How to Become a
Locksmith

Man in uniform picking a lock with locksmith tools

If you’ve been contemplating a career as a Locksmith, this article is the key to getting started. Read on to learn about educational and training requirements, necessary skills, salaries and more.

What Does a Locksmith Do?

Locksmiths perform a variety of duties, such as copying keys, maintaining locks systems and even installing electronic alarms. Locksmiths can work in a variety of settings, depending on whether they work for a locksmith company, a security company, a university, a private building  or a real estate or property management company.

In addition to knowing all about the inner workings of many different types of locks, Locksmiths must also know how to operate a number of hand and power tools, how to open and repair safes and how to install and remove locks. Common Locksmith duties and responsibilities include:

  • Traveling to customers who need on-site assistance

  • Replacing defective parts in pre-existing lock systems

  • Setting up and keeping records of master key systems

  • Duplicating new or pre-existing keys

Locksmith Skills

While knowing how locks function is an essential skill, a Locksmith must also be able to apply that knowledge to real situations in order to identify problems in broken locks, quickly and efficiently open locks which have no keys and sometimes replace an entire door when necessary. And, since locks involve a vast number of small moving parts, Locksmiths must also be able to work carefully and precisely.

Other key Locksmith skills include:

  • Meticulous attention to detail

  • Ability to solve problems under pressure

  • Great focus and organization

  • Patient and calm demeanor

How Do You Become a Locksmith?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, most employers are looking for Locksmiths with an educational background consisting of a high school diploma, GED or equivalent. Although completing a Locksmith training program is not necessarily required by all employers, choosing to do so can help you stand out amongst other job applicants and gain useful experience.

In addition to completing a Locksmith training program, you’ll also want to complete an apprenticeship beneath an already-established professional Locksmith. Many employers require potential candidates to have years of real-world experience, and becoming an apprentice is a great way to obtain that experience while earning money at the same time. To start your apprenticeship, simply get in contact with well-respected Locksmiths in your area and ask whether they would be willing to take you on as an apprentice. Be sure to interview with several different Locksmiths so that you’re able to find the best fit for you.

Finally, depending on which state you live in, you may also be required to be officially licensed in order to legally work as a Locksmith in any capacity. To learn more about the licensing laws in your state, click here.

Finding a Job

According to findings published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for General Maintenance and Repair Workers, which includes Locksmiths, is increasing by 6 percent. This will result in the opening of 83,500 new positions between 2014 and 2024. This demand rate is expected to continue rising as the American housing market continues to recover.

Before you start searching for a job, make sure you have an excellent resume on hand. Browse through JobHero’s library of Locksmith resume samples for ideas on how to create yours.

After completing your resume, the next step towards employment is conducting an online job search to find open positions in your area. Before you send off any applications, however, you’ll want to have a well-written cover letter on hand. A cover letter will convey your personality, work ethic, reasons for applying and unique areas of expertise to potential employers. Check out our sample cover letters for guidance.

Insights From a Locksmith

In order to get an insider’s perspective on how to become a Locksmith, we spoke with Ben Gholian, the owner and operator of Advanced Security Safe and Lock in Baltimore, Maryland.

What is the common career path for Locksmiths?

The most common I have seen goes: Schooling/training, apprenticeship, experience, certification, licensing, more schooling and then joining an organization to stay up to date. Once you are licensed you will most likely become a full locksmith. Of those steps I think apprenticeship is the most important. You learn a lot more in the field apprenticing than you do in school. Both are important but most locksmiths will end up apprenticing for years just to learn as much as they can through a strong bond with their mentor.

What should someone consider before becoming a Locksmith?

This is tough work, you work long hours, you have to think on your feet and your brain needs to work very mechanically in order to better understand some of the mechanisms in locks. Remember that you have to be able to bypass all the security features of a lock even when it’s malfunctioning. You also need to be able to diagnose and fix a problem more often than replace it. Consider that you will most likely be working those late night emergency calls and will be providing a service that can really help people in a bind. A locksmith can never have too many friends. You must also realize that locks never have, and never will stop changing. You will have to be able to keep up with the industry or it will leave you behind.

What type of person excels in this job?

Becoming a good locksmith requires being a certain kind of person, someone who loves to take things apart just to figure out how they work, someone who will go the extra mile for all their customers and someone who can perform precision work off of little to no information with a smile. Taking apart locks will help when you when you need to diagnose a problem and fix it. You need to be an honest, trustworthy and dependable person. If you can't trust your locksmith, who can you trust? We perform an amazing skill that is dangerous in the wrong hands; you must be careful with how you use your skills.

What are some of the most important skills for Locksmiths to have?

Dexterity is key, along with hand eye coordination, but one of the most important skills you can pick up as a locksmith is the ability to identify lock mechanisms. Sure it is easy to say "that is a door knob, that is a deadbolt," but if you know what kind of mechanism it is specifically using [then] you already know what is going wrong. You need to be able to adapt because there are very few situations that are the same. Another important skill is lock-picking, and I promise it is not as fast or as easy as it looks in crime shows and movies. It can take up to 20 minutes and you still might not get it. All locks are different so you will have to drill some out, [and] aiming that drill bit just right can also save you some time and frustration. One skill that we don't use as often but comes in very handy is Lock Impressioning; it is a timeless technique I learned and it has saved my customers from having to replace full lock systems multiple times.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Locksmith?

I love the feeling of taking a complicated lock, taking it apart, making some modifications and getting it working again. Mortise lock sets are a treat when they can be repaired; it’s not always possible but I love being able to tinker with it for an hour and save my clients hundreds of dollars on a replacement. More than anything, I love helping people. I like getting those late night lockouts to let a mom and her kids back into their house, or make a key to their car they lost or even when someone brings me an old safe that has all their papers inside. The happiness it brings them is really why I love this career.

How Much Do Locksmiths Get Paid?

Depending on whether they work as an independent contractor or a permanent employee, Locksmiths can be paid either on an hourly wage basis or an annual wage basis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for Locksmiths is $18.83, with the lowest-paid earning $10.95 per hour and the highest-paid earning $29.73 per hour.

Top Ten States for Locksmith Salary

Locksmiths in the following ten states earn the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    District of Columbia

    $28.69

    New Hampshire

    $25.28

    Hawaii

    $25.21

    Massachusetts

    $24.04

    California

    $23.72

    Connecticut

    $23.11

    Rhode Island

    $22.97

    Maryland

    $22.50

    New Jersey

    $22.27

    Washington

    $21.53

    Locksmith Resources

    We put together this list of resources to help you continue exploring your career as a Locksmith.

    Professional Groups

    Associated Locksmiths of America
    The ALOA provides its members with online and in-person training, legislative lobbying, an annual convention and exposition, discounts on services and travel, free bonding and a subscription to Keynotes magazine.

    Institutional Locksmiths’ Association
    The ILA offers discussion forums, an annual conference, examinations and certification, free training books and booklets, free master key spreadsheet generators, discounts and a subscription to The Institutional Locksmith magazine.

    Locksmith Blogs

    Lock Blog
    This blog, published by United Locksmith, is full of product reviews, tricks of the trade, a variety of tips and industry facts and news.

    The Locksmith Information Blog
    This blog contains featured Locksmiths, security tips, product reviews and videos.

    Locksmith Books

    The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing
    This book covers all aspects of professional Locksmithing, from lockpicking and servicing techniques to advice on running your own Locksmith business.

    Practical Lock Picking
    This book is a great reference guide for beginning students and experienced professionals alike. It’s full of detailed explanations, full-color diagrams and photos and an appendix of recommended tools and toolkits.