“The thrill of blowing up things,” “appreciative gasps of delight from the audience,” “fun way to use my science degree” – these are all personal reasons for getting into the industry as mentioned by practicing pyrotechnicians.  Do you want to take your firework skills to the next level, maybe work with fireworks as a paying career? There are many things you need to know before you explode onto the scene.
What exactly is a pyrotechnician? A pyrotechnician is the professional in charge of setup and discharge of a public fireworks display. The candidate must be well-versed in federal, state, and local laws regarding the safe setup and discharge of a fireworks show. A pyrotechnician will oversee a crew that he delegates important tasks to, such as creating the elements, fusing, set construction, quality control and other responsibilities.
How much will I work?  Most pyrotechnicians work on a contract basis, unless they are successful enough to have established their own business. The long-running joke in the industry is that the only day you’re guaranteed to work on is the 4th of July!  This is why many pyrotechnicians consider their work more than a hobby, but not a full-time job.
How do you become a pyrotechnician?  The regulations vary from state to state and the details can be found in the State Fire Marshall’s office. Typically, a candidate has to apprentice for a set number of hours at firework shows under an already licensed pyrotechnician. Your educational background is less important than your hands-on skills and responsibility; however, it doesn’t hurt to have a college degree in chemistry, electrical engineering or some other science relevant to the field. You will also need to gain letters of recommendation and go through a background check. After making it through these steps, you’ll be required to take a written exam and obtain a commercial driver’s license that allows you to transport hazardous materials. The entire process for all these steps might take two to three years!
How much money will I make?  Pyrotechnicians that are “independent contractors” work for the wages for which they contract. Usually, the bigger and more complex the show, the larger the rate – some independent contractors are able to negotiate that they are paid a percentage of the show’s proceeds by the operator. Practicing pyrotechnicians report that they have made anywhere from $200 to more than $2000 for providing services at a firework show.  However, expenses much come out of this fee – that may include purchasing supplies and paying the crew.  To increase your earnings potential as a pyrotechnician, it is imperative to obtain the proper degrees and certifications that will make you more valuable and show that you are an expert in the field.