The expert knowledge examination in the guarding trade according to § 34a of the Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act (Gewerbeordnung) is an important prerequisite for entering the profession in this field. It is intended to ensure that applicants have the necessary knowledge to guarantee the safety of people and the protection of property. In this context, the question arises whether it makes sense to just learn all possible exam questions and answers by heart without delving deeper into the content of the exam.
Exam questions: Theory and practice
No question — learning with 34a exam questions offers many advantages. Pure memorisation of exam questions and answers is not a suitable preparation method in this context, as the exam may also include situational questions. This is especially the case in the oral part of the exam. In addition, it is important to understand the connections between different subject areas and to be able to apply them to concrete practical cases. Superficial preparation may lead to some candidates passing the exam but not being able to apply their knowledge in practice. As a rule, however, passing the exam also becomes a challenge if one only learns by heart and has not gained a real understanding of the contents.
Furthermore, it is important not only to know the legal basics and the relevant regulations, but also to understand the psychological and communicative aspects of the profession. After all, private security guards must not only recognise and ward off dangers, but also be able to apply de-escalation techniques and deal with difficult situations. This also includes communicating effectively and resolving conflicts. Of course, it is not only the learning content that plays a role here, but above all professional experience and the passing on of experience, e.g. within the framework of a preparatory course or in exchange with experienced colleagues. Incidentally, there is a focus on the legal topics of the 34a professional qualification examination. Topics such as criminal law or civil law are Weighted twice in the written examination. One should not leave any points lying around lightly by understanding the legal matter here, not to mention the risks of legal ignorance when later working in the security service.
Understanding the contents of the examination
Exam candidates should engage intensively with the content of the exam and try to gain a deeper understanding. They should not only deal with the facts, but also with the contexts and the meaning of what they have learned. One way to do this is to talk to other people who are also preparing for the exam or are already working in the industry. Practical experience can also help to deepen understanding and apply what has been learned. Generally recommended are Books, online courses and classroom trainingThe course is designed to provide a context and not to work exclusively with test questions and solutions. Explanations based on case studies can make a significant contribution to understanding, especially legal topics.
In summary, it does not make sense to just memorise all possible exam questions and answers without delving deeper into the content of the exam. Instead, candidates should deal intensively with the contents of the exam and try to gain a deeper understanding. This can help them not only to pass the exam but also to be able to apply their knowledge in practice and to work successfully in the private security industry.
Talking around it is useless. One thing is clear: The traditional security industry is a low-wage sector!
Nevertheless: the security industry offers variety, responsible, exciting and also quiet jobs. And if you’re smart, you can make ends meet. But — what do you earn as a security guard with a certificate of competence?
What matters when it comes to earnings in the security industry…
If you decide to work in the private security sector or are looking for a new employer, the financial aspects certainly play a major role. There are several factors that contribute to a good hourly wage. The most important aspects for a more attractive salary are listed below.
Level of education and training
Obviously, the better trained you are, the higher your earning potential. As an unskilled security guard only with training according to § 34a GewO, you will very often not be paid much more than the minimum wage. With the expert knowledge examination, you can achieve a good bit more basic hourly wage with manageable effort.. You can go even further with further training to become a certified protection and security worker or with training to become a specialist for protection and security. Incidentally, the minimum wage nationwide has been 12.43 euros per hour since 1 January 2023. The increase to 13 euros per hour from 1 April 2023 has already been decided.
Additional qualifications, for example in first aid or fire protection (e.g. as a fire protection assistant), are very helpful and increase the market value of security staff. These do not always have a direct effect on the hourly wage, but they are always a plus point in job applications. Additional qualifications include the following:
Fire safety helper
Lift rescue (rescue of persons from lifts)
Safety Officer (Occupational Safety)
Basic knowledge course in radiation protection and decontamination
Weapons expertise examination
Intercultural skills and knowledge of foreign languages, especially at least basic English, should also not be underestimated.
The security industry has many facets and therefore the activities that security workers perform are also very diverse. Accordingly, there are sometimes serious wage differences. Security activities such as separate guards and simple guarding activities are often rather poorly paid. Jobs that require special skills often pay well. For example in the Aviation security, in the range Cash and valuables transport, during the activity in nuclear facilities, in which Underground and suburban railway guarding or as an NSL specialist in Emergency call and service control centres the earnings are often significantly higher than the industry average. The exact amount of the wage for the job can be found in the Collective agreements take from them. If they have been declared generally binding, which is usually the case, they apply to all employees. (It is best to add the federal state to the Google search to narrow down the results).
