There aren't many prerequisites you need to meet if you want to become a locksmith, but to be successful in this competitive field you should consider formal training and certification programs. Some states may require you to obtain an official license before you can practice within their borders, so you should research the specific requirements of the state you are in before pursuing this career.
Part 1 of 3: Preliminary Preparations
Step 1. Research the career
As a locksmith you can install and repair locks for buildings, cars and safes. You may also need to duplicate keys and offer related forms of assistance.
- Many locksmiths work in a store during normal business hours, but you should also expect to visit customers at their premises when they install locks or you have to assist someone who has been left out without being able to open a vehicle or building.
- Apprentices usually start at minimum wage, but earnings usually grow quickly as you gain experience and show that your skills are productive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for locksmiths as of May 2012 was $ 37,560. Employment is expected to grow 7% between 2012 and 2022, which will be considered slower than normal.
- Many locksmiths work “reachable” hours, so be prepared to respond to emergency calls outside of normal business hours. Some of the more successful locksmiths can put in around 80 hours a week on locksmith work, and independent locksmiths should expect to spend another 40 hours a week on administrative or marketing tasks.
Step 2. Improve related skills
Locksmiths rely on a wide range of skills and improving them will allow you to have a more successful career.
- You need good hand-eye coordination and spatial reasoning skills. If you are still in high school, consider taking advanced courses in math, mechanical drawing, basic electronics, physics, metallurgy, and woodworking. If you've already graduated, try honing these skills at a local college or on your own.
- You will also need to demonstrate adequate customer service skills. If you plan to start your own locksmith business over time, marketing skills will also be crucial.
Step 3. Earn a high school diploma
Before beginning any formal locksmith training, you must earn a high school or high school diploma (“G. E. D.”). In many states, you will need at least this level of education in order to qualify for professional locksmith work.
Locksmithing is not a simple job. Obtaining a basic education will provide you with the basic knowledge you will need to understand the more advanced mechanical principles used in this job
Part 2 of 3: Formal Education
Step 1. Complete a formal training program
While you don't need a specialized degree to become a locksmith, most locksmiths complete some type of formal training that can last anywhere from three months to four years.
- Ask about certificate or degree programs at nearby colleges, trade schools, or state locksmith associations.
- The courses that are included in the formal training programs cover most of the basics of locksmithing, including information on the structure of the locking mechanism and essential security features. You will also learn how to open locks, repair them and make keys.
Step 2. Receive training
If you don't complete the training in a classroom, the other option is to learn the necessary skills through a training program. Completing both formal training and education can further improve your chances of being hired.
- Most apprenticeships are unpaid, but will give you hands-on training in all aspects of the locksmith business, including technical and administrative duties.
- When choosing an apprenticeship program, make sure the teacher has a state-issued license or professional certificate, even if neither is required by state law. Either option testifies to the skills and credibility of the locksmith.
Step 3. Get a license if necessary
Some states require you to obtain a license issued by the same state so that you can legally practice as an independent locksmith.
The purpose of a state-issued license is to maintain professional standards and protect consumers. The exact number of requirements may vary by state, but generally you will have to submit a written request, go through a background check, and file your fingerprints in state and federal databases
Step 4. Earn a voluntary certification
If the state does not require you to obtain a state-issued license, you should check to see if there is any kind of voluntary professional certification.
- Since a certification is optional, you can work towards it after you've landed a job. However, if you're having trouble finding a job, earning a certification first could help you stand out from other applicants.
- The Association of Locksmiths of America (“Associated Locksmiths of America: ALOA”) offers several levels of professional certification, including: Registered Locksmith, Certified Locksmith, Certified Professional Locksmith, and Certified Master Locksmith. Each level has its own exam and you will have to pass it with a minimum score of 70 percent.
- Similarly, the Safe and Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA) offers exams for two levels of certification: “Certified Professional SafeTech” and “Certified Master SafeTech”.
Part 3 of 3: Career Advancement
Step 1. Work for an established locksmith business
During the early stages of your career you should try to get hired by an existing firm. In fact, some states require aspiring locksmiths to work for an established firm for at least one year before they can get their professional license.
- Check with locksmith companies, security equipment manufacturers, DIY or hardware stores, shoemakers, and department stores. Any company that offers at least key making services can give you the entry-level experience you need.
- Most locksmith companies are small, but there are some large nationwide companies that may operate franchises in your area. Larger companies often provide 24-hour emergency and mobile service, so be prepared to work long hours if you go to work at one of them.
Step 2. Be open to on-the-job training opportunities
You will likely learn much more about the field from colleagues, peers, and employers than you have learned during formal training and certification.
In this particular field you should never assume that you have already learned everything there is to know, even if you have been working in this career for decades. New laws and technologies continually change the industry and as these changes happen, the way you do business as a locksmith should also change. Those with more experience with these with changes and with unknown aspects of the industry can give you the practical and applied knowledge that you will need when you have to deal with all this
Step 3. Look for opportunities to continue your education
Continuing education is not strictly necessary, but the industry will change as technology advances and keeping up with those changes can help your career in the long run.
- Stay informed with the latest news that have to do with the latest laws and technologies in this field.
- Continually check for opportunities offered by lock manufacturers, locksmith associations (such as ALOA), and technical schools.
- Continuing education can help any locksmith, but it can be especially important if you want to focus on certain specialties, pursue a higher certification modality, or start your own independent business.
Step 4. Join a professional organization
Joining a state or national professional organization can give you access to a wide range of benefits.
- Professional organizations allow you to connect with other professional locksmiths more quickly and effectively. Some organizations also provide benefits such as legislative representation, insurance, as well as advanced education and certifications.
- At the national level you could consider joining ALOA. You can find out more about membership in this organization by calling 1-800-532-2562 or visiting their website:
- SAVTA is another nationwide locksmith organization that you could join. Visit their website at the following link:
Step 5. Consider learning a specialty
Since this field can be highly competitive, it may help you to specialize in one area of knowledge rather than relying on your general skills. You will have to complete some form of formal training regardless of the field of knowledge you seek.
For example, you could become an auto locksmith or a home security locksmith. If you study to become a forensic locksmith, you will learn to identify the cause of security breaches. By becoming a security consultant you will learn how to help your clients improve their locks and other security devices effectively
Step 6. Establish your own business if you wish
You can continue to work at an established firm throughout your career, but most professionals choose to open their own locksmith business.
- Before taking this step, do your research. This industry can be competitive, and if your area is already flooded with locksmith service offerings, your business may not thrive.
- Running your own business will require skills that are beyond basic locksmithing. You will need to know how to run a business, as well as manage the finances and advertising of your services. Consider pursuing additional education and training to help you acquire these skills.