How to become a Pyrotechnician
The first step in becoming a pyrotechnician is to ask yourself whether you are really enthused about working behind the scenes at a fireworks show instead of simply watching the show. Becoming a pyrotechnician involves putting in a number of hours working alongside someone with experience in the industry so that you can learn the ropes.
Another thing to consider before you pursue this option any further is whether you are willing to give up weekends and holidays (especially the Fourth of July) to work.
Each state is responsible for setting its own licensing requirements. You can find a list on the American Pyrotechnics Association web site. Find out whether you need to get your license renewed each year, what kinds of fireworks can be used legally in the state, and whether you need to obtain a special permit before a show.
Most people who want to become pyrotechnicians start off by approaching a local fireworks display company and volunteering to help someone who is working as a pyrotechnician. The minimum age to start working on a display fireworks crew is 18 in most parts of the United States. To be a Display Operator in charge, you must be at least 21.
Expect to have to undergo a criminal background check before you are able to start working on a fireworks crew, even on a volunteer basis. You may also be asked to undergo drug and/or alcohol testing as well.
An apprentice will work on several shows under the supervision of more experienced members of the crew. As the apprentice gains experience working on between three and six outdoor shows, their performance is being constantly supervised and evaluated.
As the apprentice gains experience, he or she will be able to work on fireworks shows as the Display Operator’s assistant.
The process of moving from a new apprentice to a fully-trained Display Operator will take between one and three years. The time frame will depend on how many shows the apprentice is able to participate in and how long it takes them to learn all the procedures involved in running a pyrotechnics show successfully.
Depending on the state where you are working, you may also be required to get a pyrotechnician’s license. Candidates need to undergo testing and pay an annual fee to keep the license current. A Display Operator may also need to complete the requirements for a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and a Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) endorsement.