The PGI Display Operator Course is designed to meet the need for a general course on display operations and serves as the first step in becoming a PGI Certified Display Operator.
The course presents a comprehensive full day of instruction on current firework display practices. Both classroom training and live fire field training are included. A complete copy of the current PGI Display Operator Textbook is used during the class and is yours to keep as a valuable reference tool.
PGI’s Display Operator Course is revised regularly to remain consistent with the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) codes 1123 and 1124 pertaining to firework displays. The course is one of only two nationally available fireworks training programs recognized as compliant by the NFPA.
Upcoming Display Operator Courses
Click here to see a list of upcoming Display Operator Courses provided by independent, certified instructors.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a certified pyrotechnician?
To become a pyrotechnician with respect to professional display fireworks, you must gain both training and experience.
- TRAINING – There are multiple ways to get training. You can complete the PGI Display Operator Course, or you can also attend training at a fireworks display company near you. (PGI members can contact us for an introduction to a fireworks display company near you.)
- EXPERIENCE – To gain experience, be prepared to volunteer. Learning to be a pyrotechnician is in some ways like an apprenticeship. Some fireworks display companies also provide paid opportunities to train and work on displays. PGI certification requires you to serve as a crew member on four displays and as a lead operator under supervision on a fifth display.
Please be aware that professional display fireworks is part of the entertainment industry. As with sports or acting, only a small number of people are able to make it their full-time occupation. If you are determined and willing to work hard, you may find a position with a display company and with enough experience be able to start your own.
There is no special background needed to become a pyrotechnician. However, it helps to have rudimentary carpentry skills and be able to understand simple electrical circuitry. Computer skills are also useful. Above all, in a career that involves handling explosives, a commitment to safety is essential.
Where can I get pyrotechnics training?
PGI Display Operator Courses are provided year-round. Upcoming classes are listed on this website, and new classes are listed as soon as instructors schedule them. The cost varies and includes purchase of the PGI Display Operator Course (DOC) textbook.
You can also attend the Display Operator Course at the annual PGI convention. The convention can also provide opportunities to attend classes on topics in pyrotechnics, gain hands-on experience in display set-up, and make valuable connections.
You can also attend training at a fireworks display company. Note that most display companies only hold training programs in March or April in preparation for the summer fireworks season. PGI members can contact us for an introduction to a fireworks display company near you.
When and where does PGI hold classes?
PGI offers the Display Operator Course directly once a year at the annual convention.
Other DOC classes are held year-round by independent, certified trainers. PGI does not organize these classes. We do share information about the classes on our website as training providers notify us.
Most trainers contact us 4 to 6 weeks before holding a class. We recommend bookmarking our class list page and checking back often for new class dates.
Do I have to join PGI to take the Display Operator Course or become a PGI-certified display operator?
You do not have to be a PGI member to take the Display Operator Course from an independent trainer or become PGI-certified as a display operator—although we welcome your support and fellowship!
You do have to be a member of PGI to attend the PGI annual convention. So if you want to take the DOC class that is offered at the annual convention, then you do need to become a PGI member.
Once I attend a DOC class, am I a certified display operator?
PGI certification is a process. The first step is to taking and passing the DOC class. To pass, you must attend the entire class and score 80% or higher on the exam.
NOTE: The exam is written; however, accessibility accommodations such as oral exams are available for individuals who need them.
In addition, to become PGI-certified as a display operator, you must complete all the following:
- LIVE FIRE DEMONSTRATION – An outdoor live-fire demonstration usually takes place at the conclusion of the DOC class. You must attend, participate as directed by the trainer, and hand-fire a shell while being observed by the trainer.
- CREW WORK – You must work as a crew member in a significant capacity on four commercial 1.3G displays. Then you must serve as lead operator (or co-lead operator) under supervision on an additional commercial 1.3G display. Documentation of your crew work must be provided with your certification application, including operator contact information and/or certificates to help us verify the information.
- APPLICATION – Complete the application in the back of the DOC textbook. Attach documentation of your classroom and crew experience and mail the application package to the address shown on the form, along with a check for $10.00 in fees payable to PGI. If you would prefer to make electronic or credit card payment, please contact us. Please be sure to provide the complete mailing address to which your credentials can be mailed, plus your phone number and email address.
My state or county won’t let me be a lead operator under supervision because they say all leads must already be PGI-certified. How can I meet PGI’s requirement to serve as lead operator under supervision?
Some locales require operators to be PGI-certified in order to obtain a permit or serve as “lead of record” on a commercial 1.3G display. In these situations, you may serve as a “co-lead shooter” under supervision, participating in all portions of the display including design, purchase, transport, preparation, setup, and teardown. You should include an explanation of this in the documentation of your crew work.
My neighborhood is sponsoring a consumer-grade 1.4G firework display. Can I count this as part of my crew or lead work for PGI certification?
