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If you’ve ever locked your keys inside your car, you’ve likely used the services of a locksmith. These tradesmen work in their own shops, at the homes and businesses of clients and on-call from their vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for locksmiths was $37,950 in 2013. Those in the top 90 percentile earned $59,600 or more.
Locksmiths consult with homeowners and business owners regarding basic security needs such as installing locks, deadbolts and gates on entry doors. They perform basic maintenance and repair on security devices, re-key locks, create duplicate keys and program key cards. Locksmiths work with building and automotive locks as well as personal and professional safes. Some locksmith professionals expand their businesses to include security and surveillance systems. The job requires dexterity with small drills, key machines and hand tools. Advanced technology requires locksmiths to become proficient in computer software to program automobile keys, key cards and programmable keyless locks.
Formal Locksmith Education
The Associated Locksmiths of America’s training center in Dallas, Texas offers classroom education. Students can take a six-day basic locksmithing course that covers how to duplicate keys, make original keys, identify common locks and other basic skills. Other courses include professional lock picking, professional impressioning techniques and other advanced skills. Prospective locksmiths can also learn the trade by taking courses at community colleges or trade schools. Certificate programs cover everything from basic locksmithing skills to advanced locksmithing techniques. These programs typically last 10 to 13 weeks and are offered during morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Completion of formal locksmithing programs provides students with the necessary knowledge to pass the Master Locksmith certification electives through ALOA.
On-the-Job Locksmith Training
Although formal education can help you land a job, it isn’t required to learn locksmithing. Some locksmiths can learn on the job if they can find experienced, licensed locksmiths willing to train them. New locksmiths begin by learning basic skills such as how to create and duplicate keys and advance into more complex work through hands-on training . The Associated Locksmiths of America states that new locksmiths should plan on at least three months to gain basic skills. It might take four or more years to gain the advanced skills needed to become a Master Locksmith. Employers can supplement hands-on training with short formal training classes. For instance, ALOA offers education during its annual convention and weekend seminars in many states.
State Licensing Requirements
Some states require special licensing for locksmiths, but not all do. For example, locksmiths in Utah only need a business license if they want to open a shop. In Texas, however, locksmiths must register with the Texas Department of Public Safety to work at a licensed locksmith shop. Those who want to own a locksmith business in Texas must pass a criminal background check, have either one year of full-time experience or complete a training course, and pass the Qualified Managers exam. Continuing education is also required to maintain a locksmith license in Texas. Check with your state's secretary of state department or similar agency to determine specific licensing requirements.
The Associated Locksmiths of America offers three levels of certification for locksmiths. Certification requires a passing rate of 70 percent on the certification exam, which features 10 mandatory categories and 26 elective categories. A Registered Locksmith has basic knowledge of the trade and successfully passes the 10 mandatory categories on the exam, plus two extra specialty topics of his choice. A Professional Locksmith is an advanced locksmith with more experience and knowledge. He must pass the standard exam and 12 additional specialty categories. A Master Locksmith has proficiency in at least 90 percent of the available specialty topics on the exam. He has extensive knowledge of locksmithing and likely many years of experience in the trade. While it’s not typically required, locksmiths who seek certification are more knowledgeable and likely to be hired ahead of those who do not.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Locksmiths and Safe Repairers
- Associated Locksmiths of America:: What Does a Professional Locksmith/Security Professional Do?
- Associated Locksmiths of America: Why Should I Be Certified?
- ALOA Continuing Education: Six-Day Basic Locksmithing Course
- ALOA Continuing Education: Professional Impressioning Techniques
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.