Display Operator Course

The PGI Display Operator’s 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 copy of the current version of the PGI Display Operator Textbook (300+ pages) is used during the class and is yours to keep as a valuable reference tool.

The PGI’s Display Operator’s Course is revised regularly to remain fully consistent with the latest National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) codes 1123 and 1124 pertaining to firework displays. In fact, this course is one of only two fireworks training programs recognized by the NFPA.

Frequently asked questions regarding the PGI Display Operator’s Course


To become a pyrotechnician, with respect to professional display fireworks, you must be both trained and gain experience.

For the former, there are several options: You can take and complete the PGI DOC (Display Operators' Course) and/or attend an annual training at a fireworks display company near you. Most classes and training programs are held in the spring, to get ready for the peak display season, but, PGI holds at least some classes all through the year. PGI courses are posted on our web site as soon as they are planned. If you tell us what city/state you reside in, we can try to facilitate an introduction to the fireworks display company closest to you.

To gain experience, be prepared to volunteer in some cases. Learning to be a pyrotechnician can be viewed in some aspects as similar to an apprenticeship. On the other hand, some companies will train you and pay you at least something for working on displays, even as a trainee. PGI certification requires that you serve as crew on four displays and as lead operator (under supervision) on a fifth display.

Please be aware that display fireworks is part of the entertainment industry and as with sports or acting, there are very few who will be able to make this a full-time occupation. Yet, if you are determined, and willing to work hard, you will be able to find a position with a display company and, once experienced, possibly be willing and able to start your own display company.

There is no particular background that prepares one to become a pyrotechnician. It helps to be able to have some rudimentary skills at carpentry and to be able to understand simple electrical circuitry. Computer skills are useful as well. Above all, in a career that involves handling explosives, a commitment to safety is essential.

If you tell us where you reside, we will try to help you gain access to the fireworks display company training programs closest to you and will facilitate an introduction. Please note that display companies usually hold their training programs in March and April and are usually too busy later in the year to conduct classes.

The PGI conducts training classes all year long and our programs are posted to our web site as soon as the lead instructors schedule them. Usual costs vary from $50 to $100 and include the purchase of the PGI Display Operator Course (DOC) textbook.

Attend the PGI convention: this may be an option for you. The convention is held in early August and every convention includes a PGI DOC on the Wednesday of the convention week. You can gain display set up experience, attend classes on topics in pyrotechnics, and make valuable networking connections.

PGI itself does not directly organize any classes other than the one course annually held the Wednesday of our convention week.   The PGI waits for the trainer(s) of each class to notify us.

Upon receiving the notice/intent of a trainer, the co-directors of the PGI D.O.C. (Display Operator Certification) Program, approve the class, make arrangements for class supplies, and instruct our Webmaster to post the class to the Website.

The notification from the trainer to the Directors usually occurs 4 to 6 weeks prior to the class. Our Webmaster is very good at adding classes to the site within 24 to 48 hours of us receiving notice.

It is suggested that you bookmark the upcoming classes, and frequently (once per week, or more often), check back to see what upcoming classes have been posted.

We thank you, and look forward to seeing you at a class in the future.


PGI Certification is an OPTION that the class is merely a mandatory first step of.

While the PGI strongly recommends that everyone involved in Fireworks displays, even occasional private uses, complete this or other similar training, PGI's DOC is not the only option.

Training will arm you with valuable knowledge regarding the history, manufacture, legal transporting, setting up/operation/teardown, and other "how-to" information.

Certification though, involves far more than simply completing the one-day class. Certification by PGI as a Display Operator requires the following elements:

  1. Take the PGI course including all classroom instruction and live fire demonstration activities. Pass the exam with a score of at least 80%.
  2. Work as a crew member in a significant capacity on four displays. Then, serve as "lead operator" under supervision. When documenting your display experience on the application, please supply contact information and or certificates to help us verify your information. Displays using consumer fireworks (1.4G material) do NOT count toward display experience. ONLY displays that use commercial display fireworks counts as experience toward PGI certification.
  3. Download and complete the application or complete the application form at the back of the textbook and mail it to the address shown with $10.00 in fees payable to the PGI. If you prefer electronic or credit payment, please request same and the cert course director will provide instructions as to how you may do so. Please be certain to provide a complete address to which your credentials can be mailed. Please provide a phone number and email address as well.

Note: You do NOT have to be a PGI member to be PGI certified as a display operator, but, we would welcome your support and membership!

No, you are not required to become PGI Certified. The choice to become Certified depends on your individual circumstances.

Many shooters and crew members take this class even if they may never need Certification and never plan to be a LEAD SHOOTER. This training class provides a basic level of knowledge which we feel helps make you a safer, more informed shooter or crew member no matter what your role in displays.

The PGI D.O.C. Course was designed following NFPA Codes because virtually EVERY fireworks insurer and most states REQUIRE you to follow NFPA Codes.

If you are the LEAD SHOOTER of Displays, you may want to opt for Certification because:

  • The PGI Certification helps assure prospective clients, permit granting authorities, AHJs, your peers in the pyrotechnic community, and others that you know what you are doing.
  • It helps prove to prospective clients, or to permit granting authorities that you have been trained on compliance with current NFPA Codes. 
  • It verifies that you have, or have gained practical experience by actually working at least five displays. In certain venues, it is a pre-requisite to obtaining a Display Permit.
  • In some venues, it may serve in-lieu of being licensed as not all states issue display operator licenses. 

PGI Certification is a process. The first step is to take (and pass) the class.

To pass, you must attend the entire class, take - and pass with a score of 80% or better - the written test. 

NOTE: The test may also be given Orally for those with learning difficulties, who are sight impaired, or for those who simply do not do written tests well.

