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How to Become a Locksmith


Locksmiths work with locks and safes, and provide a variety of services to customers relating to these items. A locksmith may help a customer choose locks for their home or business, install locks, cut keys for locks, rekey locks, or repair malfunctioning locks and locking devices. Locksmiths also help customers who are locked out of their homes, businesses, and vehicles. Opening a lock without a key is like solving a puzzle, and locksmiths try various methods to open locks without damaging them.

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The tools and products locksmiths work with range from simple locks to sophisticated locking devices and security systems. Locksmiths must be familiar with the various types of locks they may encounter in their work and stay abreast of advances in technology. They must also be comfortable using tools like lathes, grinders, and drills. Experience with carpentry and electrical work can be beneficial for locksmiths as well.

Because customers may require their assistance at any time during the day, locksmiths may work irregular hours in a variety of locations and weather conditions.

What kind of training is required to become a locksmith?

Training to become a locksmith often involves a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience. There are many locksmithing schools and training programs located across the country that offer both in-person and online courses. Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) maintains a list of approved training programs on its website, and this can be a good place to start if you are looking for a program.

Students in a locksmithing training program take courses in topics like key identification, key making, lock installation, lock picking, residential locks, commercial locks, automotive locks, electronic access locks, home and business security systems, master key systems, safe and vault locks, and high security locks. Students who complete in-person programs often have opportunities to put their learning into practice on the tools that locksmiths use. Online programs may provide students with tools that they can use to practice at home.

To gain additional hands-on experience, many locksmiths complete an apprenticeship or work as a trainee with an experienced locksmith. Not all locksmiths are willing to take on trainees or apprentices, but many are. An apprentice may perform tasks around the office or go out into the field with an experienced locksmith.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Because locksmiths are granted access to people’s homes and to sensitive security information and high-security areas, employers and clients should be able to trust that they are qualified and reliable. Many states require locksmiths to obtain a license to practice their trade, and voluntary certification can show clients that a locksmith has met high standards for training and experience.

In some states, locksmiths are required only to pass a criminal history background check, but in others, locksmiths must complete an approved training course and pass a licensing examination. Some jurisdictions also require locksmith apprentices to obtain licenses. To get an apprentice license, one may have to pass a criminal history background check. There are typically no licensing examinations to pass at this stage, but apprentice applicants must show that they are employed by a licensed locksmith.

In addition to their license, locksmiths can pursue voluntary certifications. Associated Locksmiths of America offers certifications for locksmiths at various levels of expertise. One typically starts by pursuing the Certified Registered Locksmith designation. With additional training and experience, locksmiths can become Certified Professional Locksmiths and Certified Master Locksmiths.

To become a Certified Registered Locksmith, one must pass an examination that measures knowledge in ten mandatory categories, which include codes and code equipment, cylinder servicing, key blank identification, key duplication, key impressioning, professional lock opening techniques, lockset functions, lockset servicing, basic master keying, and cabinet, furniture, and mailbox locks. ALOA also requires CRL candidates to pass an examination in 2 of the 26 available elective categories. CPLs must show proficiency in 12 additional elective categories, while CMLs must pass 90 percent of the elective examinations ALOA offers. Elective categories include topics like basic electricity, safe installation, alarms, and keyless mechanical locks.

How long does it take to become a locksmith?

It can take several months to complete a locksmith training course. Some programs take as few as two months to complete, while others take four or more. On-the-job training can take additional months or years to complete. Apprenticeships typically last two to three years.

What does a locksmith earn?

The median yearly pay for locksmiths in the United States was $37,560 in 2012. Locksmith trainees and apprentices often start out at minimum wage, and if they are productive, their salary will increase from there.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of locksmiths will grow 7 percent between 2012 and 2020, slower than the average growth for all occupations.

Job prospects should be best for those who are offering their services in an area that is not already well-served by established locksmiths. Locksmiths who are certified may have better job prospects as well.

What are the long term career prospects for locksmiths?

As they gain experience, locksmiths can be promoted to positions with greater responsibility or move on to larger companies. Some locksmiths find success opening their own businesses.

How can I find a job as a locksmith?

If you are looking for your very first locksmithing job, you may have to start out as a trainee or apprentice. Approach established, licensed locksmiths in your area to find one who is willing to take on a trainee. If you show that you are willing to learn and work hard in all kinds of situations and conditions, you may be offered a position once your training period is over.

Locksmiths can look for work with established independent locksmiths, hardware stores, and security equipment manufacturers. Organizations with large facilities to maintain, like universities and hospitals, may also hire locksmiths and keep them on staff.

How can I learn more about becoming a locksmith?

You can learn more about becoming a locksmith by speaking to experienced locksmiths in your area. Because there is no one established path to becoming a locksmith, talk to a variety of people to see how they pursued their education and training. You can also learn more through the Associated Locksmiths of America website.

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