How to Become a Locksmith in California

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How to Become a Locksmith in California

Most people rely on keys to unlock the locks protecting their valuables – like a home, a business, a bike, or a car, to name a few.

If you are like most, your keyring includes a wide variety of traditional and electronic keys.

But what happens if the lock malfunctions or you lose your keys?

Answer – you need the services of a professional locksmith.

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Steps to Become a Locksmith in California

According to the California Business and Professions Code (BPC – Chapter 8.5 Locksmiths – the Locksmith Act), a “locksmith” is defined as any person, who for any compensation (or other consideration) engages in the business of installing, modifying, re-keying, repairing and opening of locks.

Further, this same law defines a lock as a mechanical, electronic (i.e., key fob, etc.), electromechanical, or similar device designed to control access.

However, the California definition excludes someone who only makes duplicate keys from an existing key.

According to California law, no person can engage in locksmith activities unless they hold a locksmith license or are exempt from the law (Section 6980.12).

Step1. Complete a locksmith training or apprenticeship program available online or campus-based

Note this is not a requirement but is highly encouraged.

Step 2. Apply for a locksmith license

The total fee is $500, with one-half due at application and the second half due at approval, plus $32 for the Live Scan fingerprinting fee and a $17 FBI fingerprint fee.

Step 3. Complete a Live Scan form (BCII 8016) for each owner and company employee.

Go through the steps in both links above, but don’t start that before you applied for a locksmith license.

Step 4. Submit an application (Form 31A-4) and the required fee.

This is submitted through an online system or Bureau of Security and Investigative Services P.O. Box 989002, West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002.

A temporary license is issued with a 120-day expiration, allowing the applicant to work in California as a locksmith while the application is approved.

Note, though, if a locksmith earns more than $500 on any one job site, they are required to obtain a California contractor’s license.

This includes a separate application and passing the Lock and Security Equipment contractor exam.

Additional information is available online or at the Contractor’s State License Board – 800-321-2752.

To be eligible for a locksmith contractor license, the applicant must have four years of experience as a locksmith or be a locksmith in training with a minimum of one year of locksmith work experience.

Locksmith Licensing Requirements in California

To work legally in California, one must obtain a locksmith license.

The eligibility requirements for an individual, corporation, or partnership that is seeking a California locksmith license include:

  • The applicant to be 18+ years of age
  • Download and complete the application for the license, which is available from the state’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). (Form 31A-4)
  • A criminal background check by the FBI and the California DOJ (BCII 8016)
  • Acknowledgment as to who will be running the locksmith business.

If filing as a fictitious business name, a request for authorization of business name.

If filing as a corporation, you must include the Articles of Organization/Incorporation.

A California locksmith license is valid for two years.

If you plan to open a branch of the locksmith business, the state will charge an additional branch office fee.

California requires licensed locksmiths to display their current license and renewal certificate conspicuously at their business location.

If you always plan to open a branch office, there are additional fees.

Locksmith Programs in California

The Golden State offers a variety of locksmith programs.

These include:

  • The California Institute of Locksmithing, located in Agora Hills, offers several classes – online and on-campus with multiple start dates each year. Prices vary based on the exact program chosen.
  • Penn-Foster offers an online technical program for locksmith and home security technicians.
  • After successfully passing the exam, Ashworth College offers a comprehensive program that includes locksmithing tools and an ALOA Locksmith Certificate.

In addition, many locksmiths seek voluntary certification as a locksmith specialist.

These ALOA certifications include:

  • A Certified Registered Locksmith
  • A Certified Master Locksmith
  • A Certified Forensic Locksmith
  • A Certified Professional Locksmith
  • A Certified Automotive Locksmith
  • A Certified Master Safe Technician
  • A Certified Professional Safe Technician

Salary for California Locksmiths

According to, the median locksmith salary in the US as of December 2021 is $54,059.

In addition, the statisticians at BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that there were approximately 2,250 locksmiths working in California in 2020.

The median annual salary for a Californian locksmith was $47,430.

California has the most locksmiths employed of any state!

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Los Angeles $61,139
San Diego $58,338
San Jose $67,844
San Francisco $67,573
Long Beach $60,275
Fresno $53,778
Sacramento $58,432
Oakland $64,330
Santa Ana $60,329
Anaheim $60,411

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA30$60,160$28.92$80,660$35,770
Fresno, CA40$58,310$28.03$73,750$44,000
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA770$54,910$26.4$82,510$35,610
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA40$51,170$24.6$70,920$35,380
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA210$55,770$26.81$75,980$35,940
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA140$54,810$26.35$78,620$36,390
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA230$53,770$25.85$75,480$35,880
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA330$63,950$30.74$101,510$46,550
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA90$63,870$30.71$100,540$45,780
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA30$51,720$24.87$72,700$35,340
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Locksmiths and Safe Repairers, OCC Code 49-9094, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a locksmith license good for?

California’s locksmith license is valid for two years.

How long does it take to get a temporary locksmith license in California?

A temporary license is issued with a 120-day expiration at application.

This allows the applicant to begin working in California as a locksmith while the application is being processed.

How much is the California locksmith license fee at the application?

The fee for the application is $250.

When the license is approved, there is a license fee of $250.

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