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An illustration of a German locksmith, 1451.

Locksmithing is the science and art of making and defeating locks. Locksmithing is a traditional trade and in many countries requires completion of an apprenticeship. The level of formal education legally required varies from country to country from none at all, to a simple training certificate awarded by an employer, to a full diploma from an engineering college, in addition to time spent working as an apprentice.


A lock is a mechanism that secures buildings, rooms, cabinets, objects, or other storage facilities. A "smith" is a metalworker who shapes metal pieces, often using a forge or mould, into useful objects or to be part of a more complex structure. Thus locksmithing, as its name implies, is the assembly and designing of locks and their respective keys by hand. Most locksmiths use automatic and manual cutting tools to mould keys; most are power tools having battery or mains electricity as their power source.


Locks have been constructed for over 2500 years, initially out of wood and later out of metal.[1] Historically, locksmiths would make the entire lock, working for hours hand cutting screws and doing much file-work. Lock designs became significantly more complicated in the 18th century, and locksmiths often specialized in repairing or designing locks.

Although fitting of keys to replace lost keys to automobiles and homes, and the changing of keys for homes and businesses to maintain security is still an important part of locksmithing, according to a 1976 US Government publication, locksmiths today are primarily involved in the installation of higher quality lock-sets and the design, implementation, and management of keying and key control systems.

Locksmith specialisations[edit]

Most locksmiths also do electronic lock servicing, such as making smart keys for transponder-equipped vehicles and the implementation and application of access control systems protecting individuals and assets for many large institutions.[2] Many also specialise in other areas such as:

Regulation by country[edit]


In Australia, prospective locksmiths are required to take a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) course in locksmithing, completion of which leads to issuance of a Level 3 Australian Qualifications Framework certificate, and complete an apprenticeship. They must also pass a criminal records check certifying that they are not currently wanted by the police. Apprenticeships can last one to four years. Course requirements are variable: there is a minimal requirements version that requires fewer total training units, and a fuller version that teaches more advanced skills, but takes more time to complete. Apprenticeship and course availability vary by state or territory.[3]


In Ireland, licensing for locksmiths was introduced in 2016,[4] with locksmiths having to obtain a Private Security Authority license. The Irish Locksmith Organisation has 50 members with ongoing training to ensure all members are up-to-date with knowledge and skills.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, there is no current government regulation for locksmithing, so effectively anyone can trade and operate as a locksmith with no skill or knowledge of the industry.[5]

United States[edit]

Fifteen states in the United States require licensure for locksmiths. Nassau County and New York City in New York State, and Hillsborough County and Miami-Dade County in Florida have their own licensing laws.[6] State and local laws are described in the table below.

