As tradesmen who install, maintain and repair manual and digital locks, locksmiths have a thorough knowledge of locking systems and related security devices, as well as life safety regulations. They also use their mastery of key cutting to make duplicate copies of household, business and automotive keys. A career as a locksmith is suitable for people with an aptitude for practical tasks.
The first step to becoming a locksmith is to pursue a locksmithing course, typically at a technical institute or college. Penn Foster Career School in Pennsylvania, for instance, offers a two-month locksmithing program that provides training in areas such as key identification, lock mechanisms, home and business security, and electronic security systems. You can also get started by joining a locksmith apprenticeship, where you will learn the craft from veteran locksmiths. Locksmith apprenticeships may take up to five years to complete.
Master Essential Qualities
You need basic blueprint-reading, complex problem-solving and computer skills to be an accomplished locksmith. You must be able to read and work from technical drawings and building plans, and troubleshoot faults in digital or electronic lock systems. Plug spinners, broken key extractors and drill jigs are some of the tools and accessories locksmiths use in their trade, so you need strong practical skills to set up and operate them properly. Because the job may involve working in tight spaces or on scaffolding, you need the physical stamina to endure such activities. A sound understanding of the National Fire Protection Association's life safety code is also essential, as you should know the locks that are permitted or prohibited for exit doors, stairwell doors and other types of doors.
Get Licensed and Obtain a Professional Certification
California and Virginia are some of the few states that regulate the practice of locksmiths. Although licensing requirements vary among these states, you typically need to be an American citizen or legal resident alien with a clean criminal background and professional locksmith training. Associated Locksmiths of America, or ALOA, also awards a range of credentials to locksmiths who meet certification requirements. As a beginning locksmith, you can obtain the Certified Registered Locksmith credential to gain professional credibility and enhance your employment prospects. Aspiring CRLs must successfully complete an examination on general locksmithing.
You can find job opportunities in locksmithing companies, security firms, as well as companies that sell or supply locks and related devices. After gaining several years of work experience and developing a strong business sense, you can establish your own locksmithing business. Alternatively, you can pursue additional courses in forensic locksmithing to work as a forensic locksmith in law enforcement agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for locksmiths and safe repairers was $39,820 in 2013.