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Careers in Pyrotechnics: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pyrotechnic worker. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and training to find out if this is the career for you.

A career in pyrotechnics is usually achievable by on the job training, though schooling options are available. These jobs give employees the necessary skills and safety precautions required to safely explode devices and demolition buildings in a controlled environment. Pyrotechnics workers are required to be licensed.

Essential Information

Jobs in the pyrotechnics industry involve safely using explosive devices for practical purposes, such as for demolition or for entertainment, including fireworks displays. Workers measure, pack and wire explosive chemicals for detonation. Pyrotechnics workers understand and adhere to local and federal safety laws, and in some cases must obtain licenses or permits to work with explosives.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements On-the-job training; Licensure or a permit
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% for all explosives workers, ordnance handling experts and blasters*
Median Salary (2015) $50,210 for all explosives workers, ordnance handling experts and blasters*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*

Pyrotechnics Career Options

Explosives Workers

Explosives experts create, install and safely detonate explosive devices for mining and construction. For construction, some pyrotechnics specialists carefully install charges to demolish buildings or remove large obstacles at a building site. Those in the mining industry set up explosives to help excavate minerals or create new mine shafts.

Commercial Fireworks

Those who work in the commercial fireworks industry and create large-scale aerial shows are display operators. They are responsible for safely setting up explosives to be launched into the sky over amusement parks, circuses and other locations. Many work with team members at a single location, but others travel around the country setting up shows that adhere to local safety codes.

Stage Pyrotechnics

Producing quick bursts of flames or confetti explosions adds an element of stage pyrotechnics to live shows and movie sets. Workers in this field rig pyrotechnic stunts designed to go off at a specific moment during an event or during filming. They must know where performers are at all times in order to set up pyrotechnics equipment at a safe distance. Pyrotechnics crews remain close to detonate devices and troubleshoot problems with wiring or faulty explosives.

Requirements for Pyrotechnics Careers

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), pyrotechnics professionals must be at least 18 years old, although some states require workers to be 21. APA noted that certain supervisory job positions may only be held by individuals over 21. Additionally, depending on state and county law, technicians may have to submit to drug and alcohol testing as well as background checks prior to employment.

Training requirements vary by career. For instance, most display operators receive on-the-job training through an apprenticeship program that could last 1-3 years, according to APA. Construction crew workers also receive on-the-job explosives training, and some may obtain classroom training as well. Explosives experts in the mining industry may be required to have a bachelor's degree in a major like explosives engineering.

With any profession related to pyrotechnics, workers must know local, state and federal laws concerning explosive devices. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) enforces federal regulations related to pyrotechnics and approves federal explosives licenses. Many cities and counties require pyrotechnics crews to obtain safety and fire permits prior to a show. Workers may have to prove experience, pyrotechnics education and licensure before obtaining a permit.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed explosives workers is expected to grow 4% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for explosives workers as of May 2015 was $50,210. Those in heavy construction and consulting positions earned the highest salaries in this field.

Pyrotechnics workers might create explosions for productive purposes, such as mining or demolition, or they may create visual effects for entertainment, such as fireworks or special effects in a movie. In either instance, they must be practiced in creating safe, controlled explosions.


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