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How to Become a Lighting Technician – Career Sidekick

Step 1: Complete Your Education
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum educational requirement to enter this field. While in high school, you can start building a foundation by taking courses in subjects like theater arts, electrical technology, or audiovisual technology.

Vocational or Technical School
Many vocational or technical schools offer programs related to technical theater, lighting design, or audiovisual technology. These programs provide hands-on training and education specific to the field of lighting technology.

Also, some lighting technicians choose to pursue an associate’s degree in fields such as theater production, technical theater, or electrical engineering technology. These programs offer a more comprehensive education and can enhance your understanding of lighting equipment, electrical systems, and safety protocols.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Lighting Technician?
No, you do not need a degree to become a light tech. However, a degree in a related field, such as technical theater production, set design, audio engineering, or audio/visual technology, can give you an advantage in the job market. Some employers may prefer candidates with a degree, especially for higher-level positions.

If you do not have a degree, you can still become a lighting technician by gaining experience. You can volunteer or work at a local theater, concert venue, or production company. You can also start your own lighting business or freelance for other companies.

Benefits of Having a Technical Theater Degree
A technical theater degree can offer several benefits to an aspiring light tech, as it provides a well-rounded education encompassing various aspects of theater production, including lighting.

Here are some of the advantages of having a technical theater degree:

Comprehensive Knowledge: Technical theater degree programs typically cover a wide range of topics related to theater production, including lighting design and technology. This comprehensive education equips you with a solid understanding of the entire production process, from script to stage.
Hands-On Experience: Many technical theater programs emphasize practical, hands-on experience. You’ll have the opportunity to work on real productions, which can include setting up and operating lighting equipment, designing lighting schemes, and troubleshooting technical issues.
Mentorship: These programs often have experienced faculty members who can serve as mentors. They can provide guidance, share their expertise, and help you develop your skills as a light tech.
Networking: Being part of a technical theater program allows you to build a network of contacts within the theater and entertainment industry. Networking with professors, fellow students, and industry professionals can lead to job opportunities and valuable connections.
Portfolio Development: Many degree programs require you to create a portfolio of your work, including lighting designs and projects. This portfolio can serve as a valuable tool when seeking employment as a light tech.
Academic Credentials: A degree can be advantageous when applying for positions in competitive job markets or seeking higher-level roles. Some employers may prefer candidates with formal education.
How Much Does a Technical Theater Degree Cost?
The financial cost of getting a technical theater degree, like other degrees, depends on the university you attend and a few other things. According to the College Tuition Compare, the average cost of tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree in technical theater is $11,527 for in-state students and $34,593 for out-of-state students.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Technical Theater Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in technical theater usually takes about four years of full-time study to complete.

Can I Become a Lighting Technician Through Online Education?
Yes, you can become a lighting technician through online education. There are a number of online courses and programs that can teach you the skills and knowledge you need to work as a lighting technician.

Some of the benefits of becoming a lighting technician through online education are:

Flexibility: Online courses and programs offer a great deal of flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. This is ideal for students who are working full-time or who have other commitments.
Affordability: Online courses and programs are often more affordable than traditional college programs.
Accessibility: Online courses and programs are accessible to students from all over the world.
However, there are also some challenges to becoming a lighting technician through online education. One challenge is that you will not be able to gain hands-on experience with lighting equipment. It is important to supplement your online education with hands-on experience by volunteering or working at a local theater, concert venue, or production company.

Another challenge is that some employers may prefer candidates with a traditional college degree. However, with the right skills and experience, you can still find a job as a lighting technician, even if you have an online degree.

What Are Some Web Resources for Lighting Technicians?
Lighting technicians can access web resources to enhance their knowledge and skills in the field.

Here are some valuable online platforms and websites to help lighting technicians stay informed and expand their expertise:

United States Institute of Theater Technology: The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) website provides resources, publications, and information about industry events and educational opportunities.
ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls): ETC is a major player in the lighting industry. Their website offers a wealth of educational resources, including webinars, articles, and video tutorials on lighting control and equipment.
PLSN: Projection, Lights, and Staging News (PLSN) is an online magazine that covers news and trends in the live event and entertainment lighting industry.
ControlBooth: ControlBooth is an online community for technicians, including lighting professionals. It features forums, articles, and resources on various technical aspects of live events and theater production.
Entertainment Technology Press: Entertainment Technology Press features articles, product information, and industry updates related to lighting and technology.
Step 2: Gain Practical Experience
Practical experience is a crucial component of becoming a skilled and competent lighting technician. It involves hands-on work in real-world settings, allowing you to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from formal education and online resources to practical situations.

