If you know about rake, snake and pistol picks, and jiggler keys and pump wedges are part of your vocabulary, you are well on your way to becoming a locksmith. Your stellar mechanical, communication and hand-eye coordination skills will serve you well in this profession. Extensive training is necessary, but once you know what you're doing, you can earn an above average salary -- and locksmiths are always in demand.
Customer Service Duties
Locksmiths open door locks for customers' homes, cars and safes. They also repair tumblers and springs in lock systems and install new locks. Some locksmiths are experienced in repairing safes, which is a specialty profession called safe repairer. Your responsibilities also include repairing manual or mechanical locks and cutting keys for customers. And you must be familiar with security systems in homes, as you need to repair these when necessary.
A locksmith's administrative duties include collecting and recording payments. You may also write status reports or maintain activity logs for customer visits. The status report is required for jobs that take several days or weeks to complete, as parts may need to be ordered. Keeping your snake picks and pump wedges in operational order and training other locksmiths are other key duties. Locksmith business owners are usually responsible for recording sales and expenses, ordering supplies and equipment and ensuring taxes are completed on time.
Locksmiths usually work 40-hour weeks, but 60- to 80-hour weeks are not uncommon since locksmiths are usually on call 24/7. Envision yourself helping an old lady who has locked her keys in the car in the dead of winter -- her house keys dangling inside as well. You can save lives in this profession. Most of your time is spent in transit or doing the work.
Education and Training
Locksmiths are required to have high school diplomas or equivalent GEDs. The training can be extensive. You have the option of training through a vocational school or with a trained locksmith in an apprenticeship program. The training takes between one and three years to complete, according to Employment Oasis. A license is required in some states. Certification is optional but may increase your employment opportunities.
Average Salary and Job Outlook
Locksmiths earned average annual salaries of $38,490 as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned over $58,750 per year. Those who worked for the federal executive branch earned the highest salaries of $52,230. If you worked in the scientific research and travel accommodation industries, you would earn $52,010 and $52,000 per year, respectively. The top-paying districts or states were the District of Columbia, New Hampshire and Massachusetts -- $57,300, $48,850 and $48,640 per year, respectively. The BLS reported that jobs for locksmiths and safe repairers are expected to increase 18 percent through 2020, slightly above the 14 percent national average for all occupations.