Job Duties

Locksmiths are experts on security systems, including locks, keys, safes, and alarm systems. They assist customers who have accidentally locked themselves out of their cars, buildings, or safes. Sometimes they pick locks, and usually they must make new keys if the old ones have been lost. They use identifying codes on locks to cut new keys, or they may place a key blank into a lock and make an impression. When working to open safes, they sometimes open the safe by touch. This involves a method of turning the dial and listening for noises that indicate a contact point. If this method is unsuccessful, they may have to drill a hole through the lock. Locksmiths fix locks that have been broken or damaged. They may disassemble the lock and replace worn parts.

These days, locksmiths work more and more with entire security systems for customers. They often work with master key systems, in which one key is able to open all doors, some open several doors, and other open only one door. They may also install and maintain electronic security systems that require an electronic key card to open doors. They also install electronic burglar alarms and surveillance systems; many of these systems alert firefighters and police when they go off. Locksmiths use a variety of tools, such as files, screwdrivers, pliers, tweezers, electric drills, and lock picks.

Job Skills

Locksmiths need to have good manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and vision. They must possess a mechanical aptitude. Because they deal with the public, they should have a neat appearance, good customer service skills, and a pleasant personality. They often need to be bondable and have a good driving record.


Locksmiths with experience who work for an employer earn an average of $48,000 per year. Sometimes, they receive a commission percentage of the bill for their labor, which may range from 5% to 50%. Locksmiths who are self-employed may earn $19,000 per year as small entrepreneurs, or they may earn $200,000 per year running large operations. Trainees may begin by earning minimum wage, or the may start at higher wages. Benefits may include holiday leave, paid vacations, sick pay, and health insurance.

Training and Education

Employers prefer to hire locksmiths who have at least 3 to 5 years of experience in the trade. Most locksmiths are trained on the job. However, a few vocational and correspondence schools have locksmithing programs. Completion of these courses may persuade an employer to overlook an applicant’s lack of experience. Many employers require a driver’s license and clean driving record. Locksmiths must have an electrical background and be licensed by the State’s Department of Consumer Affairs to work on alarm systems. Some cities require locksmiths to obtain a police permit. They are also required to obtain a permit from and be fingerprinted by the Bureau of Collection and Investigative Services. They often must undergo a background check by the State Department of Justice. Locksmiths advance by getting salary increases or by starting their own businesses. Visit this page about locksmith schools for more information on related careers.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of locksmiths is expected to increase about as fast as the average. This is due to increased emphasis on security among homeowners and businesses, as well as overall population growth. Locksmiths who are licensed to install electronic security systems will have the best job opportunities. Trainees will face stiff competition because most shops are too small to support more than 1 trainee.