Maybe you are fresh out of high school and are still trying to decide which career path you want to take. Perhaps you went to a traditional college but decided it wasn't for you. Maybe you've already had an established career and are simply looking for a change. There are many reasons people decide that they want to become a locksmith, but because the industry isn't as widely advertised as some other career paths, it may leave you wondering where to start. This guide will help you learn more about becoming a locksmith, including how to find a locksmith school, what you'll learn, and even how much you'll make and how to start your job search after becoming certified.
Benefits of Becoming a Locksmith
Becoming a locksmith offers several benefits. For many people, the biggest benefit is that they get to help people during stressful and sometimes emergency situations. There are fewer things as stressful as being locked out of your car or home, but a locksmith brings people peace of mind. For others, they like the idea of being the brains behind keying a new security system for someone's home, car, or commercial business. The technology involved in today's locks can be quite a lot of fun for someone who likes solving problems and working with high-end electronics. Additionally, locksmiths work varied hours, which means your schedule may be more flexible than it is in other jobs. If you work for an established business, you may be able to request a certain type of schedule, such as being on call overnight so that you can spend time with your family during the day. If you start your own locksmith company, you can decide when you'll work and when you'll take time off to spend with your friends and family, or you can opt to be on call all the time for people who truly need your services.
Education Required To Become a Locksmith
First and foremost, a locksmith must possess a high school diploma or general education diploma. From there, prospective locksmiths have several options. Many enroll in certificate programs that are available at technical schools or community colleges. Earning a certificate this way involves spending time in the classroom as well as gaining hands-on experience. The other option is to obtain an apprenticeship. During an apprenticeship, a potential locksmith shadows an established one and works under him or her while learning about the industry. However, finding an apprenticeship can be difficult unless you already know someone in the business. Additionally, if you intend to work for an established company, it may require you to receive formal training from a school first.
Continued Education Options
Although licensing isn't required in all states, 15 do require locksmiths to have licenses. This means passing a comprehensive exam to earn a certification. The exams prove competency in residential, institutional, and commercial locksmithing. Those who become certified can then take on one of several roles:
- Registered locksmith
- Certified registered locksmith
- Certified master locksmith
- Certified automotive locksmith
- Certified professional locksmith
Professional development resources are also available to people who become certified. The continuing education programs allow professionals to keep up with evolving trends in locking mechanisms and locksmithing as a profession. Additionally, a locksmithing conference is held each year that features trade show representatives and guest speakers. Some technical and vocational schools also provide ongoing classes.
What To Expect From Your Classes
Most locksmithing classes follow the same curriculum, which begins with an introduction to locksmithing, its tools, and how to identify key blanks. Once you learn the most basic elements of the trade, you'll learn about lock identification, including disc and pin tumbler locks and padlocks. You'll also learn about storefront door locks. This course will teach you about the functions of the knobs and levers, how to remove and replace locks, the basics of latches, strikes and swings, and about deadbolt preparation. You'll take several other classes as well on topics including the following:
- Lock cylinders, including drilling and shimming
- Basics of re-keying
- How to handle clients
- Residential lockouts
- Commercial lockouts
- Codes and laws, including fire codes and key duplication
- Automotive lockouts
- Assembling and disassembling basic locks
- Basics of picking locks
- Enter and exit devices, including panic alarms
Some locksmithing schools take your coursework even further and teach you how to choose a specialization and how to plan and start your own locksmithing business. Before you begin training, discuss the curriculum to ensure you'll be learning everything you want to.
The Cost of Locksmith Training
The amount of money you spend on learning to be a locksmith depends on where you attend school and what the school offers. As you search for courses, you should look for one that offers either live training or training via a DVD, provides basic locksmith tools, offers support at least five days per week, and offers a certification exam at the end of the courses. Schools that offer all four of these features typically cost a few hundred dollars when you take them online and up to $1,000 when you take them in person. Although live classes cost a bit more to cover the use of a physical classroom and paying an instructor, many people find they learn more when they get hands-on training. Some schools may charge more for extra features, but experts recommend starting with a basic course to ensure you enjoy locksmithing before shelling out money for extra training.
Length of Training to Become a Locksmith
The length of training varies depending on how you learn. If you attend a school, expect classes to take several months. The fastest courses take about two months, but many take four or more. Should you decide to go the route of an apprenticeship, expect to learn for up to three years before you know enough to become certified and work alone. The difference in training times is one reason so many people choose to attend a school instead of finding someone to shadow.
Organizations Locksmiths Can Join
Like most professions, locksmiths have a professional organization they can join. The most popular one is the ALOA Security Professionals Association, which was founded in 1955 under the name Associated Locksmiths of America. The trade association is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and has more than 6,000 members. Locksmiths who join the ALOA become listed on the website findalocksmith.com. Joining requires a membership fee, proof of certification, and adherence to a technical standards policy, positive ID policy, and code of ethics. The ALOA also offers courses and certification testing for people interested in becoming a locksmith. Ongoing training, seminars and many other benefits are available to members.
Annual Earnings for Locksmiths
The median income for a locksmith in the United States is $40,680 per year, which is about $19.56 per hour. Those who are just starting out will typically only earn between $11.00 and $14.00 per hour while those who are established or specialized in a certain type of lock can make more than $30.00 per hour. Texas, California, Florida, New York, and New Jersey have the most available positions for locksmiths. However, locksmiths earn the most money in Alaska, Washington, D.C., New Hampshire, California, and Connecticut.
Job Outlook for Locksmiths
With new residential and commercial properties going up daily, not to mention the ever-changing technology in traditional keying as well as electronic keypads, the need for certified locksmiths is not expected to dwindle anytime soon. Although growth is average in the United States, other parts of the world, such as Asia, are seeing a much higher demand due to faster construction methods. Still, you won't need to travel to the other side of the world to get a job as a locksmith, especially if you want to start your own company.
How To Find a Job After Graduation
Finding a job as a locksmith is much like finding any other job. If you have a solid network of friends and family, start by asking them if they have any leads. Research has shown that people who get jobs through networking rather than "cold leads" are often happier in their position. If nobody you know has leads, you can turn to other traditional methods of seeking employment. Search online for local job ads or in local forums. If you intend to work for someone else's company, consider calling local locksmith companies to see if they're hiring. If you intend to start your own company, you'll need a business license as well as advertising and your own tools.
Regardless of whether you want to become a locksmith to key new buildings, help people get into their homes or cars after being locked out, or simply because you want the freedom of starting your own business, one thing is for sure: you can't just get up and apply for a locksmithing position. First, you'll need to do the work in school. With a bit of research, finding the right place to earn your certification is much easier. You'll be on your way to a rewarding career in no time.
Get Your Trade Degree!
Find schools and get information on the Trade Program that’s right for you.
Powered by Campus Explorer