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The use of locks goes back to the beginning of recorded history. People have always been concerned with protecting their property from others. The Romans made the first metal lock based on even older Egyptian principles. As the use of locks became commonplace people needed someone to make the locks, and fix them when they were broken. This is how the job of locksmith evolved.

Locksmiths install, adjust and repair locks; make keys; and change lock combinations. The duties of a locksmith vary depending on the area they are working in. They work on residential, automotive, commercial and institutional locksets and door hardware. However, people who have a criminal record are ineligible to obtain a pick license or work as a locksmith.

Locksmiths usually work a 40-hour, five-day week but may be on call nights and weekends to respond to emergencies. Self-employed locksmiths often work longer hours. It should also be noted that most locksmiths are required to purchase their own tools depending on what is required, they can expect to spend between $500 and $1,000.
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  Interests and Skills  
Honesty and reliability are two main characteristics of a locksmith. They have good hand-eye coordination to work with small and intricate parts. Locksmiths have mechanical aptitude and enjoy solving problems. They usually enjoy solving problems and they must be patient and tactful when dealing with the public.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Repairing, replacing or adjusting damaged or defective components of entrance and exit doors, including door hinges, electric release mechanisms and sometimes the door itself
  • Changing lock key combinations by inserting new pins into locks
  • Designing complex master key systems for industry, governments and institutions.
  • Opening and making keys for automobiles
  • Installing and repairing electric strikes and electronic security hardware
  • Servicing and changing combinations on safe and vault doors
  • Preparing master keys from code
  • Selling and installing high security lock systems and key control systems, window bars, deadbolts and keyless entry locks
  • Shop locksmiths usually work in kiosks in shopping centers and they make and duplicate keys, repair and re-key locks and open cylinders when keys are not available.
  • Mobile locksmiths work from mobile units. They repair locks in the field; open door locks with a lock pick, and open and make keys for automobiles. They also install locks, door closers, emergency exit hardware and security bars.
  • Locksmiths who service bank equipment work with mechanical and electronic time locks, time delay devices, night deposit units, and combination, electronic and key locks for vaults and safes.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Locksmiths are employed by locksmithing companies, security firms and institutions or they are self-employed. They may work in a shop or kiosk or they may work in a mobile unit.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is some room for advancement within this occupation. Experienced locksmiths can advance to supervisory positions or set up their own businesses.

  Educational Paths  
Locksmiths receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a locksmith, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the locksmith a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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