According to a recent survey by the federal government, 30% of respondents with certifications earned $50,000 a year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that the median yearly salary for a locksmith is ~$46,000 a year within the U.S. That salary is on par with many professionals who have a bachelor’s degree or higher!
You may have questions in mind, like: how long will the schooling take? Or how much will it cost me? Never fear. We will give you a complete breakdown of how to get a locksmith certification in your state, the best places to get affordable training from an accredited institution, and tips to speed up the process.
What is a certified locksmith?
A certified locksmith is a technician who has met the qualifications established by their state and/or an accredited locksmith organization. They have studied and gained the basic required skills to install and repair any residential, commercial, or automotive lock, as well as cut keys and install security systems. Not only do they need these skills, but they also need the certification to attest to their acquisition of these skills. After certification, technicians will need a license to work with customers or open up their own businesses. In 16 states, it is illegal for employers to hire an unlicensed technician or to market and advertise their locksmith businesses without having a valid license. Therefore, getting certified is mandatory. Otherwise, you run the risk of being fined, losing customers, or even getting your business shut down altogether!
Below are the states that require a locksmith license:
- New Jersey
- New York (New York City only)
- North Carolina
Not all states require a locksmith certification from a school or program. However, if you’re aiming to get licensed and you truly want to master your craft, it’s best to get the right education under your belt and not skip out.
How do you get a locksmith certification?
You can qualify for a locksmith certification in a variety of ways, depending on your state and county’s requirements.
Here are the basic steps:
- Consult your state’s licensing board: This authority issues and regulates all licenses to contractors and usually has a government website where you can find the current requirements for obtaining a license, including the locksmith certifications that may be required.
- Choose a locksmith specialty: Apart from your general education, there are three major locksmith specialties: residential (private homes), commercial (business properties), and automotive (motor vehicles). Think about the area that interests you the most and which services are most in-demand in your area. If you choose well, you can be happier and make more money throughout your career.
- Decide how much money you want to make: The more you specialize, the higher your earning potential is! Why is that? Some locksmith certifications will allow you to operate advanced, high-tech security tools and equipment. In return, if you’re a business owner that has expertise in the usage of these tools, you can charge higher prices for your services. If you want to reach a certain income level, make sure you choose the right certificate that’ll get you there.
- Plan where to get education and training: You can get a locksmith certification from a university, community college, trade school, an online course, or a trade organization. Most importantly, the training organization needs to be accredited to ensure you receive a valid certificate upon completion, as well as high-quality training from other certified locksmiths.
Types of locksmith certifications
Locksmith certifications will vary from state to state and between school programs. To give you an idea of what certifications may exist out there, we’ll take a look at ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America) Security Professionals Association, the #1 trade organization that educates, trains, and certifies technicians all over the U.S. and Canada. To date, over 6,000 locksmiths have received a certificate from this organization! They offer online and in-person classes, conventions, books, and test prep to help you get certified from anywhere in North America.
Let’s take a look at some of the certifications that ALOA Security Professionals Association offers:
- ALOA Fundamental Locksmith (AFL): A six-day basic locksmithing course that gives you enough general knowledge to apply for an apprenticeship.
- Certified Registered Locksmith (CRL): This is the first-level certification for locksmith professionals. With it, you’ll be able to get an entry-level job.
- Certified Professional Locksmith (CPL): This is an intermediate locksmith certification; it requires you to take 12 more electives than the first-level certification and gain more knowledge.
- Certified Master Locksmith (CML): This is the highest certification ALOA awards, and it indicates that you have completed all electives the organization offers.
- Certified Professional Safe Technicians (CPS): The first level in obtaining a specialized certificate for safes, this certifies that you’ve successfully demonstrated proficiency in 17 safe- and vault-related categories.
- Certified Master Safe Technician (CMS): Certifies that you have advanced knowledge and proficiency in safe and vault categories.
There are 39 categories of study at the ALOA Security Professionals Association, and 10 are mandatory. If you don’t have a local locksmith certification program available, this is the most trustworthy organization around!
Who can provide a locksmith certification?
Locksmith certifications can be administered by only three institutions:
- An accredited locksmith school: This can be a special college or trade school dedicated to locksmithing.
- An accredited certification course: This could be a course at a general university that offers a certificate.
- An accredited trade organization: ALOA Security Professionals Association is a great example of a trade organization that offers certification.
How long does it take to become a certified locksmith?
How long does it take to get a locksmith certification? That’s a tricky question with a few variables. ALOA Security Professionals Association allows you to complete their most basic certification in as little as 6 days, while other certification programs or schools will range from a couple of months to a few years.
But we get it, time is money. The more time you spend in school instead of working, the more short-term income you may feel like you’re losing. The time might feel wasted, but it is actually an investment in yourself and your future.
So instead of wondering how long it will take, ask yourself: what will you lose if you don’t invest the right amount of time in your education?
Quality education and training are worth the time. Locksmithing is not an easy career. From learning the basics to staying up-to-date with the latest equipment, essential tools and gear, and technology, there’s a lot to learn before you feel comfortable going into someone’s house or business and taking responsibility for fixing a problem.
For example, many technicians struggle with inventory management. They hop in their trucks, heading straight to a job, and expect their usual tool kit to already have everything they need in it, but that is not always the case. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to a job unprepared. Not only will you have to go back to your office for the missing item, but you’ll be behind schedule, and your customer may be upset. A good, accredited school will teach you the foundations of locksmithing, including proper inventory management practices, so you retain your customers and use your time efficiently.
