Become a Licensed Pyrotechnician: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

Pyrotechnicians, also known as pyrotechnic operators, transport and shoot professional-grade display fireworks. Read on to learn about the training, licensure, and experience requirements for this career.

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Should I Become a Licensed Pyrotechnician?

Pyrotechnicians work with and shoot display fireworks and they must be licensed in many states. These professionals must complete training through professional organizations or colleges. Experience is required before pyrotechnicians can obtain a license. These licenses need to be renewed every one to three years for a pyrotechnician to keep their pyrotechnic operator license.

Career Requirements

Education Required Professional training program
Experience Experience working on 3-6 licensed fireworks displays before licensure
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in many states
Training One-day sessions, written exam included
Salary Variable; pay can be hourly or based on specific performances

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,,

Steps to Becoming a Licensed Pyrotechnician

Step 1: Complete Training

Basic training may be available through professional organizations, such as the Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI). Courses teach prospective pyrotechnicians how to safely handle, store, and transport fireworks. They also teach students how to remove malfunctioning fireworks, such as duds and misfires. Courses generally take one day to complete and include classroom lectures and demonstrations. At the end of the class, students take a written exam that may be used to earn PGI certification.

Courses are available through colleges and universities as well. These may also be one-day sessions that cover such topics as safety, hand-firing techniques, and wiring methods. Other courses teach students how to design pyrotechnic special effects for film and stage productions. This training may be offered through a school's theater or drama department and can also prepare students for state licensure.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Before obtaining a license, pyrotechnicians must acquire experience. Many states require applicants to act as lead shooters or assistants in three to six licensed fireworks displays before they can earn licensure. These requirements can often be met by volunteering to work under the direction of a licensed pyrotechnic operator. Opportunities may be available with professional pyrotechnics associations, guilds, or clubs. This experience can also qualify graduates of PGI courses for certification, which may be accepted as an alternative to state licensure in some jurisdictions.

Step 3: Pass a Pyrotechnic Operator Exam

States that license pyrotechnicians typically issue pyrotechnic operator exams through their fire marshal's office. Applicants will need to provide documentation of their experience in order to sit for these written exams. Most states require scores of at least 70%-90% in order to pass. Once applicants submit these exam scores, along with applications and license fees, they're granted a pyrotechnic operator license.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

Pyrotechnic operator licenses need to be renewed every one to three years. By keeping this professional license up to date, working pyrotechnicians will be readily prepared for the various types of shows and performances that provide opportunities for employment.

Licensed pyrotechnicians should complete training, gain relevant experience, pass a pyrotechnic operator exam, and keep their certification up to date in order to work in this field.

Expert Contributor: Jared Ward Jared has MA and PhD degrees in religious studies and Asian history. As a professor he teaches history, philosophy and anthropology

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