We’ve all been there, unfortunately – locked out of the house, car, or office building with no spare key or alternate entry in sight. It’s a frustrating, time-consuming, and even downright dangerous experience if pets or children are inside or if dinner’s in the oven.
Thankfully, we have professionals called locksmiths who are adept at dealing with these types of emergencies.
A locksmith is a person who frequently responds to emergencies in which people have locked themselves out of their home or other building. Locksmiths can gain entry to the building, cut new or duplicate keys to match a lock—or install a new locking mechanism in a door, and disassemble and reassemble locking devices.
Since many lock mechanisms these days are electronic and operate through computer systems and key cards, locksmiths need to know more than basic mechanical knowledge. Understanding of electronic processes and computer programs allows those locksmiths to work in more high-tech environments.
Locksmiths may also be involved in installing home security systems or assessing the security of homes and then creating solutions to make a home or building more secure.
Do you think you might have what it takes to be a locksmith?
What is a Locksmith?
Certainly, locksmiths are best known for their abilities to get people out of jams in a pinch – whether they’ve lost their keys, locked themselves out, broken a lock, and more. But did you know that a locksmith’s job extends far beyond emergency situations? A highly trained locksmith boasts a variety of skills, including:
- Duplicating keys of all kinds (including ones that big box or hardware stores can’t copy)
- Performing routine maintenance and repair on a variety of lock systems
- Rekeying locks when keys are stolen or lost.
- Installing security systems and alarms.
And that’s just a start! Sound enticing? Read on to learn more.
Personal Requirements for Locksmithing Careers
People who work in the locksmithing field need to have the following character traits and skills:
- Manual dexterity and good fine motor control to use tools
- Good vision
- Critical thinking skills
- Strong troubleshooting and problem-solving skills
- Social and communication skills to interact well with customers
- An ability to use a variety of machinery and tools
- A strong understanding of various types of locking systems and hardware
Is Locksmithing for You?
Before investing time and resources to become a locksmith, it’s important first to weigh the pros and cons:
- Only educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED
- Unprecedented opportunities to meet and help new people
- Competitive salary based on location and level of expertise
- Some opportunities even offer healthcare benefits
- Flexible work schedule
- Opportunity to work outdoors – not stuck behind a desk all day
- Long, irregular hours plus some night, weekend, and holiday calls
- Frequent requirement to work under extreme time and client pressure
- Substantial time commitment to become an expert locksmith
- Licensing costs can be pricey
Education, Training, and Professional Development
You’re still with us, which means you think you have what it takes to participate in an exciting, often exhausting, but gratifying career as a locksmith. Great! So, what’s the next step?
All you need is a high school diploma or GED. Well, perhaps it’s not entirely so cut and dry. While a degree provides a solid foundation, you may want to take some additional steps to ensure that you rise above the competition:
Locksmith Training Courses
Many community colleges and technical schools offer classes aimed at teaching the ins and outs of the trade. These courses include training on opening locked safes, opening locks without a key, and more. Today, you can even find virtual courses in which to enroll to take your education to the next level.
The benefit of in-person classes is that you’ll have the opportunity to work on real customers’ locks and keys – giving you invaluable hands-on experience. Take a peek at this handy list of schools curated by The Associated Locksmiths of America.
While licensure requirements vary by state, background checks and drug screenings are a regular part of the hiring process. It makes sense if you think about it. People are letting you into their homes, places of business, cars, and more—so ensuring clients’ safety is of utmost importance.
If you’re not sure what your state requires, contact your local government agency for details. As of 2021, 15 states currently require licensing to practice as a locksmith, including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Working with a professional locksmith for at least six months is not required. Still, the practice can provide invaluable on-the-job training – offering insight into both the technical and business aspects of the career. Be sure that your mentor is professionally certified or licensed before accepting an apprenticeship.
Continuing Education and Specialization
Once you’ve completed the appropriate training courses and an apprenticeship, you can take your career to new heights by obtaining advanced certifications through The Associated Locksmiths of America. These include:
- Registered Locksmith
- Certified Registered Locksmith
- Certified Professional Locksmith
- Certified Master Locksmith
Perhaps you’re more interested in specializing in a particular area of locksmithing. Two specific career paths that some people choose to pursue include:
- Automotive Locksmith: As the name would suggest, this specialty is for car enthusiasts since it takes a deep dive into the mechanics of fixing problems with keyless entry, FOBD, ignitions, and more.
- Safe Cracker: This advanced type of locksmithing requires hours of practice and extreme dedication to the craft. Many who choose this route often go on to fix high-end safes and bank vaults. As a result, these are some of the highest-paid locksmiths in the industry.
What will my education cost?
The average cost to become a locksmith depends on which route you choose. Online locksmith programs, for instance, can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,000, which covers all materials and mailed tool kits. However, opting for an in-person course will set you back anywhere from $1,000-$3,000. The cost simply depends upon which course you choose and the state in which you reside.
How Long Will it Take to Become a Locksmith?
Here again, the answer is highly variable. Most in-person and online training/certification programs last anywhere from 2-4 months, depending on the program. If you decide to go the apprenticeship route, that can last anywhere from six months to two years. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be making money at that time. The average annual pay for a locksmith apprentice is $27,100.
What’s the Earning Potential?
If you’re experiencing sticker shock, don’t worry. Well-trained locksmiths can earn a very good living depending on their location, training, and area(s) of expertise. Annual salaries range from $25,000 to over $67,000, with the median wage hovering around $42,000 a year.
If you live in an expensive city like New York or Los Angeles, you can expect to make far more than the median income. Similarly, if you live in a smaller town, expect to make less. For a complete breakdown of salary ranges and employment potential in your state and city, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
You Have Your Training — Now What?
Educated, certified, licensed, specialized – you have everything it takes to head out on your own, but which path to choose? Below is a breakdown of the various career paths locksmiths can take:
If you love working with people, this could be the perfect fit. Most commercial locksmiths either work out of their own storefront servicing the community or work specifically with small businesses and corporations such as real estate companies and law offices to fix their lock issues.
Mobile locksmithing is becoming an increasingly popular option for those new to the trade. Working out of your vehicle means low overhead and more schedule flexibility. It’s a win-win!
Are you craving more job security? This path might be for you. Institutional locksmiths typically work for universities, government facilities, hospitals, K-12 public and private schools, and more. The added bonus? Many of these positions come with medical and dental benefits.
Keep in mind that there are hundreds of specializations within locksmithing, but below are some of the more common specialties:
- Master Key System
- Security Consultant
- Electrical Locksmith Specialist
Finding the Career for You
With enough patience, hard work, and initiative, you can be on your way to enjoying a fulfilling career as a locksmith. We hope this guide has helped you determine whether it’s the right fit for you.
If you’re still on the fence or simply want to explore other options, be sure to check out our other trade job profiles. And be sure to visit us frequently, as we’re adding jobs that do not require degrees every week. Break out of the cubicle at Blue Collar Brain!
*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics