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Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Locksmith License in California

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As a locksmith, how do you want people to see you when you walk into a room? At the least, you want every customer to feel relief that you’re the one who showed up. And when you leave, you want customers to speak highly of your finished work and integrity. Building up your reputation as an expert takes time, and if you haven’t gotten your locksmith license, you need to get started.

First off, without a locksmith license, you cannot operate your own business in 15 states, including California. Secondly, when you have one, people see you as an authority and talented technician, which is an invaluable quality to have. Lastly, advanced licenses help you work in specific areas or with sophisticated electronic security systems. That’s a major opportunity to double your prices and market your locksmith business in a smaller niche that’s profitable!

Getting a California locksmith license is straightforward, and we’ll answer every important question to get you started.

young locksmith fixing a lock

Which locksmith license is right for you?

When applying for a locksmith license in California, companies, and employees have two options:

  • Locksmith license
  • Contractor’s license 

You can find locksmith employment with a general license. However, a business entity will have to get an additional contractor’s license if they want to charge over $500 at a single site and work with complex lock systems.

How do you get a locksmith license in California?

1. Submit your application to the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

The Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) is where you can obtain your locksmith license. Fill out and download the application here.

The C28 Lock and Security Equipment Contractor License is what you’ll need to work on more expensive and advanced jobs. Visit the Contractors State License Board for applications.

2. How much does a California locksmith license cost?

For a locksmith license, the fee is $250 for the application and $250 for the license. All in total: $500. Note: This fee is nonrefundable and if you do not pay when submitting, your application will be rejected.  

For a contractor’s license, it’s $330 for the application and a $200 activation fee after passing the exam. All in total: $530

3. How can you qualify for a locksmith license?

General requirements for both licenses:

  • Must be 18 or older.
  • Send two high-quality photos taken within the last year.
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Businesses must select a manager for an application. If you have several people, they need to submit individual applications.

For a contractor’s license:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Social security number
  • Not currently on probation or parole
  • 4 years of work experience or apprenticeship within the last 10 years
  • An individual to verify your experience
locksmith man smiling

4. How can you pass a criminal background check?

After submitting and paying for your application, you’ll visit your nearest Live Scan location for fingerprinting, and the Department of Justice and FBI will run a criminal background check. You can request the Live Scan service here

What criminal activities will get you denied?

  • You’ve been convicted of a crime relating to your locksmith business
  • Made a false statement on your application
  • Committed fraud, deceit, or intentionally injured someone
  • Have a license under suspension, revoked, or previously refused

Price: DOJ and FBI fingerprint fees are $32 and $17. While the Live Scan operator fees vary by location.

5. How and where do you submit your applications?

You can submit and pay for your locksmith licenses two ways: online and by mail.

Locksmith license:

  • Submit online: BSIS says to make an account with BreEZe, then submit your form. When you decide to pay online, it bypasses the cashier office, which reduces the processing time by two weeks.
  • By mail: Submit forms and a cashier’s check to:

Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

P.O. Box 989002

West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002

Contractor’s license:

  • By mail: Mail your documents to:

Contractors State License Board

P.O. Box 269074

Sacramento, CA 95826-9074

6. How to pass your California contractor license exam?

For a regular locksmith license, there is no exam. However, a contractor’s license does require you to pass a test. The test is closed-book and contains multiple-choice questions. 

The sections of the test include:

  • Planning and Estimation
  • Install, Repair, and Maintain Doors and Hardware
  • Install, Repair, and Maintain Electronic Locking Systems
  • Install, Repair, and Maintain Mechanical Locking Systems
  • Install, Repair, and Maintain Safes, Vaults, and Other Security Containers 
  • Safety 

We’ve gathered the best options for you to study and ace the exam.

Resources to study

Online learning:

Contractors Intelligence School is the #1 prep program for California licenses and offers an online course, live classes, and home study material. 


  1. 2019 California Building Code. California Code of Regulations, Title 24. International Code Council
  2. 2019 California Fire Code. California Code of Regulations, Title 24
  3. Basic Architectural Hardware. Door and Hardware Institute
  4. The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing. Bill Phillips. McGraw-Hill Professional
  5. Keying Systems and Nomenclature. Door and Hardware Institute
  6. NFPA 80: Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. National Fire Protection Association
  7. NFPA 101: Life Safety Code. National Fire Protection Association
  8. State of California General Industry & Electrical Safety Orders (Cal/OSHA) and State of California Construction & Electrical Safety Orders (Cal/OSHA). 2019. California Code of Regulations, Title 8. Mancomm
  9. Ugly’s Electrical References. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

All books mentioned come from the contractor’s board recommended reading list, so you’re in good hands! You can purchase the books on Contractor Resource, Amazon, and Google Books.

By the numbers: the total cost of everything

Start your California locksmith business

There you have it! We’ve made it easy, and now it’s time for you to sharpen your locksmith knowledge with a Ginsu knife, pass your examination, and get the necessary qualifications to command more respect and higher prices in your business. Once you’ve done that, use Workiz’s locksmith scheduling software to handle all of your new customers!

Try out Workiz today to help you manage your Locksmith business! 

Schedule, Dispatch, Invoice And Close More Customers

See why over 40,000 service pros rely on Workiz to run and scale their business.

They also close 43% more customers.

    Schedule, Dispatch, Invoice And Close More Customers

    See why over 40,000 service pros rely on Workiz to run and scale their business.

    They also close 43% more customers.

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