No. Only work on displays with 1.3G commercial grade fireworks can be counted as crew or lead work for PGI certification. Displays using articles pyrotechnic and/or consumer grade fireworks do not count toward certification.
Does the PGI display operator certification expire? Do I need to be recertified later?
PGI Display Operator Certification is valid for a term of three years from the date on the certificate.
Recertification can be obtained by submitting an application and fees of $10.00 to the address on the form, along with documentation of 8 hours of continuing education or training and work as crew or lead at least three commercial 1.3G display, with as least one as lead or co-lead.
What are the recertification requirements? Do I have to take the DOC course again?
To qualify for recertification at the end of three years, PGI-certified display operators must show continued growth in the form of continuing education/training and crew work. NFPA codes are revised and expanded by the NFPA's technical committees, and training workshops and the DOC are updated to reflect the changes.
To be eligible for recertification, you must provide documentation of 8 hours of continuing education or training in the area of fireworks display operations. This can include:
- Retaking the PGI Display Operator Course (counts as 8 hours)
- Taking DOT or Haz Mat training courses that focus on pyrotechnic display performance
- Taking other fireworks-related safety training courses
Education hours will be reviewed and may be approved or rejected at the discretion of the directors of the PGI display operator certification program. Please feel free to contact us in advance to ask if a specific training course will be accepted for recertification!
Crew work must include at least three commercial 1.3G fireworks displays. You must serve as lead or co-lead on at least one of these. Displays using articles pyrotechnic and/or consumer grade fireworks do not count as display experience for renewal.
I completed the DOC class and got my PGI certification. Can I legally purchase commercial 1.3G fireworks now?
PGI Certification is never a replacement for an ATF Firework Permit/License issued by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The ATF Firework Permit/License is required by federal law to purchase, display (with proper permits), or legally transport any commercial display fireworks, which are federally regulated as explosives.
I lost my PGI certification credentials. Can I get them replaced?
Replacement certification credentials are available for a fee of $10.00. Contact us and provide your contact information and the date of certification as best you can remember so we can verify that you are eligible for replacement credentials. Replacement credentials have the same expiration date as your original credentials.
I took the DOC class but didn’t get a class certificate.
PGI does not routinely issue certificates of attendance for the Display Operator Course. If you wish to have proof of course completion, you can request a course completion certificate from your lead instructor.
We do receive a roster of people who completed the course and passed the exam, which we check against certification applications. (Please note that completing the Display Operator Course is not the same as completing all the requirements for the PGI Display Operator Certification.)
Do I have to become PGI-certified after I take the DOC class? Should I become certified?
Most of the time, you are not required to be PGI-certified to work on a fireworks crew. Some locales do require leads to be PGI-certified since certification provides a thorough exposure to NFPA codes and good practices.
The choice of whether to become fully certified depends on your individual goals. Many shooters and crew members take the PGI Display Operator Course even if they never plan to complete their certification or become a lead shooter. The DOC class provides essential knowledge that can help people become safer, more informed shooters and crew members, whatever their role.
If you are or want to be a lead shooter on commercial displays, you may choose to be PGI-certified. The PGI Display Operator Course follows NFPA codes because virtually every fireworks insurer, as well as most states, require operators to follow these codes. Having the PGI display operator certification:
- Helps assure prospective clients, authorities, peers in the pyrotechnic community, and others that you know what you are doing
- Helps prove to prospective clients and authorities that you have been trained on compliance with current NFPA codes
- Verifies that you have gained practical experience by actually working on at least 5 displays. (In certain locales, this is a prerequisite for obtaining a display permit.)
In some venues, having a PGI display operator certification can stand in lieu of being licensed, as not all states issue display operator licenses.
How can I become a certified Display Operator Course trainer/instructor?
To become a certified PGI DOC instructor, you must:
- Have a current PGI display operator certification
- Assist in teaching the PGI Display Operator Course in a significant role
- Arrange to conduct a PGI Display Operator Course as a lead instructor under the observation of an experienced PGI trainer, approved by the directors of the PGI display operator certification committee. (Contact us and we will help you find an eligible training supervisor.)
When leading course under supervision, you must organize all aspects of the class, including:
- Obtaining a facility and shoot site
- Conducting the course and securing necessary additional instructors and assistants
- Ordering books, exams, and answer keys through PGI (as far in advance as practical)
- Proctoring the exam
- Sending the detailed class roster of all attendees, with contact information, to PGI, noting which attendees attended the whole course and passed the exam
Once you have been certified as an instructor, you may offer PGI Display Operator Courses independently.
Your DOC instructor certification can be renewed on request every three years at the same time you renew your PGI Display Operator Certification. You must retain PGI Display Operator Certification in order to remain a certified Display Operator Course instructor.