How to become a locksmith

A locksmith using a screwdriver replacing a lock in a door.

Locksmiths are highly skilled tradespeople. It’s their job to fit, repair and replace locks and keys. As the vast majority of buildings in the UK - both domestic and commercial - use locks to secure their property, locksmithing is a high demand trade. This means this profession can be very lucrative.

So, the question is, how do you start a career in this trade?

In this guide, we outline exactly what a career as a locksmith looks like. This will include a look at what qualifications you may need and the different career pathways available to you. Finally, we will explore how long it takes to become a qualified locksmith and what business insurance may be required in this field.

What qualifications do you need to be a locksmith?

Strong problem-solving skills and good attention to detail are needed to succeed as a locksmith. However, when it comes to formal training, you do not need any specific qualifications to trade as a locksmith. That’s not to say formal training is not a good idea though. On the contrary, before you start to ply your trade as a locksmith, it is recommended that you gain as much experience and industry training as possible. In the UK, there are a number of ways to do this.

How to become a locksmith in the UK

Like most high-skilled vocational trades, there is no one set way to become a locksmith in the UK. Instead, there are a range of different career pathways budding locksmiths can opt for. Carry on reading to find out more about two of the most common entry points into this exciting profession.

Complete a locksmith course

The most common way to get into locksmithing is by taking a locksmith training course at a college or adult learning centre. This is also the quickest way to learn the skills you need. Depending on what course you opt for, you can gain a qualification in locksmithing in as little as five days.

There are also courses aimed at those with all different levels of previous experience. For example, a Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)-approved beginners’ course can be completed in a week. This course is aimed at complete novices and teaches basic key cutting, lock fitting, and machining skills.

Alternatively, if you already have some experience in the industry but want a qualification to certify your skills, an MLA-approved advanced locksmith course may be the best option. These courses focus on improving your locksmithing skill set and allow you to master more niche areas of the trade. For example, training modules may include master classes on traditional  hand-cutting skills and antique furniture lock repair and restoration. These skills allow you to broaden the services you can offer customers, making you a more valuable tradesperson. Many locksmiths even start their own business on the back of taking one of these courses.

Become an apprentice

Unfortunately, there is no longer a government-supported locksmithing apprenticeship scheme in the UK. However, according to the MLA, a new scheme is currently in development. This means it’s a good idea to regularly check for updates on the MLA website.

That being said, there are still ways to get into locksmithing through an apprenticeship. Firstly, you can try contacting locksmithing companies directly and asking them if they would be interested in taking on an apprenticeship. While you would have to negotiate your own terms, and may have to contribute to your own qualification costs, this can be a good way to gain the practical experience needed to thrive in this industry. Learning on-the-job from an experienced boss is a great way to develop your skills.

Alternatively, you could opt for a government-supported apprenticeship in a related field. For example, in carpentry and joinery. In many cases, carpentry and joinery qualifications include locksmithing modules. This means this can be a good route into the industry, while also giving you scope for a career in a wider field. And remember - when you are taken on as an apprentice, you earn while you learn. This means you will be taking home a wage while picking up the training and classroom-based qualifications you need to succeed in your chosen trade. This financial incentive can make learning a trade much more accessible.

How long does it take to become a locksmith?

As there are no required qualifications, there is no set time frame to become a locksmith. In theory, anyone could set up a business and start trading as a locksmith tomorrow. However, time is needed to become a competent locksmith. This depends on what formal training you opt for and how much experience you gain along the way.

Individuals can become a trained locksmith in as little as five days after completing a beginners’ college course, for example. Alternatively, a related  level 2 apprenticeship can take up to two years to complete. However, it is generally accepted in the industry that it takes between three and four years to become a fully competent locksmith. This is because you continue to learn on-the-job, and a well-rounded arsenal of skills can only be developed with real-life experience.

What insurance do new locksmiths need?

Employers' liability insurance is required for any locksmith who employs staff to help them on the job. However, public liability policies are totally optional. This means, unless you hire someone, there are no legal requirements when it comes to insurance for new locksmiths.

However, this doesn’t mean locksmiths shouldn’t consider taking out insurance. On the contrary, in the event a claim is made against you, insurance could be the only thing that keeps you trading as a self-employed locksmith. As with any trade, accidents happen when locksmithing. That’s why it pays to be protected. For example, say a client falls over a tool you’ve left out and injures themselves while you are changing a lock. Or you accidentally damage an item of expensive furniture while replacing a lock. In both of these scenarios, public liability insurance can cover any legal costs and compensation you may be ordered to pay.

Tool and equipment cover is also worth considering. These policies protect self-employed locksmiths in the event any tools or equipment are lost, stolen or damaged. Successful payouts allow you to replace vital tools. In some instances, this insurance can also cover any loss of earnings that result from being without essential equipment.

At Markel Direct, we offer expert locksmithing insurance policies. These combined policies allow workers in this trade to build their own bespoke insurance policy made up of several types of cover. This includes the likes of public liability, employers' liability, and tools insurance.

Business insurance from £5 a month