The other requirements are:

Attend, and participate in the Outdoor LIVE-FIRE DEMONSTRATION given at the conclusion of the indoor classroom portion of the class. This is usually immediately following the test.

Hand-fire a Shell while being observed by a trainer to prove you know how to safely. This is part of the LIVE-FIRE DEMO.

Participate in ANY capacity (from helping with Prep, to Crew, to Senior Asst.) on FOUR DISPLAYS.

Be the LEAD under observation and supervision, or be the CO-LEAD Shooter on ONE DISPLAY.

NOTE: The "Co-Lead" position was created to allow Shooters the chance to be a Lead Shooter in locales which require you to be PGI Certified either to first obtain a Permit, or to be a "Lead of Record" on a 1.3G display. A "Co-Lead" works with the "Lead Shooter", and participates in ALL portions of the Display, from design, purchase, transport, prep, setup, and teardown.

Document those 5 Displays by obtaining the signature of the Lead Shooter or in some other manner.

NOTE: All 5 Displays MUST BE Legally Permitted, 1.3G Displays. Displays using only consumer fireworks do not count toward this certification requirement.

The Lead (or "Lead of Record") must sign off on each Display. Other documentation may be acceptable. NOTE: The Experience Recording Form is included in the mandatory classroom handbook  which you purchase when taking the class.

Send the completed application form and any documentation, along with a $10.00 processing fee to the address listed in the handbook, and on the form.

Certification is for a term of three years. Recertification is obtained by submitting an application and fees of $10 to the address on the form. The application form is available at our web site at (link) or you may use the same form in the textbook as was submitted for your original certification. During that three year period, you must document 8 hours of continuing education or training and working as crew or lead on at least three displays, one of which must be as a lead or co-lead operator. Education hours must be related to display fireworks operations and are approved or rejected at the discretion of the senior course co-director. You may ask at any time if a particular education activity will be acceptable and need not wait until you apply for recertification.

Renewal of the PGI Display Operator credential also requires that you have conducted at least three displays as lead operator in the three years prior to renewal. Only displays utilizing display fireworks (usually shipped as 1.3G explosives) satisfy the display requirements. Displays using Articles Pyrotechnic and/ or consumer fireworks do not count toward the display experience required for renewal.

PGI DOC Renewal Form (download, complete, and submit as indicated on the form)

Not quite.

PGI Certification is a process like any other Certification. Many professionals must be initially Certified, then must MAINTAIN that by RECERTIFICATION every few years. PGI Certification is no different. Certifications expire after three years and must be renewed to maintain "PGI certified display operator" status.

NFPA Code 1123 governs all aspects of safety in Fireworks. Most all State, County, and/or Municipalities, and all our Insurers require you follow it. The PGI Display Operator Course was designed to teach you how to comply with the required Codes.

These Codes are constantly being reviewed and updated by NFPA's Technical Committees (some of our PGI Members are on it). As with any Certification your PGI Certification needs to be "kept up to date".  To maintain certification, every three years you are required to:

Take 8 hours of Continuing education. This may be accomplished by re-taking the PGI D.O.C. Course, which counts for all 8 hours.

 - OR - any work-related DOT, or HAZMAT training that focuses on pyrotechnic display performance.

- OR - any other approved fireworks-related, SAFETY Training which totals the required 8 hours as submitted to, and approved by the D.O.C. Course Directors.

Please feel free to ask if any specific training will be accepted by PGI toward recertification.


PLEASE NOTE: PGI Certification is NEVER a replacement for a Federal (ATF) Firework Permit/License which is REQUIRED by Federal Law to purchase, display (w/permit), or to legally transport ANY display fireworks which are federally regulated explosives.

Replacement credentials are available at a cost of $10.00. Send an email to training@pgi.org with your information so that we can verify that you are eligible to receive replacement credentials as they expire after three years. Your replacement credentials, if you are eligible, will have the expiration date of your original credentials. Please tell us as best you can remember the date of your certification, for the credentials you want replaced.

PGI does not routinely issue certificates of attendance for our classes. If you wish to have proof of course completion for documenting training hours or for other reasons, please request the course completion certificate from the lead instructor. Or, after the course, when PGI has received the class roster of those who took the course and passed the exam, you may request such a certificate by email to training@pgi.org

Please note that course completion is not the same as being PGI certified as a display operator. For more detail on that topic, see the FAQ on this subject below.

There are three steps to becoming a certified PGI DOC instructor:

  1. You must be certified as a display operator yourself, by completing the PGI course and certification process.
  2. You must then assist in teaching a PGI DOC course in a significant role.
  3. You must then arrange to conduct a PGI DOC course as the lead instructor under the direct observation of an approved senior PGI trainer. We will help you find an eligible training supervisor. You must organize all aspects of the class:
  • Scheduling

  • Obtaining a facility and a shoot site

  • Conducting the course and securing necessary additional instructors and assistants

  • Ordering the books and exams and answer keys through the PGI Secretary-Treasurer at treasurer@pgi.org (please order as far in advance as practical)

  • Proctoring the exam and sending the details class roster of all attendees, with their contact information, to training@pgi.org, noting WHICH of the attendees PASSED the entire course and exam

  • Once certified as an instructor, you may offer further PGI DOC courses independently.

  • Your instructor certification can be renewed upon request every three years when you renew your DOC certification.

You MUST remain currently certified as a PGI display operator to remain a certified instructor.


“Renewal of the PGI Display Operator credential also requires that you have conducted at least three displays as lead operator in the three years prior to renewal. Only displays utilizing display fireworks (usually shipped as 1.3G explosives) satisfy the display requirements. Displays using Articles Pyrotechnic and/ or consumer fireworks do not count toward the display experience required for renewal.”