Institutional Locksmithing: Ready When You Are

The more commercial experience that a locksmith can glean, the better chances of qualifying for a government or institutional locksmith position. Usually an employer is not interested in residential or car-opening experience. Safe and vault work is a...

Here has never been more of an opportunity to become an institutional locksmith. The number of government agencies, institutions and companies employing locksmiths full-time has greatly increased. As baby boomers, many institutional locksmiths are retiring or reaching retirement age.

Institutional locksmiths are locksmiths who are dedicated to and permanently employed by: schools and colleges; local, state, and federal agencies; hospitals and medical facilities; facilities and maintenance companies; aerospace and defense contractors; private security providers; and corporations.

However, converting to institutional locksmithing isn't for everybody. In fact, some locksmiths do not enjoy the repetitive nature of working for one customer. The same persons scoff at having to punch a clock and having to show up on time every day.

What has attracted many persons to locksmithing in the first place is the ability to work for yourself, to make your own hours, to choose your own customers.

Others are attracted to the consistency and the stability of knowing that there is work available for as long as they want it. The same persons are attracted to the ability to get a pension, in most cases before fifty, if they start out early enough in life.

For those locksmiths that want to give it a try, there are plenty of jobs available so pick your prospective employer carefully.


It hasn't been that long ago that carpenters performed the work normally done by locksmiths for their employers. This is because most locks used by employers were basic: either mounting on the surface of or mortised within wooden doors and cabinets. This required “carpentry” or the preparation of wood, so naturally lock installation was assigned to carpenters. As carpenter unions formalized, the installation of locks and door closers appeared in static job descriptions.

With the advent of steel doors and cabinets, employers found carpenters resistive to lock installations where metal preparation was required. When locks were mounted onto metal: metal-workers, mill-wrights, and machinists were given the task.

As locks became more complicated to install, employers called upon outside resources such as locksmiths to perform installations correctly. Through the constant repetition of calling out locksmiths, some employers found it cost-effective to out-and-out hire the locksmith full-time.

There is always a hierarchy within union trades. Usually carpenters, electricians, and plumbers are at the top of the food chain. It seemed natural to assign supervision of a locksmith to the carpenter shop. This is why so many trade organizations today have the locksmith reporting to the carpenter. Union locksmith wages tend to parallel carpenter wages because of this relationship.

In the 1960s, as the cold war geared up, there was a need to protect governmental secrets and innovations. Defense and aerospace companies that did business with the government were required to protect their efforts with specialized locks.

These types of employers preferred that locksmiths be supervised by their security departments. Because of their specialized services, it was not uncommon for the locksmiths to be employees of the company rather than union personnel. This was especially handy during period of strike when locksmiths could lock out union personnel without conflict of interest. This also allowed locksmiths to be properly “vetted” (per government regulations) as union restrictions often clashed with some of the stringent requirements necessary to process a clearance.

Modern-day institutional locksmiths can be assigned to facility or security departments, depending on the need of the company.

Today there is a heightened awareness regarding security. Electronic access is the order of the day; patented keying systems are standard; and everything is getting locked up.

It is a good time to be an institutional locksmith as demand has sky-rocketed and jobs are everywhere.

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