The Differences Between Executive Protection and a Bodyguard

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Most people understand the term bodyguard due to the famous nature of the subject. Bodyguards are mostly shown next to celebrities trying to escape photographers. They are depicted in films, books, and songs.  ‘Bodyguard’ is also often used to describe a broad range of services such as bouncers or security guards. However, not many people actually understand the role the term defines.

Furthermore, many confuse bodyguarding and executive protection services – using the terms interchangeably. A bodyguard is only one aspect of the full package that executive protection provides.

Providing clarification on the considerations, advantages and disadvantages of bodyguarding and executive protection requires us to break each of these down. These categories express all the areas in which executive protection and bodyguarding differ.

What is a bodyguard?

A bodyguard or close protection officer is an individual that provides personal protection to clients (referred to as principles) . This usually entails personally monitoring their principles daily whereabouts.  It also means securing the areas their principles spend time in – such as clearing rooms before the principle enters. A bodyguard monitors principles interactions with their environment and other people.

A bodyguard usually refers to the close protection officer (CPO) that is assigned to “shadow” the principle. This distinction is necessary when the principle is protected by more than one CPO.

Professional CPOs  are required to go through close protection  training courses. Among other things, they will be required to register with the appropriate regulatory authority, which for example in United Kingdom is the Security Industry Authority (SIA). They are required to have extensive weapons and driving training as well as emergency medical trainings. Anyone using a firearm would need to apply for a firearm competency. These training courses generally cover all aspects of protection to keep the principle out of harm’s reach.

There are different areas bodyguards or CPOs may specialise in such as high threat, corporate or entertainment. Each of these fields require different skill sets and abilities.


A bodyguard or single CPO provides the following services:

Depending on the provider of your services, and the individual
skills of your CPO, you will likely receive the following services:

  • Armed personal protection
  • Advanced driving
  • Basic Emergency Medical Assistance
  • Threat Detection
  • Intervention in Dangerous Situations

What To Expect

To an extent, CPOs working alone offer good security in a low risk environment. However, their services are often limited. A holistic approach to security is often required and a CPO working alone may lack this. This is especially true in cases that require high-risk protection. CPOs are not able to provide driving, overt protection, counter surveillance, covert protection, incident management and many other elements that ensure full protection.

What is executive protection?

Executive Protection is an integrated system and deployment of physical & technical security measures and countermeasures. This system is designed to protect the life of principles. Executive protection often features multiple tactics to keep individuals safe.

CPOs form a vital part of executive protection, however this is just one component of a holistic approach. Various other specialized personnel are required such as intelligence analysts, cyber security experts, counter surveillance personnel and others to support any operation focused on protecting an individual. The primary goal of an executive protection contract is to find a solution to the risks posed to the principle. This requires complex skills in protective measures, as well as strategic thinking processes.

Services provided by executive protection:

Due to a larger access to security intelligence and resources, EP professionals often offer a wider range of services. Here are just some of the services you can expect from an executive protection provider.

  • Advanced Protective Surveillance
  • Full Medical Support
  • Physical and Electronic Measures
  • Threat Identification
  • Risk Assessment
  • Enemy Identification
  • Around-the-Clock Protection
  • Covert and Overt Security
  • Safe Transport Services

What to expect

Executive protection provides you with a comprehensive security plan which is an advanced system of protection. This is especially important in high risk areas or for high profile clients. The best executive protection service professionals have years of experience in the industry, giving them the upper hand on potential threats.

These professionals are often trained in both local, and international contexts. This gives them an advantage in protection measures while traveling with clients and with foreign clients. A good EP professional lives up to international safety standards. In a modern world where sophisticated crime, international terrorism and natural disasters pose more of a threat, EP professionals should keep up with security trends and updates.

The best choice may not lie in which protection option works best for you. Rather, the best option lies in your protection services provider.