US Locksmith Licensing[7][6]
State Regulatory body Requirements
Alabama Alabama Electronic Security Board of Licensure Certification course, continuing education, background check every two years
California California Department of Consumer Affairs, California Contractors State License Board; California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services California requires a C-28 Lock and Security Equipment Contractor license, with renewal every two years, in addition to a background check.[8][9]
Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Background check, registration (renews biennially)
Florida No statewide regulation. Counties of Hillsborough and Miami-Dade require licensure for locksmiths and locksmith firms. Miami-Dade's ordinance covers locksmithing, as well as the installation of security alarm closed-circuit television systems. Miami-Dade: must register with county and receive license. Each business performing locksmith services must have at least one license-holder in its employ. Fingerprinting and criminal background check accompany license application. Initial applicants must have a locksmith permit for one year before full licensure. Any work involving electrical systems must be done by someone who also holds a state electrician's or contractor's license.[10] Hillsborough: must apply for a biennial locksmith license. The cost is $500 for an individual or firm of up to five employees, $750 for a firm of six to ten employees, and $1000 for a firm of more than ten employees. A background check and proof of insurance are also required.[11]: 1 Pinellas: City of clearwater requires fingerprints applied by clearwater police.
Illinois Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Must not have been convicted of a felony in the last ten years, must take twenty-hour licensure course, must pass examination[12]
Louisiana Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall Must pass examination, pay initial registration of $250, and maintain registration for $50 annually thereafter. Additional training and certification are required for locksmiths dealing with locks on fire and safety equipment and alarm systems.[13]
Maryland Maryland Locksmith Licensing Program, Maryland Department of Labor Must apply for a license and submit to a criminal records check, and after issue, must carry a state-issued locksmith license card at all times when performing work. Prior felony and misdemeanor convictions will be weighed by the Secretary of Labor according to statutorily-determined factors, including length of time since the offense and applicant's behavior since, when deciding to grant or withhold a license. The licensee must carry liability insurance, and submit proof of insurance to the secretary.[14]
Nebraska County Clerk Registration with the county clerk in the county in which the locksmith's business is located
Nevada County Sheriff Must not be in arrears on child support, and must register with the county sheriff of the county in which the business is located
New Jersey New Jersey Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors Must be at least eighteen years of age, must complete three years of supervised locksmith work, working an average of at least twenty hours a week, or complete a formal two-year apprenticeship in a program approved by the United States Department of Labor, must not have been convicted of certain crimes within a ten-year period prior to application, and must pass an examination before being granted license.[15]
New York No statewide licensing requirement. In Nassau County, a county license is required.[16] Nassau County requirements include submission of passport-style photos for photo identification license card for the principal applicant; business or home address and phone number and proof of number operability in the form of a recent telephone bill; a listing of all employees and officers of the company along with passport photos; recent utility bill for the business location if the business is not operated from home; a statement of all criminal convictions for all employees and officers, along with court records if requested; statement all trade names used by the business, and incorporation documents, if applicable; proof of insurance; proof of workers' compensation registration; a federal employee identification number, and a state sales tax number, if applicable; and fingerprint records for all applicants, in addition to a non-refundable processing fee.[17]: 2–3 
North Carolina North Carolina Locksmith Licensing Board Must submit documentation of criminal history. Must submit documentation of out-of-state licenses, immigration status, and military discharge, if applicable. May optionally submit training certifications and other data. Must pay an initial license fee and subsequent annual renewal fees and keep license on person at all times. Must notify state of any employees operating under the owner's locksmith license. All apprentices must be themselves licensed under an apprentice license, and may not perform certain services, except under the direct supervision of a full locksmith license holder.[18][19]
Oklahoma Alarm, Locksmith, & Fire Sprinkler Program, Oklahoma Department of Labor Must not have been convicted of a felony and must register with Alarm, Locksmith, & Fire Sprinkler Program[20]
Oregon Oregon Construction Contractors Board Must pass a criminal background check, pass a license examination, and renew registration biennially
Tennessee Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Must provide documentation of citizenship or legal residency, any criminal convictions, all changes of address; business license in county or city where business operates, or a notarized statement that services will be for an employer or association and not offered directly to the public; otherwise, must submit documentation of application for, or employment by, a Tennessee Locksmith Company duly registered with the state. Conviction of a felony, or any level of drug, burglary, or breaking and entering offense may bar the applicant from licensure.[21]
Texas Department of Public Safety Private Security Board The owner or manager of a company providing locksmith services must hold a Locksmith Company License. To qualify for a license, the applicant must have two years service as a locksmith for a licensed company alternatively, the applicant may substitute one year's experience plus successful completion of a forty-eight hour licensure course, followed by successful completion of a comprehensive license examination.[22]
Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Must be over eighteen years of age. Must complete an eighteen-hour training course. Must undergo a criminal records check and submit fingerprints. Anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor (excluding traffic violations) in Virginia or any other jurisdiction must complete a supplemental Criminal History form detailing the circumstances of arrest and conviction, completion of sentence, and any record pertaining to parole or probation. Any false statements or omissions can provide grounds for denial of license and possible criminal sanctions.[23][24]


Locksmith, 2013

Locksmiths may be commercial (working out of a storefront), mobile (working out of a vehicle), institutional (employed by an institution) or investigatory (forensic locksmiths) or may specialize in one aspect of the skill, such as an automotive lock specialist, a master key system specialist or a safe technician.[2] Many are also security consultants, but not every security consultant has the skills and knowledge of a locksmith. Locksmiths are frequently certified in specific skill areas or to a level of skill within the trade. This is separate from certificates of completion of training courses. In determining skill levels, certifications from manufacturers or locksmith associations are usually more valid criteria than certificates of completion. Some locksmiths decide to call themselves "Master Locksmiths" whether they are fully trained or not, and some training certificates appear quite authoritative.

The majority of locksmiths also work on any existing door hardware, not just locking mechanisms. This includes door closers, door hinges, electric strikes, frame repairs and other door hardware.

Full disclosure[edit]

The issue of full disclosure was first raised in the context of locksmithing, in a 19th-century controversy regarding whether weaknesses in lock systems should be kept secret in the locksmithing community, or revealed to the public.