Anyone who is already active in the industry and works in shifts knows it: Often, biorhythms and private life suffer from the changing working hours. However, working night shifts, Sundays and public holidays often offers decisive financial advantages. Depending on the federal state/collective agreement, the following benefits can be earned Night, Sunday and public holiday surcharges that are well worth seeing. What’s more, these tax-free! On public holidays in many places 100% Surcharge possiblei.e. in addition to the actual daily wage, you receive the same amount again — but tax-free! Viewed over the month, depending of course on the amount of night, Sunday and public holiday hours, the following can be achieved Several hundred euros on top earn. Especially around the turn of the year or at Easter, this can be a lucrative affair.
Overtime is, of course, a partial aspect of working hours. Nevertheless, I would like to devote a separate point to this aspect here. Why? Because experience shows that a lot of overtime is worked in the security sector, often much more than is legally permissible and with too few breaks between assignments. Think carefully about whether you want to go along with this and should actually work 200, 220, 240 or even more hours per month. My tip at this point would be to invest in further education and not to trade so much time for money: Memento Mori — your lifetime is also limited. Set priorities and make a good decision for you, also for your future.
As in other industries, there is a West-East divide in the private security sector. In the past, these wage differences were really glaring. Security workers in Berlin earned in some areas not even half of those who worked in Bavaria. As a rule, the best-paid federal states include Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. Among the lowest paid are still the new federal states, for example Brandenburg or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Just a few years ago, one could barely keep one’s head above water with a job as a security guard in the East German states. However, the minimum wage and the gradual convergence of collective agreements are increasingly putting the differences into perspective. In addition, one should not forget that where people earn more, they usually earn less. Cost of living (especially rents) are higher. So think carefully — if you are toying with the idea — whether a move is really worth it for you.
Many people think of security service jobs in the classic way, as the security company that as a service provider external customers. Whereas in the past, veteran employees in factories came to the plant security service towards the end of their working lives to spend the last years of their careers doing less strenuous work, the situation has changed considerably nowadays. Professional, external security service providers look after a large number of companies from business and industry or the public sector as clients. But they still exist, despite the decades-long trend towards outsourcing. The Internal plant security. Especially in industry, property and plant protection activities are when you are directly employed by the manufacturing company, very well paid. The reason for this is that you are paid according to the industry pay scale to which the bulk of the workforce belongs. Take a look at the Rate tables for the metal and electrical industry! These monthly salaries are in a different league.
Allowances regulated by collective agreement are usually paid for guard/shift leaders, for dog handlers or in certain facilities such as military properties. Likewise, there are often allowances for on-call duties, e.g. for (additional) work in the plant fire brigade. These range from a few cents per hour up to over 10% more pay. In Bavaria, there is also slightly more money if you work in the greater Munich area.
Security companies or their clients also sometimes pay Voluntary (revocable) allowances. Sometimes there are also one-off bonuses for particularly successful assignments or for outstanding work performance. Unfortunately, these kinds of bonuses tend to be the exception. Increasingly common, however, is a Switch premium or, if you like, a kind of “welcome money”. However, this alone should not necessarily be the sole reason for changing employers.
You would like to know concrete figures?
If you have read the article up to this point, you will realise that this is difficult, as it can depend on a number of factors such as the federal state, the job, the working hours and their (additional) qualifications. Nevertheless, a concrete example:
Monthly salary in the separate guard service with IHK specialist knowledge examination in 2023 in Bavaria:
14,00 Euro per hour
180 hours per month
This results in approx. 2520 euros of taxable income (gross) and just under 420 euros of tax-free supplements.With income tax class 1 and no children, a single person thus receives approx. 2170 Euro net transferred. However, this calculation is for illustrative purposes only. Your actual salary paid out may depend on numerous factors!
Hint: This article was last updated in February 2023. As there are regular adjustments to both the minimum wage and collective agreement regulations, the framework conditions may have changed in the meantime! (All information without guarantee.)
The expert knowledge examination according to § 34a of the Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act is an entry-level qualification for employees in the private security industry. It serves as proof of basic knowledge, especially with regard to fundamental legal aspects relevant to working in the guard and security service. In addition, the successfully passed expert knowledge examination with proof from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce is a prerequisite for carrying out special guarding tasks and being allowed to become self-employed as a security contractor.
