Last Updated on July 14, 2023
Everything to Know to Be a Locksmith
Are you interested in starting a locksmith career? You may be wondering: What skills are required, how much do locksmiths make, what training is needed? Just how do you become a locksmith? As the owner of a locksmith company, I wrote this article to help you understand how to become a locksmith. The answer depends on several factors, one of the biggest is where you live. In general:
To become a locksmith you will need to: obtain the necessary locksmithing skills, obtain required state certification, pass a background check, purchase the proper tools and equipment, and have a strong desire to help people. The exact requirements on locksmith training and certifications will vary by state.
How Much do New Locksmiths Make?
How long does it take to become a locksmith?
If you’re good with tools and problem solving you can be a productive locksmith handling the majority of residential work in under six months.
Do Locksmiths Need to be Licensed
Licensing is required in several states, but not every state. Those states that require licensing will require that you have a certain amount of internship / experience before they will license you.
Should I take a locksmith course?
The majority of locksmiths will start in the profession as an apprentice. Knowledge is gained while on to the job. As a locksmith employer, we give hiring preference for those looking for apprenticeship positions to those that have taken a course. It demonstrates to the company that you are serious about becoming a locksmith.
How Much do New Locksmiths Make?
Locksmith Salaries by Percentile
|Pay Percentile||SALARY Per Year|
|25th Percentile Locksmith Salary||$43,565|
|50th Percentile Locksmith Salary||$49,894|
|75th Percentile Locksmith Salary||$55,275|
|90th Percentile (Highest 10%)||$60,175|
Locksmith salaries vary dramatically based on where you are performing locksmith services and the years of experience you have. The national average for a trained locksmith in 2022 is just under $50,000 according to an employer survey from Salary.com. You can expect to make more than this table if you are in an expensive city (New York, San Francisco, etc…) and much less than that for small towns.
New Locksmiths get paid on the very low end of the pay scale. Many times, as an apprentice, you will be starting at the minimum wage. This is due to the training investment by the employee as you gain skills in the Locksmithing Field. At our company, we increase this salary of technicians as soon as they are out in the field, able to drive and service residential customers on their own. Once on the road a functioning new locksmith can expect a be around $33,000-35,000.
As a mid-level, experienced locksmith, with 4 to 6 years of knowledge, you should expect to be right in the middle of this table at around $50,000 / yr. Sr Locksmiths can earn as much as $50,000-70,000 / year.
When you own you own locksmith business, you can expect to make about double the salary of an employee, but it can take years to build the clientele to get there and depend on the success of, and how well you run, your company.
Requirements to Be a Locksmith
The requirements to become a locksmith vary by state. To become a locksmith at most companies you will need to be able to pass security and drug screenings, completing informal or formal training, and gain any licenses and required certifications for your state.
Educational Requirements – Training to be a Locksmith
There is no formal educational requirement to be a locksmith (think diploma), but most business owners would prefer someone that has completed their high-school diploma or equivalency.
I’ve hired locksmiths with experience that had neither, but I wouldn’t hire an apprentice without one of those.
Maturity is the main criteria of being a locksmith, not education. You will be entrusted with a lot of your client’s security information, and you’ll need to be mature and responsible enough to handle it professionally.
This is why I require at least a high school GED or Diploma to train. If a candidate isn’t responsible / mature enough to obtain those, I won’t trust them with my customer data.
New Locksmith Should be Able to Pass Background Checks
Most companies will run both a drug screening and security background check on any candidates before hiring them for an entry-level locksmith position, even when it’s not required by the state. I will not hire any candidate at our Mesa AZ Lock Shop headquarters that has any criminal background or fails a drug screening for illegal substances.
We train people to get into homes and cars and not having our locksmiths complete those checks would be irresponsible of us as a community business.
At last count, 14 states currently require a background check as part of their state locksmith license requirements.
In most of those states you can work as a locksmith apprentice or helper to obtain experience without licensing, so long as you are supervised by a licensed locksmith. That experience will be needed if you go out on your own as most states will require a specified number of years of experience be obtain your license.
