If explosions, fireballs and loud booms get you as sexually aroused as Michael Bay, then I have got the job for you! You will be amongst a global elite group of individuals that get paid (and not put in jail) to blow sh*t up. Although your hand clenching a BIC lighter is trembling with excitement, put it back in your pants, because you need to know a few things before you start. This is how to be a pyrotechnician.
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There is more than one type
So there is a distinction here. A pyrotechnician is someone that usually leans towards entertainment; explosives technicians are people that generally work with higher power explosives for military, demolition and commercial (mining for example) use. And then you have your Firework and Special Effects Technicians.
Get your school on
I know that you want to start shooting highly volatile projectiles into the air that result in ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’, the problem is, as mentioned above, that these materials are highly volatile. You need to know how to transport, store and set them off before you can impress people by shooting explosive canisters into the sky like you have some Steven Seagal-ish vendetta with it. If you have your high school diploma or GED (high school equivalency certificate), then you can take a one day course, or a multi-day course at various accredited training institutions. Some classes are even offered at certain Universities.
Depending on the country you intend to work in you’ll need to be certified further than the courses mentioned above. In the United States, although there are no Federal requirements. Individual states have many different prerequisites before you are allowed to blow things up. Many times you’ll have to get certified in various locations and even countries. This can be a pain until you realize that it gives you the luxury to do something you enjoy while also giving you the freedom to travel.
How much does it pay?
Well even after extensive research the only thing I can conclusively say is that it depends. Pyrotechnicians that work on movies generally have more consistent work but are paid less. Firework Pyrotechnicians usually get paid more but don’t get work that frequently. Also keep in mind that you might have to complete unpaid internships to gain hours and experience in the field. Top tier Hollywood Pyrotechnicians allegedly make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year though.
How Many are there
Although there are thousands of Firework Display Pyrotechnicians, there are relatively few special effects Pyros. According to an L.A. Times article there are only about 190 first-class Pyro’s registered in California, and most of the workshops are located in the San Fernando Valley. Because these Pyros use various types of explosives and combustibles, they must also be registered with the ATF or the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Administration.
How Safe is it
Well, as safe as you’d assume any job involving blowing things up is. In Hollywood, Pyrotechnicians are very heavily regulated and controlled minimizing injury or death. For the past decade or so there has not been a single serious incident.
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Do you want to become a Pyrotechnician? Then let me know in the comment section below.