A certificate of competence is required for the following activities
As a security guard (employee), you need proof that you have successfully passed an examination of competence at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) (according to § 34a GewO) if you provide security in the entrance area of discotheques in the hospitality industry (bouncers), patrols in public traffic areas (e.g. city patrols), patrols in areas with actual public traffic, activities to protect against shoplifters (department store or store detectives). (e.g. city patrols), patrols in areas of the premises with actual public traffic, activities to protect against shoplifters (shop detectives), guarding of asylum and refugee accommodation (only in a managerial capacity) as well as guarding of large events with protected access (only in a managerial capacity).
The purpose of the expert knowledge examination
Why there is the expert knowledge examination has several reasons. When private individuals — including employees of security companies — guard other people’s lives or property, this entails special duties and a great responsibility. As a security guard, you have to know your rights and the legal limits, i.e. what is allowed and what is forbidden. On the other hand, due to their position as guarantor, they are obliged to prevent damage to the client. In contrast to the police, you do not have any special powers and must therefore be able to weigh up exactly to what extent you are allowed to interfere with the rights of third parties in a particular situation. If you go too far, you run the risk of being charged with offences such as deprivation of liberty or bodily harm. If you sleep on duty and do not comply with your duty to protect, you can also end up in court for committing an offence by omission if you cause harm. For these reasons, among others — listed here as examples — it is important to acquire the specialised knowledge in order to later have the necessary confidence to act in the guarding business.
Both Jörg Zitzmann as well as Kai Deliomini are very well known in the private security industry.
Among other things, both are represented in IHK examination committees in the field of protection and security, are active as authors of books for the preparation of the expert knowledge examination and are represented with many helpful videos on YouTube and in podcasts.
With not infrequent failure rates between 30 and 50%, the question naturally arises: What’s the reason?
Some factors for success or failure are obvious. Some problems can be solved quickly and easily, some simply require intensive learning, practice and perseverance. Before I go on to point out what I consider to be the main (mis)success factors, here is the very interesting conversation between Jörg Zitzmann and Kai Deliomini on YouTube:
My top 5 reasons why so many people fail the written and oral IHK specialist knowledge examination
From my experience, the following factors are the main reasons for failure with the “34a-licence”:
Lack of motivation / lack of interest
Many participants do not see any added value in the exam. They have no real interest in the content, so they don’t want to learn at all. This is particularly pronounced among people who are “sent” by their employer or the employment agency and are not actually interested in the private security sector at all. But even if the participation itself is of their own accord: The examination is often not seen as an opportunity but as a necessary evil. Lack of motivation and interest, however, are diametrically opposed to exam success.
No sufficient preparation of the content
Some people take the exam lightly. Multiple-choice questions with pre-set answers to tick off and only 50% necessary correct answers to pass — what could go wrong, you ask yourself. But far from it. The legal topics in particular are tough. In addition, there is excitement, especially in the oral exam, and questions where you may have to think a little outside the box. If you don’t have the necessary knowledge and thus the confidence to act, you will quickly be eliminated. Comprehensive preparation is the be-all and end-all for exam success!
Insufficient knowledge of German
A lot has already been asked and said about German language skills. One thing is certain: many people who work in the security sector are not native speakers of German. Multilingualism is often important for the job, but so is sufficient knowledge of German. This is because the examination is offered exclusively in German and you must also be able to communicate confidently in German in your everyday work as a security guard. Legal texts are written in difficult language, “officialese” is usually just as difficult to understand, and the exam questions sometimes depend on individual words that can change the meaning in one direction or another or provide hints for solutions.
Structure and manner of the examination are unclear
Many people are not completely clear about the framework conditions of the exam. But only if you know which topics are important and how, and how the exam is structured, can you prepare for it specifically and efficiently. For example, there are topics that you can quickly get over, which can usually be answered with common sense. Some topics, on the other hand, count twice and some require more intensive study. In addition, there are empirical values for the oral examination and tactical tips for working through test questions, which should be conveyed by a competent lecturer or author, for example.
Difficult individual conditions
Of course, people are different. Everyone has different personal prerequisites and the general conditions (e.g. family obligations, free time for learning, learning environment, etc.) also play a significant role in success and failure. You may also know people who can memorise things with a “quick glance” and recall this knowledge at the snap of a finger. Others, on the other hand, find this significantly more difficult. Some people also have no problem at all speaking in front of others in an exam situation, most are naturally tense, some participants suffer downright from exam anxiety.
Ask yourself to what extent the points above apply to you, how you can avoid mistakes in your preparation and compensate for any deficits. You can find more information on this right here in the subject knowledge information portal numerous tips and Links to other sites or media such as YouTube.