Background checks and drug screenings are a standard part the state locksmith licensing process.
Licensed Locksmith Requirements by State
The states that currently required locksmiths to be licensed are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana , Maryland , Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.
Below is a list of resources that specify how to become a locksmith for the states that require licensing.
Several states require locksmith companies to be licensed. While many states don’t, obtaining a contractor license is always good business practice to add to your franchises value & differentiation. Below are links to the licensing parties for states that require locksmiths to be licensed.
NEBRASKA County Clerk’s Office
Contact local County Clerk’s office
NEVADA County Sheriff’s Office
Contact local county Sheriff’s office
Repealed! No licensing required. TENNESSEE Department of Commerce & Insurance
Take a Locksmith Training Course
Training to be a locksmith will consist mostly of on-the-job training, and the states that require a locksmith to become licensed will require a set number of years of one-the-job training.
For novices wanting to differentiate themselves over the other candidates trying to become locksmiths, we recommend a few training options that will set you apart from the rest.
- Mail in locksmith courses
Training is conducted via video and parts are mailed to the trainee to be worked on and mailed back to be graded. This is the least valuable training as you get the least amount of exposure to the locks and keys you will eventually be working on. But it is an affordable way to try it out, see if you have the aptitude for it and enjoy it. It will also demonstrate that you have a high level of commitment to the lock profession to those you interview with.
- Locksmith training classes.
There are companies and schools that focus exclusively on training and offer a traditional classroom style training. If you operate best in a well-structured type of program these locksmith courses are the ones to take. The Associated Locksmiths of America has a list of schools that offer their training certifications. Lockmasters is one training center on that list we’ve used in the past to train our entry level locksmiths on some specialty skills with good success.
- Locksmith training in a real locksmith environment.
Some companies, like mine, offer training in a non-classroom environment. Our locksmith training is one-on-one in a functioning lock shop. You work on real customer locks and keys so the level of exposure is much better than that offered by mail-in lock training programs. Our Basic Residential Lock Training program is 20 hours. And we offer an Introductory Automotive Locksmith training program as well.
No matter which path you decide, to become a locksmith and proceed with training, you need to know that you will not have become a fully trained locksmith when basic lock training is done.
You’ll understand the basics and premises, but it takes years of exposure to various locks and locking systems to really be considered proficient.
Think of training at the entry level as something you have to do in order to gain a leg up over the competition to get that entry-level locksmith apprenticeship.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Skilled Locksmith
To be a locksmith you need experience! But how much do you need? If you’re working for a busy local locksmith company, we have found the following timelines are a good guide when determining how long it takes to be a locksmith:
- You will be “apprenticing” for 6 months to 2 years. At about 6 months you will be able to handle the majority of residential locks and can do light commercial work.
- An additional 6-12 months of experience will get you to the point where you can handle most automotive locksmith tasks if your training is focused entirely on the automotive skills. If it is not, it will take longer.
- We consider locksmiths with 3-6 years experience entry to mid-level locksmiths. Productive employees that have the majority of locksmithing skills but lack some of the more complex skills associated with, primarily; safe opening, high-end commercial and industrial work.
- After 6 years at my company we consider you to be a senior locksmith even though you may lack some of the very top-level skills in a particular area. At this level of locksmithing, locksmiths have usually picked an area they wanted to focus in and become very good at it, but in doing so may not know some of the more advanced locksmith skills in another area of the locksmith trade.
Note: We do not handle a lot of industrial work or wired security systems. So at other companies this time may be considerably longer. At ACME Locksmith after 6 years you would have at least seen nearly all we can throw at you in our market.
The above are the levels I consider at my company. They will vary by company. But there are certifications you can get that will state your experience and are recognized throughout the lock and security industry.
What Tools Do You Need to be a Locksmith?
Ready to become a locksmith? Check out our post on The Tools Locksmiths Use to see what you will need and what you will be using when you become a locksmith.