According to A. C. Hobbs:

A commercial, and in some respects a social doubt has been started within the last year or two, whether or not it is right to discuss so openly the security or insecurity of locks. Many well-meaning persons suppose that the discussion respecting the means for baffling the supposed safety of locks offers a premium for dishonesty, by showing others how to be dishonest. This is a fallacy. Rogues are very keen in their profession, and know already much more than we can teach them respecting their several kinds of roguery.

Rogues knew a good deal about lock-picking long before locksmiths discussed it among themselves, as they have lately done. If a lock, let it have been made in whatever country, or by whatever maker, is not so inviolable as it has hitherto been deemed to be, surely it is to the interest of honest persons to know this fact, because the dishonest are tolerably certain to apply the knowledge practically; and the spread of the knowledge is necessary to give fair play to those who might suffer by ignorance.

It cannot be too earnestly urged that an acquaintance with real facts will, in the end, be better for all parties. Some time ago, when the reading public was alarmed at being told how London milk is adulterated, timid persons deprecated the exposure, on the plea that it would give instructions in the art of adulterating milk; a vain fear, milkmen knew all about it before, whether they practised it or not; and the exposure only taught purchasers the necessity of a little scrutiny and caution, leaving them to obey this necessity or not, as they pleased.

-- From A. C. Hobbs (Charles Tomlinson, ed.), Locks and Safes: The Construction of Locks. Published by Virtue & Co., London, 1853 (revised 1868).

Notable locksmiths[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lock Manufacturers and Brands". 24 7 Locksmiths. Archived from the original on 2019-06-15. Retrieved 2017-08-13.
  2. ^ a b Statistics, United States Bureau of Labor (1976). Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Occupational Outlook. pp. 416–417. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Certificate III in Locksmithing". TAFE Queensland. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  4. ^ "Licensing of Locksmiths".
  5. ^ "Are locksmiths licensed in the UK?". The National Guild of Certified Locksmiths. April 9, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "State Licensing Laws". Associated Locksmiths of America. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  7. ^ Carpenter, Dick M. III; Knepper, Lisa; Sweetland, Kyle; McDonald, Jennifer. "License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing". Institute for Justice. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  8. ^ "Locksmith Company and Locksmith Employee Fact Sheet". California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. July 2020. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  9. ^ "Licensing_Classifications: C-28 Lock And Security Equipment". s. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  10. ^ "Locksmith License". Miami-Dade County. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  11. ^ "Hillsborough County Locksmith Services Business Licensing Application and Important Information" (PDF). Hillsborough County. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  12. ^ "Locksmith". Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  13. ^ "Life Safety & Property Protection Training Requirements". Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshalln. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  14. ^ "Maryland Locksmith Licensing Program". Maryland Department of Labor. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  15. ^ "New Jersey Office of the Attorney General: Application for a Locksmith License" (PDF). New Jersey Attorney General. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  16. ^ "Local Law 19-2007: A Local Law to amend the Administrative Code in relation to locksmith licenses". Nassau County Legislature. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  17. ^ "General Instructions for the Locksmith License". Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  18. ^ "North Carolina Locksmith Licensing Board: Application for a Locksmith License" (PDF). North Carolina Locksmith Licensing Board. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  19. ^ "North Carolina Locksmith Licensing Board: Application for a Locksmith Apprentice License". North Carolina Locksmith Licensing Board. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  20. ^ "Alarm, Locksmith, & Fire Sprinkler Program". Oklahoma Office of the Department of Labor. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  21. ^ "TN Regulations: Locksmith". Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  22. ^ "Private Security Administrative Rules:RULE §35.123 Locksmith Company License" (PDF). Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  23. ^ "Licensure and Regulatory Affairs: Locksmith". Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  24. ^ "Licensure and Regulatory Affairs: Criminal History". Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  25. ^ Lea, Robert (2010). "Going for Growth: why Banham is not going to bolt now" The Times
  26. ^ Evening Standard. 9/25/2014, p73. 1p.
  27. ^ "Lock cylinder". Archived from the original on 2017-12-31.
  28. ^ "Door fastening device". Archived from the original on 2017-12-31.
  29. ^ "Banham - Experts in Security Services". Banham. Archived from the original on 2017-01-25.
  30. ^ "Opening an Antique Bramah Box Lock". Hygra.com. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  31. ^ "Bramah Locks". Crypto.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2012-08-15.

External links[edit]