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What does this guide cover?

You’re looking for something new. Either you need the work because you’ve lost your job, or are at risk of the same, or you’re tired of your job. Whatever the reason, you find yourself here, looking at these words, and asking yourself: How do I become a locksmith when I can barely afford to pay my bills? That’s what this guide covers. Locksmithing on a budget.

Starting something new is always scary, but it doesn’t have to be. What this guide will show you is the path of least resistance. It isn’t about getting rich, it’s about getting secure, and getting started.

First we’ll figure out what your ultimate goals are. This is the most important step, so don’t skip it. Without knowing what your ultimate goal is, you can’t know which path is right for you.

If you’re just curious about both paths, then read both, but don’t forget to do the steps along the way to find the right path for you.

Locksmithing on a Budget

Door number 1, or Door number 2?

There are two categories of people reading this right now: Future business owners, and Future employees. Neither of these paths is better than the other, they are just different paths. What we need to figure out is which one are you?

Not which one do you want to be, but which one are you?

I would wager there are a number of you right now saying “I am a Future owner” when in reality you are not. It’s fine not to be the owner, there are things involved in being an owner operator that you might not want to deal with. For some of you, those things might be the very reasons why you’re interested.

So, how do we figure out who you are?

What are your goals?

You want to make money, pay bills, and live stress free. I have just read your mind. Or, I read the mind of every adult human without a trust fund.

We need to dig deeper, here.

Do you want to build a career in a stable industry with future prospects? Do you look around your local area and ask yourself how you can benefit the economy? Maybe you are interested in helping people, and really enjoy puzzles. Knowing what your goals are, what your desires for work are, inform which path you will take: Owner, or Employee?

Let’s make this as simple as possible. Rate these true or false:

  1. It is important to me that I be able in control.
  2. I’m willing to work day and night to make this dream happen.
  3. My savings is substantial enough to help me out if work comes slow.
  4. I know what my local laws are.
  5. I won’t be tempted to pay household bills with business money

If you answered true to all of those, then you are likely a Future owner. Otherwise, follow the Future employee path.


Don’t worry. The beautiful thing about life is that you can change it. Employers can become employees, and vice versa. It’s as simple as making that decision when the time comes.

Future Owners

So you’ve decided that you want to be an owner. This is the path for the entrepreneurial sort. There is a long build up, but if done correctly you can move yourself out of the day to day and into the role of guiding hand. Becoming a future owner might seem to go against the whole “locksmithing on a budget” thing, though.

Pitfall to watch out for

It’s important to note that being an owner is a job in and of itself. If you’re interested in this path just because you want to avoid being under a boss’ thumb, you are going to run into issues. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about check out The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. (The “E” in this case referring to Entrepreneur not Electronic.) That book is required reading for anyone interested in becoming a small business owner of any kind.

Get Started

Before you can get started running your own business, you need to have established a few things.

  1. Skills
  2. Tools
  3. Education Certifications (if required)
  4. Licenses (if required)

Note that these are just the prerequisites. There is so much more that is required before you can open your doors for business, but these are needed before you can get to the rest.

This isn’t intended to scare you off, though. On the contrary, I believe this is a great path for anyone who truly wants to be an owner, even those trying to get into locksmithing on a budget. But you should be aware of the needs heading into it. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Let’s start at the top: Skills. To make both of our lives easier, I won’t dive into the skills around sales and customer service. Those are necessary, but there are people much better than I who can speak to that.

For the purpose of this guide, the skills I’m talking about are trade skills. The art of being a locksmith. Opening locks. Re-pinning locks. Cutting keys. Those types of skills. You should also know how to use a power drill and a saw. Any experience with basic woodworking will come into play here daily.

To recap, the skills you should know are:

How to:

  • use lockpicks correctly
  • dismantle a lock and swap out pins
  • cut new keys for locks
  • install locks (including cutting the holes)


I won’t go into too much detail here, because we’re talking about how to get started in locksmithing on a budget, but I will list the bare essentials for someone getting started. These tools are an absolute necessity if you’re going to be doing residential locksmithing (which is the bread and butter of most locksmiths in America.)

You probably have most of this stuff already. The beauty of locksmithing is that, outside of the specialty tools like your lockpicks and bump keys, everything else is pretty normal every day tools.

