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Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$31,331 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Locksmiths install, adjust, repair, and open locks. They also change lock combinations and make keys. Most locksmiths work in locksmith shops. Many have their own businesses. Hardware and department stores sometimes employ locksmiths. Some locksmiths work for manufacturers of safes and locks, government agencies, and large industrial plants.

Locksmiths advise people about the best security measures for their homes or businesses. They sell and install the devices that they recommend. Locksmiths often drive to a worksite in a mobile shop. They may teach their customers how to use locks and keys properly.

Locksmiths often spend part of their working day opening locks for people who have lost or misplaced their keys. They may do this by picking the lock or by making a duplicate key. Sometimes locksmiths use the scratches that the lock leaves on a blank key as a guide for filing the blank key into the proper shape. At other times they get the key code number and make a duplicate key on a key cutting machine. Locksmiths open combination locks by turning the dial on the lock until the tumblers click into place. Or they may drill through the lock with an electric drill.

Locksmiths use screwdrivers, pliers, tweezers, lock picks, and a variety of other hand and power tools in their trade. They repair locks by taking the mechanism apart and replacing worn and broken parts, such as springs and tumblers. They sometimes make new parts by hand. To protect homes and businesses, locksmiths often adjust and change locks. They also create new master key systems for businesses. Locksmiths with a knowledge of electricity and electronics install and repair alarm systems. In addition to their other duties, some locksmiths take care of the business details involved in running a shop.

Education and Training Requirements

Interested individuals can learn to be a locksmith through on-the-job training, which usually takes one to twelve months. Employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and machine shop are useful. Candidates can prepare for their on-the-job training by taking a correspondence course in locksmithing or attending courses at a vocational/technical school. In some areas locksmiths must be licensed.

Getting the Job

Locksmith shops are often family businesses. Locksmiths do hire people who are not part of their family, however. Interested individuals can apply directly to locksmith shops or to industrial firms, schools, hospitals, and government agencies. Employers often place classified ads in trade magazines and newspapers. Prospective locksmiths can also try searching job banks on the Internet. State and private employment agencies may be helpful in finding a job as well.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced locksmiths can become supervisors or managers in large shops. Many locksmiths go into business for themselves. They often run their businesses right from their homes. A small investment is necessary to get started. Locksmiths can expand and upgrade their skills by reading technical journals and taking training classes given by the Associated Locksmiths of America.

The outlook for locksmiths is good. The field is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014. People want and need better security devices for both their homes and their businesses. The employment outlook is especially good for locksmiths who can install and repair electronic alarm systems.

Working Conditions

Most locksmiths work out of small shops that are usually well kept. Since much of their work is done on job sites, conditions vary. Locksmiths may have to work outdoors in bad weather. They sometimes work in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Their work often requires them to spend much time driving from job to job. Manual dexterity and good hand-eye coordination are important for locksmiths. They should also have some mechanical ability. Those who deal with customers must be able to get along with people.

Locksmiths generally work forty to forty-eight hours per week. They are sometimes on call twenty-four hours a day for emergencies. Self-employed locksmiths often work more than forty-eight hours per week.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated Locksmiths of America
3500 Easy St.
Dallas, TX 75247
(800) 532-2562

Earnings and Benefits

Locksmiths earn an average of $31,331 per year, according to salary.com. Benefits vary depending on the employer. Some employers provide paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and pension plans. Those who work for small shops and those who are self-employed must often provide their own benefits.