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

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 a license, customers and leads see you as an authoritative and credentialed technician and therefore are more likely to trust you. Lastly, advanced licenses help you work in specific areas or with sophisticated electronic security systems. Getting into these areas can offer a major opportunity to double your prices and market your locksmith business in a specific niche that’s profitable!

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

Which 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 employment as a locksmith with a general locksmith 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. Ensure you meet the requirements for a license.

California locksmith licenses are administered by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). You can download and fill out the application here.

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

General requirements for both licenses:

  • Must be 18 years of age 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:

  • Provide a valid driver’s license
  • Provide proof of Social Security number
  • Must not currently be on probation or parole
  • Provide proof of at least 4 years of work experience or apprenticeship within the last 10 years
  • List an individual to verify your experience

2. Pass a criminal background check.

After submitting and paying for your application, you’ll need to 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?

  • Conviction of a crime relating to your locksmith business
  • False statement on your application
  • Fraud, deceit, or intentional injury of another
  • Having 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.

fingerprinting for locksmith license

3. Pass contractor’s licensing exam (if applicable).

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
  • Installation, Repair, and Maintenance of Doors and Hardware
  • Installation, Repair, and Maintenance of Electronic Locking Systems
  • Installation, Repair, and Maintenance of Mechanical Locking Systems
  • Installation, Repair, and Maintenance of 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 Contractors Board’s recommended reading list, so you’re in good hands! You can purchase the books on Contractor Resource, Amazon, and Google Books.

locksmith license exam

4. Pay fees.

For a locksmith license, the fee is $250 for the application and $250 for the license, for a total of $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, totaling $530.

locksmith license fee

5. Submit your application.

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

Locksmith license:

  • Submit online: The BSIS instructs applicants to make an account with BreEZe, then submit their forms. When you pay online, it reduces the payment 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:

  • Submit online: Apply at
  • By mail: Mail your documents to:

Contractors State License Board

P.O. Box 269074

Sacramento, CA 95826-9074

locksmith license california cost

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!

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