If you don’t want to get started with the bare essential lockpick set, you can follow our guide on the best beginner lockpick set to find the right set for you.

Education Certifications and Licenses

Some states require education and some states don’t. Some require licenses, and some don’t. Instead of trying to explain each in detail here, you likely know where you intend on running your business. You can use our directory of state locksmithing requirements, find your state, and read up on it for yourself.

More information

The dirty little secret that I’ve been keeping from you, is that each and every one of the things I’ve listed so far can be earned, over time, by becoming an employee first. Now you feel cheated, I understand, but don’t fret! Continue reading the Future Employee path, and learn more.

As for becoming an owner. there is a lot more to know about becoming a future owner, but we’re talking a college course worth of knowledge. If you start with the above, you can further your education with our free 6 week course by signing up below.

FREE 6 Week Course!

Get actionable steps every week. By the end of the course you will have everything you need to launch your own locksmithing business!

Future Employee

Maybe you have no desire to run your own business, or you’ve done it before and you’re just interested in doing the stuff you enjoy. Whatever the reason, you’ve chosen the path of Future Employee.

Here is where you know something that Future Owners might not: Everyone is an employee. Whether you’re the owner or not, you are an employee. As an owner, you aren’t getting rid of your employee role, you’re just taking on a second job of managing yourself. And you are the hardest person to manage.


It is much easier to get started as an employee. You can get started with no skills, no tools, nothing. If you come into this with skills, you may be able to start as an employee at a higher level, but if that were the case you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?

To build up your skills, you have a few different options. These range in cost, from paying you, to being free, to costing you money. You can use your judgement on each, and the advice posted in our descriptions.


If you are reading this from New York City, I’m going to direct you to a much more specific article about how to become a locksmith apprentice in NYC. Go read that, and then come back here. Mainly because in NYC it is actually a requirement.

For the rest of you, where it may or may not be required, you should still reach out to your local locksmith and find one who can take you on as an apprentice. This is the best option for becoming a locksmith in any sense of the job, be it an employee or owner. If you don’t know the difference between a pin and tumbler lock and a wafer lock, you should use this time to build that knowledge — all while getting paid. And let’s face it, if you’re trying to get into locksmithing on a budget, you can’t do much better than “getting paid to do it” can you?


This is where we come in. Online education around locksmithing is…sparse, to say the least. It is an industry which is currently dated, with an average age that keeps growing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find information online, or that you can’t learn everything you need to online.

Sites like ours aim to grow into comprehensive resources for locksmith education. A one-stop-shop if you will. But YouTube is filled with videos that show you how to successfully bypass a large number of locks. These videos are targeted to the locksport crowd, but that information will transfer.

If you’re trying to get started locksmithing on a budget, you will almost inevitably have to throw some free online education into the mix.

Formal Schooling

There are schools that offer classes on locksmithing. In some states these classes are mandatory, as the laws require you to earn so many college credits towards your license. This can be an extremely effective way to learn, though it can also be the most expensive. These classes are generally done in person, which requires time out of your life, but it does provide you a person that can guide you in things that you may be struggling with.

As you can see, there are trade offs to everything here, but there is also a path for everyone. You don’t have to be super rich to become a locksmith, nor do you have to spend all that much time on it, in fact. The skills required to get started as an apprentice are nearly zero, and you’ll learn anything you need on the job.

Getting the job

The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of job you’re looking for. Commercial or Residential? Apprentice or Locksmith? Once you know that, look up companies in your area that handle those jobs, and might have openings. Then reach out to the shops. Let them know what experience you have, and that you’re interested in a position with them. Even if they don’t have open positions try to build a relationship with them. They may not ever hire you, but this industry is a small one, and you might need to call on them down the road for help.


Whether or not you need your own tools really depends on the company that hires you, but I would say you’re unlikely to need more than a few basic tools that you probably already have. If they want you to start gathering up specialty tools like lockpicks, bump keys, shims, etc, they will tell you and you can do that a little at a time, which is the best that you can do when locksmithing on a budget. It won’t save you money, but you won’t spend it all up front.

Do remember that if you purchase these tools with your own money they are your tools not the shop’s. That means if you leave, they come with you.

I emphasis this because some of the less reputable shops can attempt to use their employees to build their own tool collection, and that’s both not right, as well as illegal. Don’t fall for it.