such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, run projects to help veterans seek active employment in law enforcement or criminal justice role. The United States Department of Labor publishes a “Hiring Veterans Toolkit” with resources to help identify and hire qualified veterans for campus safety roles. Department of Labor VETS is a directory of information for employers which includes information about USERRA, how to find qualified veterans, and other resources to assis through the hiring practice.

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Mary Kate McGrath
Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.

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