The profession of locksmithing is a good choice for anyone looking for a high-paying trade with reliable employment prospects. Locksmiths will be in steady demand through economic slowdowns and technological shifts that could put people in other industries out of work.
Although becoming a locksmith requires years of training and apprenticeship, it takes less time than many white-collar professions with smaller salaries. Some states require locksmiths to be licensed, bonded and insured although many employers will cover the costs of these requirements for their employees.
Many trade schools and community colleges offer locksmith training programs that meet the educational requirements for locksmiths in their states. Locksmith training can take one to two years of study and involves a thorough education in lock picking, safe cracking, key making and other locksmithing duties.
Training courses will include sections based on locksmith theory, practice and safety, and at the end of each course there will be a written assessment. In states that require licensure, these programs will typically end with a licensing exam. Many schools will help students find internships and apprenticeships to gain work experience.
Working as an apprentice for one to two years is an optional career path in some markets and niches. Commercial locksmithing is often more complex and challenging than auto or residential locksmithing, so these professionals usually need more experience before they can work without supervision. With such a wide range of skills to master, commercial locksmith apprentices must wait around two years before they're ready to accept contracts.
An apprenticeship is simply an on-the-job training program for entry-level locksmiths, and not every employee will start out as an apprentice. Although apprentices earn smaller salaries than full-fledged locksmiths, the experience provides a smooth introduction while mitigating errors that could raise insurance and bonding costs.
The states that require locksmith licensing are:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
However, locksmithing laws are constantly changing, and additional states could require licensing in the near future. Licensing is a way of standardizing locksmithing practices to ensure that customers receive a minimum standard of quality. States require licensing to weed out untrained and unprofessional locksmiths who might offer cheap service with a high risk of failure.
You’ll need a license before you can become an apprentice, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. By the time you complete your trade school program, you should have the knowledge needed to pass a licensing exam. Otherwise, you may choose to invest in a test-prep course before paying the exam and licensing fees in your state.
After obtaining a license and completing an apprenticeship, you’ll be ready to start working. Rising through the ranks of seniority will take time and expertise, so you’ll need extensive experience to move into the upper bracket of income earners. Once you have the necessary experience, you'll be qualified to accept lucrative contracts from government and industrial clients.
After about 10 years of unsupervised experience, you should be ready to perform any type of locksmithing job in your niche. However, because locksmithing niches can be quite specialized, you may be limited in the types of jobs you can accept.
Types of Locksmith Jobs
Locksmith companies can offer commercial, residential or automotive services. Many locksmiths specialize in areas such as safe cracking or commercial locksmithing. Learning how to open a locked safe is a challenging process that can take years to master. Because this skill can put safe owners at risk of theft, the ethics surrounding safe cracking and other forms of lock picking are vitally important for locksmiths.
An auto locksmith offers lock picking services for automobile owners who are locked out of their vehicles. They also possess the skills to start all types of vehicle ignition systems without keys. Automotive locksmithing requires the mastery of a wide range of skills, including picking locks, making keys and installing electronic locks.
How Much Does a Locksmith Earn?
Locksmiths earn salaries ranging from around $30,000 to $70,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings depend on a locksmith’s experience and the number of hours he or she works. Hourly earnings can range from around $15 to $33, depending on experience and specialization.
The job outlook for locksmiths will be stable in the coming years, and it will tend to grow at the same rate as the overall economy. Locksmithing is a job that will always require human hands, so artificial intelligence technology won’t directly impact the industry. However, as the economy changes, locksmiths with the largest range of skills will have the best employment prospects.