Bodyguards vs Executive Protection Agents

When researching or shopping for protective services, it’s likely that you will come across two popular terms that may seem synonymous. Read about some of the key differences between Executive Protection (EP) & Bodyguarding, and learn how to determine the most appropriate type of protection for your needs and risks.

Part A – What is Bodyguarding?

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “bodyguard” as “a usually armed attendant or group of attendants whose duty is to protect a person.”

Stereotypically Bodyguards have a reactive approach to protecting their clients. All too often we read about lawsuits involving bodyguards and violence, or breaches in confidentiality agreements. Much like any career field, you’ll have those who are professional and those who aren’t so professional.

Bodyguarding as a trade isn’t as devoid of exceptional close protection practitioners as some may believe. However, it is important to note that many non-professional protectors give themselves the title of Bodyguard. For the remainder of this article, we’ll only be discussing professional Bodyguards.

Bodyguards are usually fit, above-average size, and are capable of responding to physical attacks. Bodyguards protect and shield their clients from attackers using deterrence, interpersonal skills, and defensive tactics when necessary.


Common Qualifications & Background:

  • Private Security
  • Nightlife Security
  • Military Service
  • Law Enforcement


Formal Training  & Skills: 

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Arrivals and Departures
  • Conducting Site Surveys
  • Concerns and Considerations
  • Etiquette and Professionalism
  • Itinerary planning
  • Time Management
  • Working with Venue Security
  • Red Carpet Procedures
  • Conflict Resolution
    First Aid

Part B – What is Executive Protection?

Wikipedia defines “Executive Protection” as “security and risk mitigation measures taken to ensure the safety of VIPs or other individuals who may be exposed to elevated personal risk because of their employment, high-profile status, net worth, affiliations or geographical location.”

EP as a protective solution is designed to protect people exposed to risk using a variety of specialized skill sets, all requiring years of formal training and experience. Everyday EP Agents ensure ease of movement, client comfort, and only the desired amount of public exposure of their client. 

Executive Protection Agents take a proactive approach when protecting their clients. They employ the use of protective advances, intelligence analysis, knowledge of pre-attack indicators, verbal persuasion, advanced defensive tactics, and protective firearms use.


Common Qualifications & Backgrounds:

  • Private Security
  • Military Service
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Federal Law Enforcement
  • Private Investigation
  • Government Contracting
  • Military Special Operations
  • High-Threat Protection Contracting
  • Counter-Terrorism Operations
  • Cyber-Security

Formal EP Training & Skills:

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Etiquette & Professionalism
  • Arrivals & Departures
  • Protective Advances
  • Protective Intelligence Applications
  • Vehicle Operations
  • Protective Firearms Applications
  • Media; Concerns & Considerations
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Tactical Emergency Medicine
  • Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM)
  • Surveillance Detection
  • Pre-attack Indicators
  • Team Communications
  • Covering & Evacuating a Principal

Part C – How to Choose Between a Bodyguard & an EP Officer

For those requiring protective services, both Bodyguards and Executive Protection agents could be a valuable option depending on current risks and concerns, client expectations, and the following 5 considerations. 

Use these as a reference to assess which service best fits your situation. 

  • Principal’s Public Exposure; how well known is the principal to the general public, how routinely are they in the open?
  • Existence of known threats; are you currently aware of active threats or persons of interest who may be planning to harm, harass, or embarrass the principal? 
  • Geographic Location; in what type of environments will the majority of the protection operations take place?
  • History of Security Threats; what type of threats (if any) have taken place in the recent and distant past?
  • Known Vulnerabilities; what type of risks is the principle most susceptible to? Travel risks? Opportunistic criminals? Hostile or competitive surveillance? Diminished public perception?

Using what you now know about the similarities and differences, common training and backgrounds, and the primary functions of Executive Protection Agents and Bodyguards, you can answer the example questions above and use them as a starting point for deciding between hiring a Bodyguard or an Executive Protection Agent.

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