Be a Bouncer? Essential Facts about What’s Involved in the Job

Interested in working as a bouncer? This is the place to explore the pros and cons.


I.   Bouncers

II.  Books About Bouncers

III. California Bouncers

IV.  Resources

Learn here about bouncers. What they can do and can’t do legally.

I. Bouncers

Bouncers work at bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, concerts and other places needing security guards. The duties of a bouncer typically include checking IDs for legal age. Prohibiting entry to substance-impaired people. Dealing with aggressive or otherwise unacceptable behavior. And, in general, providing safety and security to patrons and other employees.

Contrary to popular myth, bouncers can’t simply beat up people who are causing problems. That’s because the law limits bouncer’s behavior. Often the presence of a bouncer is enough to deter patrons from unacceptable behavior. In reality, most bouncers deal with situations verbally.

Bouncers may legally:

Unless they face physical threats of harm, bouncers may not:

  • Strike a patron.
  • Restrain anyone with a chokehold, “joint lock”, or other technique.
  • Use any weapon or pepper spray.

II. Books about Bouncers & Being a Bouncer

Chambers, S. Beyond The Velvet Ropes. Cork: BookBaby, 2012. (Biography)

Holmes, D. Little Fist. The True Story of a Female Bouncer. Fremantle, W.A.: Vivid, 2015.

bouncerLander, H. The Bouncer. Lane Cove: Finch, 2014. (Biography)

National Nightclub Security Council. Bouncer Training Guide. LuLu, 2015

Styliqnou, S. and Hancock, D. Stilks. London: Blake, 2002. (Biography)

Thompson, G. On the Door. Chichester: Summersdale, 1994.

III. California Bouncers

California requires every bouncer to be a Proprietary Private Security Officer (PSO). (See exceptions below.) A PSO works for a single employer. The PSO’s primary duty is to provide security services for that one employer.

Unlicensed bouncers in California face fines of up to $5,000.

A PSO must wear a distinctive uniform clearly identifying the person as a security officer.

Such officers must be adults (that is, be at least 18 years of age). They must have a criminal history background check through the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. However, people with criminal convictions may still apply. Officials make registration decisions on a case-by-case basis.

PSOs must carry a valid and current PSO registration card, or a copy of official approval. However, a PSO may not carry a deadly weapon.

A PSO must complete 16 hours of training in security officer skills. This training consists of two hours of Powers to Arrest. Two hours of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Awareness. And twelve hours of other security related content. The course syllabus is on-line at Training Syllabus, Proprietary Private Security Officers.


People who may work as a bouncer in California without being a PSO include these.

  • An employee of the US, of California, or of one of the State’s political subdivision.
  • A patrol special police officer.
  • An employee of a charitable nonprofit in California.
  • A current or retired peace officer.

IV. Resources

Frequently Asked Questions. Proprietary Private Security Officer (PSO). Cal Bur Secur and Invest Serv.

Bill Analysis. Legislative Information.

Note: This website is informational only. It has no guarantee of accuracy. It does not make or imply any legal advive. Always consult a qualified lawyer for current legal opinion .