Becoming a Locksmith: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a locksmith? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a locksmith is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Locksmith Career

Locksmiths cut duplicate or new key, install locks and closers in doors, and disassemble electrical and mechanical locking devices. Please continue to read on in order to learn some of the pros and cons associated with this field.

Pros of a Locksmith Career
Improve the security and safety of your clients**
Develop a trade that is useful to many**
Solve a variety of problems**
On-the-job training opportunities **

Cons of a Locksmith Career
Must remain focused while doing detailed and sensitive work**
May have to perform certain job duties outdoors in all weather conditions**
May have to interact with distressed customers**
Below average job growth (7% growth between 2012 and 2022 for locksmiths and safe repairers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Occupational Information Network.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Locksmiths cut duplicate or new keys using key-cutting machines, impressions or code key machines. They install locks and closers in doors and disassemble electrical and mechanical locking devices. They also maintain locking systems by repairing and replacing worn springs, tumblers and other parts. They maintain or set up master key systems and keep records of company keys and locks. They may also solve problems by manipulating cylinders in order to open locks that have no keys and by opening safe locks by using drills and other tools. Some locksmiths may install electronic access and alarm systems or travel to customers that are in need of assistance.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2014 the mean annual wage for locksmiths and safe repairers was around $40,620 and the mean hourly wage was about $19.53. Between 2012 and 2022, employment is expected to grow by about 7%, which is slower than average among all occupations.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no mandatory formal educational requirements involved in becoming a locksmith. Most locksmiths have a high school education and learn their trade through long-term, on-the-job training experiences. Some locksmiths receive training through locksmithing programs offered by postsecondary institutions. Workers in this field are expected to have the following skills and traits:

  • An ability to use a variety of machinery and tools, such as keycutting machines and drills
  • A strong understanding of various types of locking systems and hardware
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills
  • Communication and social skills to interact with customers
  • Sufficient manual dexterity to use tools and manipulate locking devices

Licensure Requirements

Locksmiths who perform certain job duties, such as installing and opening locks by mechanical means, may have to earn licensure. Different states have different licensing requirements; you may have to complete a locksmithing course or get recommendations from other locksmiths who hold licenses. Some locations may grant licenses to individuals who are educated in subjects such as master keying, safe combination locks, vehicle locks and lock opening techniques.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many employers are looking for locksmiths who understand a variety of locking systems and mechanisms, and some prefer to hire individuals who are proficient in working with electronic components and electrical systems. Some employers may require candidates to hold locksmithing licenses. To get a better sense of the kinds of jobs available in this field, see the following job postings that were open during April 2012:

  • A college in New York was seeking a full-time locksmith. This employer required candidates to have at least four years of experience, knowledge of the Corbin Russwin key system, the Simple K key management system and AutoCAD.
  • A company in Texas was seeking a full-time licensed locksmith. This employer expected candidates to have at least five years of locksmithing experience and have a clean driving record. This job offered flexible hours and provided a company vehicle for all company travel needs.
  • A real estate and property management company in Ohio had a job opening for a locksmith with one year of locksmithing experience, a high school education, a driver's license, knowledge of tools, electronic security systems and at least 18 months of experience re-keying and installing locks and security hardware. Job duties included installing, repairing and replacing all types of door closers, implementing a master key system, producing key and master key cylinders and keeping records.
  • A university in Tennessee was seeking a full-time locksmith to install, troubleshoot, maintain, program and repair access control systems and components such as automatic door operators, electric locks, mag locks, card readers and key pads. This job required a high school education, one year of relevant work experience and a valid Tennessee driver's license. This employer preferred candidates with experience working with electronics.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Many locking systems integrate mechanical, electrical and electronic components, and locksmiths with a working knowledge of each type of component will be more versatile and may qualify for more jobs. One way to garner a comprehensive knowledge of locking systems is to apply for entry-level jobs where experienced professionals can show you how to work with a variety of locking devices and systems.

Another way to become familiar with various locking and security technologies is by attending a postsecondary institution that offers classes on locksmithing. Some community colleges and technical schools offer programs in electronic security systems; these programs may benefit locksmiths who work with security systems and electronic components. Locksmiths may also earn voluntary certifications from the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA). Some employers may view certification as validation of professional level skills and expertise.

Alternative Career Paths

Home Appliance Repairer

If you are interested in making house calls and helping customers to solve problems, but are not interested in specializing in locking and security systems, then you may wish to become a home appliance repairer. Home appliance repairers travel to the homes of their customers in order to repair, service and install appliances, such as dishwashers and ovens. Many workers in this field learn their skills through on-the-job training experiences and some attend postsecondary institutions that offer specialized certificates or degrees.

Home appliance repairers who work with refrigerants must earn licenses through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The BLS reports that the median annual pay for a home appliance repairer in 2011 was around $35,000 and the median hourly pay was almost $17.00. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in this field is expected to grow by 7%, slower than average.

General Maintenance and Repair Worker

If you enjoy solving a range of mechanical problems but do not want to specialize in locksmithing, then you may enjoy a career as a general maintenance and repair worker. These workers can find employment in a variety of environments including residential, manufacturing and healthcare facilities. They typically have a broad range of skills that allow them to perform general repairs on plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems. They may also maintain and repair various machines and mechanical equipment.

Workers in this field can learn skills in a variety of ways; many learn through on-the-job training experiences, while others can learn valuable skills through attending postsecondary institutions. The BLS reports that in 2011 workers in this field made around $37,000 annually and earned around $18.00 hourly. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in this field is expected to rise by 11%, about average among all occupations.

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