While you may not get senior roles straight out of college, you can certainly amass the needed experience through entry-level positions and internships. These early career opportunities provide a valuable learning ground, allowing you to build a strong foundation in lighting technology. As you gain hands-on experience and develop your skills, you’ll have the chance to work alongside seasoned professionals who can serve as mentors and guides.

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Lighting Technician?
Here are some common internship opportunities for lighting technicians:

Theater Internships: Interning at a theater company or venue can provide practical experience in lighting for live performances. You may assist with lighting setup, operate lighting consoles during shows, and learn about the unique demands of theater lighting design.
Film and Television Internships: Interning on film or television productions allows you to work with professional lighting teams. You can gain experience in studio and location lighting setups, operate lighting equipment, and learn about lighting techniques for different types of shoots.
Concert and Event Production Internships: Internships with concert and event production companies offer exposure to the live event industry. You may assist in setting up lighting rigs for concerts, festivals, corporate events, or trade shows.
Lighting Design Studios: Interning with lighting design studios or individual lighting designers can offer exposure to the creative and technical aspects of lighting design. You may work on projects ranging from theatrical productions to architectural lighting installations.
Festivals and Events: Some large-scale festivals and events hire lighting interns to assist with the setup, operation, and maintenance of lighting equipment for stages, booths, and displays.
Educational Institutions: Universities and colleges with theater or technical theater programs may offer internships within their lighting departments. These internships may involve assisting with student productions and events.
Production Companies and Rental Houses: Interning with production companies or lighting equipment rental houses provides exposure to various aspects of lighting technology, including equipment maintenance, inventory management, and client interactions.
When seeking internship opportunities, it’s essential to research organizations, reach out to industry professionals, and check internship listings on job search websites, theater-related forums, and the websites of relevant companies and institutions.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Lighting Technician?
A proficient lighting technician needs a wide array of skills. These skills encompass the job’s technical, creative, and practical aspects and can be applied across various industries, including theater, film, television, live events, and architectural lighting.

Here are some of the key skills you will learn as a light tech:

Technical Skills

Equipment Operation: You will become proficient in operating various types of lighting fixtures, including conventional lights, LED fixtures, moving lights, and follow spots.
Lighting Control Systems: You’ll learn how to use lighting control consoles, software-based control systems, and protocols like DMX to create and run lighting cues.
Rigging and Installation: You’ll gain knowledge of rigging techniques and safety procedures for hanging and securing lighting equipment.
Electrical Knowledge: Understanding electrical systems, circuits, and power distribution is crucial for safely connecting and powering lighting fixtures.
Lighting Design and Aesthetics

Color Theory: You’ll develop an understanding of how color temperature, color mixing, and color psychology impact lighting design.
Lighting Principles: You’ll learn the fundamentals of lighting design, such as focus, intensity, angle, and contrast.
Creative Lighting Techniques: As a lighting technician, you’ll explore techniques for creating dynamic and visually appealing lighting effects to enhance productions.
Safety and Maintenance

Safety Protocols: You’ll prioritize safety by adhering to industry-standard safety protocols for equipment setup, electrical connections, and working at heights.
Equipment Maintenance: You’ll learn how to maintain and troubleshoot lighting equipment, including cleaning, bulb replacement, and basic repairs.

Technical Troubleshooting: Lighting technicians need to diagnose and address technical issues quickly during live events or productions.
Adaptability: You’ll develop the ability to adapt to changing lighting requirements and unexpected challenges on the job.
Step 3: Build Your Portfolio
When people ask about what you can do as a lighting technician, it is better to show your work rather than describe it. Therefore, creating a portfolio as a lighting technician is essential for showcasing your skills to potential employers or clients. Begin by selecting a range of projects that highlight your skills, versatility, and expertise as a lighting technician. These projects can include theater productions, live events, film shoots, architectural lighting installations, or any other relevant work you’ve been involved in.

Compile these materials into a digital portfolio or printed version, ensuring high-quality visuals and clear explanations for each project. Share your portfolio online and during networking opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and professionalism in lighting design and technology. Regularly update your portfolio to reflect your most recent work and maintain a fresh showcase of your skills.

Step 4: Network With Other Professionals
Networking is a crucial step for lighting technicians because it’s how you connect with other professionals in the field. These connections can help you find job opportunities and learn from experienced technicians. Imagine it as making friends in your industry who can offer advice, recommend you for jobs, and share their knowledge. Building a network allows you to tap into the collective wisdom and support of people who understand the ins and outs of the lighting world, making your career journey smoother and more successful.



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