Another great way to keep inventory organized is by using Workiz’s Locksmith Inventory Management software; it lets you know when equipment is running low, alerts you when to place an order, and can even show you in which trucks your items are located. It’s an incredibly useful timesaver for any technician!
We can’t tell you exactly how long it will take to get a locksmith certification in your state and local area, but we can tell you that the time and financial investment will pay off in the long run. A thorough education will help you avoid silly mistakes, like forgetting an important part of a big job.
Start by getting a basic certification and landing a position. Then, as you get more comfortable in your career, you can go back to get specialized certifications while you work.
What qualifications do you need to become a locksmith?
Besides getting certified at an accredited school or organization, you’ll need to pass an exam and get a locksmith license from your state’s licensing board.
Here are a few common requirements that every technician must meet before obtaining a license (in the states that require one):
- Complete education and training: Some states require you to have a minimum of 2 years of experience as a locksmith, plus a certification, before becoming licensed.
- Meet legal age: In most states, the minimum age ranges from 18-21.
- Submit identification: This includes photos, a driver’s license, and/or other forms of ID.
- Complete background check: You must submit a criminal history report and get a background check with the FBI, which requires fingerprinting. Many states will automatically deny your application if you have any felonies related to locksmithing or have committed violent crimes in the past.
- Get insurance: If you plan to start your own locksmithing business, you’ll need to get business insurance and show proof.
- Complete the licensing application: Fill out all the required forms, send them in, and wait for them to be approved.
- Take your licensing exam: Once you’ve been approved, you can apply to take the state exam and hopefully pass with flying colors!
As you can see, getting your locksmith certification and education is the first step to receiving a license. There are other qualifications you may need that aren’t listed here, but these are the most common ones.
What is the best locksmith training course?
If you’re looking for the best locksmith training course, a training institute that can teach you everything you need to know from the comfort of your own home, we’ve gathered a few options. Besides ALOA Security Professionals Association, here are other online accredited training organizations:
1. Ashworth College
Ashworth College is an online learning platform. You’ll receive real tools and online lessons to help you respond to emergencies, deal with high-tech systems, and master the key skills to get a job. What makes Ashworth College one of the best options is that you can customize your training by picking your own schedule and finishing the course at your own pace. Also, students have extensive access to résumé templates, cover letters, and more career resources that can be used to apply for locksmith jobs.
2. Stratford Career Institute
Stratford Career Institute is an at-home vocational training institute that was established in 1991. They have had more than one million students enrolled in various courses, including their locksmith certification course. Students can learn both basic and advanced locksmithing techniques, as well as tips on how to start a locksmith business. You’ll have access to a real live instructor who you can call or email for support in your studies.
PennFoster is a locksmithing and home security technician training program that you can complete within two months if you hustle. What sets this program apart is its use of technology to make the course immersive and aid your learning. How? Their Cutaway Lock Simulation helps you visualize key-cutting and installation, as well as the process of fixing various locks and security systems. It makes you feel like you’re gaining hands-on experience, even if you’re sitting at home in your pajamas.
4. California Institute of Locksmithing
The California Institute of Locksmithing has been around since 1972, and its goal is to train entry-level locksmiths to the highest standards in the industry. They go above and beyond to help their students with on-the-job support. Yup, that’s right, if you’re stuck, they’ll give you answers about new hardware or parts and help you complete a task. Also, they’ll send job leads, give feedback on your résumé, and provide discounted equipment when you open your own business. They have courses lasting between two weeks and a couple of months. So far, they’ve helped over 1,790 students land a job!
Locksmith certification costs and expenses
The price of your locksmith certification will depend on the length of your course and your chosen specialty. Vocational Training HQ states that online programs cost between $400 – $1,000, and in-person training costs $1,000-$3,000+.
Online training may seem like the most affordable option, but some states require you to have on-the-job experience as well. It may be to your advantage to mix methods—get a quick, basic online certification, and then get an advanced in-person certification through an apprenticeship.
Also, don’t forget to factor in costs for books, supplies, tool kits, and any possible clothing you’ll need for your education and training.
Getting a locksmith certification is not as difficult (or expensive) as you may have previously thought. With a commitment of 2 months to 2 years and $400-$3,000 for courses, you can walk away with a job that pays up to $50,000 annually! Compared to other time-consuming career fields, that is the American dream! Here are a few more tips to help get the ball rolling:
- Decide on your goals: Do you want to start an apprenticeship soon or get work experience ASAP? If so, it would be smart to get a certification that you can finish in a few weeks. Knowing what education level you need to achieve to get started will stop you from enrolling in a course that’s longer than you want.
- Find a program that fits your goals: Trade schools, organizations, and online programs don’t all offer the same certifications. It’s important to make sure your school is competitive and up-to-date and that courses are taught by experienced locksmiths to best prepare you for the job market.
- Check the reviews of past students: GreatSchool.org and College Resource Network are awesome websites to read reviews from past students. There, you’ll see if the instructors are competent if you’ll get the right support, if the time and investment are worth it and if students achieve professional success after graduating.
Finally, you should check that your school or program is using current locksmith business technology. It would be a disservice for students to enter the workplace without knowing how to manage their schedules, projects, clients, and invoices with software. Explain to your instructors that you want to become familiar with the latest tech and shorten your learning curve while on the job.
Try out Workiz Locksmith Management and Scheduling software; it’s easy to use, and you’ll be able to schedule jobs, collect payments, and manage your inventory, all in one place.