Pyrotechnic Technician: Job Description & Requirements
Pyrotechnic technicians, commonly referred to as pyrotechnicians, are individuals who are licensed to handle, store, and operate fireworks and other pyrotechnic materials. These individuals must be at least 18 years old and in good legal standing, among other requirements. Most of the skills needed to become a pyrotechnician may be learned through on-the-job training.
Pyrotechnicians are licensed individuals who transport, set up, operate, and breakdown fireworks displays. They apply the principles of explosives, ballistics, and basic chemistry to the safe operation of explosive devices. Professional are knowledgeable of the various types of fireworks, including aerial shells, comets, and bouquets.
Pyrotechnicians must know the codes and regulations set forth by various local, state, and federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). Since this job is particularly hazardous and physically demanding, pyrotechnicians may be expected to maintain good physical conditioning.
To work on a display fireworks team, one must be at least 18 years old; some states require one to be 21 years of age. To work as a lead fireworks display operator, one must be 21. In most states, attaining a license is necessary to work independently in this profession. Aspiring pyrotechnicians must complete some form of fireworks display training as well as pass background checks and drug screening tests.
Aspiring pyrotechnicians can begin their training by locating a fireworks display organization that is approved by the ATF. Some companies provide the job training, and others may refer learners to training courses through professional associations. For instance, the Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI) offers basic display operator courses in addition to providing optional certification (www.pgi.org).
All training programs teach basic pyrotechnic principles, safety procedures, and regulations. In addition to classroom lectures, firsthand field experience is an important part of the educational process. Pyrotechnician students must participate in a number of firework shows to demonstrate competency. The apprenticeship process may take one to three years altogether.
To apply for licensure, individuals must prove their training and work experience. They may need to send in evidence documenting their participation as lead operator in a certain number of fireworks displays. In addition, submission of an affidavit that has been signed and notarized by the ATF-approved company under which the prospective pyrotechnician apprenticed may be required.
Depending on the state, the license might be called Fireworks Display Operator or Pyrotechnic Operator. The state licensing process costs money, with some states charging as much as $1,500 for the general public display licensure. In addition to the operator license, some companies may also expect their pyrotechnicians to obtain commercial drivers licenses (CDL) that include HAZMAT endorsements. In this case, additional training, testing, background checks and drug screening may be required.
According to Salary.com, a professional pyrotechnician can earn between $35 and $60 an hour, depending on the type and location of the job. In addition to fireworks displays, pyrotechnicians are the individuals behind the stunts and explosions at entertainment and amusement parks as well as in film and television productions. In these cases, overtime is often required until the scene is just right, and time-and-a-half and double-time pay can make for excellent salary potential in some markets.
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