Pros and Cons of a Career in Pyrotechnics
Some of the most common terms used for individuals who are professionally involved with pyrotechnic displays include operators, shooters and pyrotechnics technicians. Below is a table that illustrates some of the characteristics of a career as a pyrotechnics operator:
|Pros of Being a Pyrotechnics Operator|
|Opportunity to be creative|
|Often work in interesting settings (theme parks, resorts, etc.)|
|Decent compensation ($30-$65 per hour)*|
|Only a high school degree is required|
|Cons of Being a Pyrotechnics Operator|
|Strict entry-level requirements (at least 1-3 years experience required)|
|Work requires exposure to potentially hazardous materials|
|Work schedule can be erratic and inconsistent|
|Extensive licensure and certification requirements|
As a pyrotechnics operator, you would be responsible for the safe and successful design, set-up and execution of a fireworks display. You might also be tasked with the safe transport of all equipment to a venue. Professionals in this field can work on their own as independent contractors or find employment with pyrotechnics companies that put on public fireworks displays and create special effects.
In most states, you must be licensed to work as a pyrotechnics operator. Typical stipulations include a clear criminal record and passing scores on an exam covering safety standards outlined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). You must also be 21 years of age or older. Additional requirements can include recommendations from licensed pyrotechnics operators and experience in as many as six public fireworks displays.
You can prepare to meet these requirements by completing training courses conducted by pyrotechnics companies and professional organizations like the Pyrotechnics Guild International, Inc (PGI). You can also gain experience by volunteering to work with a club or professional pyrotechnics crew, assisting more experienced operators before taking on the role of lead shooter.
Pyrotechnics operators responsible for transporting and buying professional grade display fireworks must also receive a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A commercial driver's license (CDL) with a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) endorsement might be required as well.
If you'd like to set yourself apart from other job applicants and develop your expertise, consider participating in as many displays as possible. Membership in fireworks clubs or trade associations could provide you with these opportunities.
You might also want to think about earning the Display Operator Certification from PGI. In addition to completing its 1-day training course, you'll need to provide documentation of your experience in five fireworks displays and pass an exam. In some states, this credential can be used to meet licensure requirements. It can also allow you to demonstrate your professionalism to potential employers.