The crucial question in the field of subject matter preparation: How long to learn, how much to practise?
The question about preparation time is truly a classic question that I get asked again and again. But there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this.
The answer is: it depends!
There are a number of factors that influence the length of preparation. One major one is the learner himself/herself, others are the learning environment and conditions, and the way one prepares. Here some experiencewhich may of course differ in individual cases:
As a German Native speaker the exam is much easier for you overall
If you already Prior knowledge e.g. from a training course according to § 34a GewO, you only need to repeat and deepen a large part of the learning topics.
As a young person who is both Learning and learning methods still used to from school & studies, as well as Exam situations you often find it easier to prepare
Also on the side is the expert knowledge examination with a preparation period of approx. 2 months well manageable. If you have more time, e.g. because you have no other commitments and can study full time, a significantly shorter learning period will also suffice. Who a lot on one’s mind (family, job, voluntary work, etc.) should be on the safe side. Allow more time.
Besides your personal performance requirements also plays the Motivation play a big role! Motivated and goal-oriented people who see the exam positively as a new career opportunity usually prepare better and come out of the IHK exam successful!
If you use the wrong exam content learn or use these not properly explained become, then you are wasting time or get mixed up. The same applies to practice questions, which you should definitely prepare with. Use Tried and tested and well evaluated learning material such as books, flashcards, apps or online courses for your preparation!
By Fixed periods for learning (e.g. always in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m.), you can continuously expand your knowledge and overcome your inner obstacle more easily.
In addition, use otherwise Unused times and other free spaces (e.g. waiting time at the doctor’s, idling at work, travelling by train etc.) for learning and answering 34a test questions!
Best Practice: My recommendation for preparation on the side
If you would like to prepare for the expert knowledge examination on the side within one or two months and safely achieve your § 34a certificate, the following has proven itself following learning tactics proven:
Study with your learning material for 1–2 hours every day. On weekends, study one day, for a total of at least 8 hours very intensively — including working on test questions. (If you work on weekends, then take another day off as a weekly intensive learning day). At the end of each learning phase, do some mock exams to check your learning level (learning target check). Areas in which you are not yet proficient enough should be studied more intensively on the following days. Keep doing this until you achieve correct solutions in the stable 90% mock exams. Then you should be fit for the exam. You can find more tips — also for preparing for the oral exam — at www.sachkunde-34a.de/insider-tipps-lernunterlagen-34a.
No. Taking the 34a exam is only possible in German.
Security expertise test soon to be in Russian, Arabic or English
I have often been asked whether the expert knowledge examination according to § 34a GewO can also be taken in another language — as is the case with the driving licence examination, which in Germany is also conducted in English, French, Greek, Italian, Croatian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, among other languages. This is not possible in the case of the expert knowledge examination! And in my opinion, that is a good thing. While the rules in road traffic are quite similar in the EU, e.g. as far as the appearance and meaning of traffic signs are concerned, it is more delicate in the area of private security. On the one hand, you have to be able to navigate very safely through the legal norms here, i.e. you have to know the relevant laws and regulations of the country in detail. For another, you are always dealing directly with people and communication is an essential factor in dealing with others, e.g. in de-escalation. Quite apart from the fact that German legal texts are sometimes difficult to understand linguistically, the language also has its subtleties in practice. It therefore definitely makes sense to be able to communicate in the language of the country where you do your work. Of course, foreign language skills are also very important, if you think of events with an international audience, e.g. festivals or fairs. Multilingualism is a great advantage in the security industry.
Do I need proof for the IHK that I speak German well enough?
German language, difficult language — is a well-known statement. Experience has shown that non-native speakers have a particularly hard time passing the expert knowledge examination according to § 34a GewO at the first attempt. One reason for this is that the examination questions are often not easy to understand. Therefore, on the one hand, one should prepare well for the exam in terms of content, and on the other hand, one should have a certain amount of language skills from everyday life as well as from technical language (legal terms, technical terms from the field of security, etc.). So far, language skills are not a prerequisite for admission.. This means that you do not need to present a language certificate or similar proof in order to be allowed to take part in the expert knowledge examination.
Help for foreign-language subject matter participants
If you are new to Germany and don’t speak German very well yet, taking a language course definitely makes sense, also to prepare for the IHK examination. Often, adult education centres (VHS) offer language courses. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) also promotes participation in language or integration courses. In addition, learning apps and of course using the German language in everyday life can be very helpful. Lexicons with technical terms for the security sector are commercially available.