Locksmiths play an essential part in helping people keep their families, homes, and property safe.
In our day and age locking and security systems become increasingly complex and this profession requires not only dexterity but also computer knowledge and technical skills.
On this page, we have included information about this career path and how to start a profession in the field.
What Does a Locksmith Do?
Locksmiths repair, open and change locks, make keys, install and repair safes.
Their job description includes:
- replacing or repairing locks and other types of door and window closures
- making duplicate keys
- keeping records regarding the date when a key was issued
- changing lock combinations on safes
- opening safes when the combination is unknown
Nowadays, many electronic security systems are integrated with computers and networks, which means that locksmiths are also responsible for maintaining security hardware and software.
Locksmiths use many different tools in their day-to-day work.
They use key cutting machines, hand tools (drill, tubular pick, vice, etc.), key blanks, etc.
What Skills Do I Need for a Career in this Field?
As a locksmith, you will need some special training as well as some personal skills:
- Computer skills are needed because locksmiths have to use specialized security and locking software.
- Dexterity is also required because as a locksmith, you will use hand tools when changing and repairing locks.
- Attention to detail and troubleshooting skills are also important when installing or fixing locking systems.
- Good communication skills are important, especially when working in teams, and when you have to explain issues to clients.
- Being good at your job and showing professionalism when interacting with clients is essential in building a reputation and finding new projects.
Although locksmiths don’t need a specific post-secondary degree, most employers require at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
If you want to become a locksmith, you can start to prepare in high school by taking courses in mathematics, metalworking, mechanical drawing, electronics, physics, and English.
The locksmith trade can be learned through an apprenticeship or a post-secondary training program at a community college or technical school.
Certificate and diploma programs usually teach you how to pick different types of locks and how to repair locking systems.
Some programs also offer specialized training in sub-fields such as automotive locksmithing.
Classes that cover the legal and business aspects of this trade are sometimes included in the curriculum.
As an alternative training route, you may apply for an apprenticeship.
This means that you will learn while working alongside an experienced locksmith.
This training period can last anywhere between a few months and four years, depending on the type of program you choose, the state where you wish to practice, and the field in which you specialize.
Many locksmiths learn the ins and outs of this profession through on-the-job training.
Certification is not required, but it can help you find a good job and can compensate for your lack of experience when looking for your first job.
ALOA Security Professionals Association offers training programs that help members become certified.
The Association also offers an ALOA Fundamentals of Locksmithing class which provides a great start for those who want to start a career in this field.
This program provides students with hands-on knowledge regarding the locks and the hardware that is used in security systems.
Students who enroll in this program receive a lab box in the mail that includes all the tools and hardware needed for the applied exercises specific to this class.
The theoretical part of the classes can be taken online at the student’s pace.
This will be combined with a one-day training session with an experienced locksmith in a real-life work setting in the student’s region.
Certification is not required, but you can choose to apply for a credential offered by ALOA.
The following levels of certification are available:
- Registered Locksmith
- Certified Registered Locksmith
- Certified Professional Locksmith
- Certified Master Locksmith
Those who want to apply for certification have to sit for an exam for each one of these levels.
The exam is passed if you obtain a score of 70 percent or higher.
There are 4,000 ALOA certified locksmiths nationwide.
Post-Secondary Training Programs
Training programs are also available at technical and vocational schools.
Some programs are offered online, while others combine classroom training with hands-on education.
An example of an online locksmith training program is the one offered by Penn Foster.
This program covers six different topics, namely:
- Introduction to Keys
- Locks and Keys Mastering
- Fundamentals of Home Security
- Home Security Wiring
- CCTV, Recording, and Detection Systems
Ashworth College is also offering an online locksmith course that includes real tools and access to online libraries and labs.
Udemy and other online platforms also offer locksmithing classes that can be completed at the student’s pace.
Most companies train their new locksmiths on the job for a period between six months and two years.
This means that, in the beginning, you will work under the supervision of an experienced locksmith.
After having a few months of experience, trainees become familiar with most residential locks, and they may also participate in light commercial projects.
Continuing education classes are available at locksmith associations and schools and help locksmiths stay up to date with the latest technological advances in the field.
These classes will also help if you want to apply for a higher certification level.
Not all states require locksmiths to be licensed, but a license is required in some states to ensure that consumers are safe.
Licensing requirements vary by state, but usually, it involves:
- submitting an application
- passing a background check
- submitting fingerprints
You need to be over 18 years of age to become a locksmith.
Some states require locksmiths to have at least one year of experience working under the supervision of a licensed locksmith before applying for a license of their own.
In Texas, for example, you need to complete a two-year apprenticeship before applying for a locksmith license.
Other states that require locksmiths to possess a license are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Some cities and districts require additional documentation, so it is best to check the licensing requirements applicable in your area before starting this journey.
Some experienced locksmiths choose to start their locksmith businesses.
In this case, you will also need a locksmith business license, and you will have to invest in your basic locksmithing equipment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by locksmiths and safe repairers in the United States was $43,690 as of May 2020.
The median wage tells us that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.
The lowest 10 percent made less than $27,080, while the top 10 percent made more than $69,170.
As an entry-level worker, your salary will be closer to the minimum of this range, but it will increase as you earn experience.
Experienced locksmiths can start their own business, which gives them a higher degree of independence and the opportunity of earning more.
Locksmith Salary by State
The region of employment is another important factor in determining a locksmith’s salary.
According to the BLS report, the top-paying state for locksmiths and safe repairers was the District of Columbia, where workers in this profession reportedly made $64,250 per year on average.
On the other hand, locksmiths in Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa, New Mexico, Montana, and New Hampshire, made less than $40,000 per year, on average.
If you want to relocate to a region where this profession is better remunerated, you should first check the licensing requirements applicable in that state.
Locksmith Salary by Industry of Employment
Salaries for locksmiths also vary depending on the industry of employment.
Higher than average wages were reported by locksmiths who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools- where workers in this profession were remunerated $55,620 per year, on a median.
Those who worked in the field of investigation and security services- one of the biggest employers for locksmiths- reportedly made $42,910 per year, on average.
The top-paying field for this occupation in 2020 was the federal executive branch- where workers in this profession made $59,420 per year, on average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, locksmiths held 19,200 jobs in the United States in 2020.
This profession is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030, which will result in approximately 500 jobs being lost.
Competition for this profession will be strong in the future.
Being familiar with the latest locking and security systems will give you an advantage over your competition.
Also important is your ability to keep up to date with the new tools and locking systems.
In conclusion, although this industry is becoming increasingly automatized and this can lead to fewer jobs, good locksmiths will continue to be needed to assemble, maintain and replace these complex locking systems.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Become a Locksmith?
This trade can be learned through post-secondary training programs or apprenticeships.
Depending on the type of program you choose, your training can take anywhere between a few months and four years.
Continuing education classes are also important because they will help you keep up with the latest technological advances in the field.
How Much Does a Locksmith Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, locksmiths in the United States earned approximately $44,000 per year as of May 2020, but salaries vary widely depending on experience level, education, region of employment, and a variety of other factors.
Most locksmiths earn wages that range from $30,000-$70,000.
Will Locksmiths Continue to Be Needed in the Future?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the locksmith profession will decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.
Despite this projected decline, locksmiths who are familiar with sophisticated locking systems and software, and have good dexterity will continue to be needed in the industry.
Do I Need a License to Practice This Profession?
Some states require locksmiths to hold a license before working with any locking equipment.
These states are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Some cities require additional documentation, so it’s best to check the requirements applicable in your area.
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