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How to Get Your Pyrotechnics License

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Pyrotechnic materials are a class of explosives typically used in products like fireworks and signaling flares. Fireworks are popular during holiday celebrations and special effects productions are popular in entertainment or movie venues. A license is required for those who handle and discharge pyrotechnics in these instances. The licensee is usually referred to as a pyrotechnics or special effects operator. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically include operator training, testing, experience and skill. Federal requirements may also apply.

Verify Federal Requirements

Depending on the pyrotechnic activities, you may need a permit or license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. If you plan to buy, sell or use pyrotechnics, check ATF permit or licensing rules. According to the ATF, “any person engaging in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in display fireworks must have an ATF license. Any person importing for their own use or receiving or transporting display fireworks must have at least an ATF permit.” Note that even if you do get a federal permit or license, your state or locality's licensing laws still apply.

Check State Licensing Requirements

The fire marshal is the pyrotechnics licensing authority in many states. Expect the licensing process to vary. In some states, training and examinations are required; in others, a simple notification is all it takes. Contact the fire marshal in your state to determine exact licensing requirements. Another resource is the American Pyrotechnics Association. For example, according to the APA state law directory, California requires pyrotechnic operators to pass a written exam and provide proof of qualification and experience, whereas testing is not part of Wyoming’s requirements.

Get Training and Experience

In many states, and for the sake of safety, you must show some level of competency as a pyrotechnics operator before you can get a license. For example, you might need to gain work experience under a licensed pyrotechnics operator, complete a training program and pass an exam before you can apply for and receive a pyrotechnics license. In New York, this competency comes in the form of certification, which requires three years of experience and a passing score on a written exam.

Prepare and Submit Application

Applications are available from the fire marshal or licensing authority in your state. While each state or local authority may request area-specific information, you generally need to include proof of completed training, supervised participation in special effects displays or fireworks shows, a copy of any applicable ATF permits and a valid photo ID such as a state driver’s license. You must be 21 or older to apply. Additionally, if an application fee applies, you must include it in your submitted application.


Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.

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