Theatre Lighting Technician
Theatre lighting technicians prepare, operate and maintain stage lighting systems and electrical effects. Operating lighting systems usually takes place from behind a lighting console. Work may be permanent or freelance.
Also known as
- Lighting Technician, Theatre
Video: - Neil: Lighting Technician
As a Theatre Lighting Technician, you are responsible for preparing, wiring, operating and maintaining theatre lighting systems and electrical effects. Although you are sometimes known as Theatre or Stage Electricians, you do not have to be a qualified Electrician.
You work closely with Lighting Designers. Lighting Designers decide where the lights are to be placed, and plot their position on a lighting plan. Using this plan, you fit the lights and focus them. If required, you place coloured filters or gobos in front of the lights.
During rehearsals, you help Lighting Designers create special lighting effects. Once productions are underway, you check that the lights are working properly and are correctly maintained. You operate lights from the lighting desk. You also operate dry-ice or smoke effects, if necessary.
Lighting desks are mostly computerised, so you need to know how to program them.
You are also responsible for cleaning, maintaining and repairing equipment.
While on tour, Theatre Lighting Technicians stay in temporary accommodation and may spend weeks away from home.
In touring productions, you set up the equipment and test it. The equipment will usually need to be taken down after a short period, sometimes after only one night. In such cases, you are likely to be involved in loading and unloading the equipment.
In some - especially smaller theatres, Theatre Lighting Technicians are responsible for both sound and lighting.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Theatre Lighting Technician, you need:
- a technical knowledge of electricity and electronics
- knowledge of the capabilities of different types of lighting equipment
- to pay attention to detail and understand health and safety requirements
- good communication and interpersonal skills
- to work well in a team and on your own
- to be well organised and good under pressure
- the ability to react quickly and creatively to any problems that arise
- to be able to work unsocial hours
- patience, concentration and focus
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £23,500 - £26,000
- With experience: £28,500 - £33,500
- Senior Theatre Lighting Technicians earn £36,500 - £39,500
Hours of work
Theatre Lighting Technicians usually work 40 hours a week. However, early starts, late finishes, weekend work and working on public holidays may all be required.
Where could I work?
Opportunities for Theatre Lighting Technicians occur at venues in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Employers are theatre companies: in touring theatre, provincial theatre and London's West End. Other employers include event and exhibition promoters (both indoor and outdoor).
Opportunities occur for Theatre Lighting Technicians to work abroad in touring productions.
Opportunities occur for Theatre Lighting Technicians to work on a self-employed, freelance basis.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, in industry publications such as The Stage (weekly and online), on job boards, on employers' websites, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.
Entry Routes and Training
New entrants come into this career from different backgrounds, increasingly with a relevant qualification.
You might start out as a Theatre Lighting Technician Assistant.
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start. Take a look at our information article
A limited number of HNCs/HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees are available in technical theatre. There are also a number of lower level qualifications in technical theatre.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Various BTEC and City & Guilds qualifications are available and could help you to get into this career - see below for more details.
Some highly motivated people, who have an aptitude for this sort of work, can be successful without following a recognised training course.
With or without a technical theatre qualification, you will benefit from gaining experience in amateur theatre.
The traditional entry to Technician work with pop/rock groups is to start as a 'Roadie', moving the equipment from vans into the venue and loading up again after the show. This experience may lead to acting as Assistant to the Technical Roadie and gaining enough experience to move on.
Specialist companies who hire lighting equipment and staff occasionally have Runner or General Assistant vacancies or recruit Electronics/Maintenance Technicians.
Previous experience working in a related field, for example, as an Electrician would be useful. Experience as a Junior Technician, or Stagehand in local theatre is also very helpful.
A previous background as a 'Gofer' or Runner, in theatre or the broadcast media, is also beneficial.
If you would like some training, BTEC offer a level 3 qualification in production arts (stage management). This course has a range of units, which include:
- production arts planning
- deputy stage management
- stage management
- technical stage operations
- stage lighting operations
- stage sound operations
- scenic construction for the stage
- scenic painting
- special effects and animated props for the stage
- production management for live performance
Other courses could be available in your area.
Experienced Theatre Lighting Technicians can progress to lighting design work. It is also possible to move into a Technical Manager role.
Entry may be possible without formal training and qualifications. However, you must have an aptitude for technical work and show that you have an active interest in the theatre.
Useful subjects for this career include engineering, applied ICT, physics, maths and media studies.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.
The following vocational qualifications could help you to stand out from the crowd:
- BTEC level 3 - live sound and event management
- City & Guilds level 1, level 2 and level 3 - sound engineering and music technology
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Late entrants are often qualified and/or have skills and abilities gained in a related field, for example, as an electrician. Experience as a junior technician, or stagehand, in local theatre is useful.
A previous background as a 'gofer' or runner, in theatre or the broadcast media, is useful. Working as a 'roadie' in the music industry is also a useful entry route into technician work.
Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships may be available in your area.
Some colleges relax entry requirements for applicants with relevant experience.
- 32% of people in occupations such as theatre lighting are self-employed.
- 4% work part-time.
- 4% have flexible hours.
- 2% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
Get into Theatre
Tel: 020 7452 3400
Entertainment and performing arts news
Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)
Tel: 020 7529 8794
Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT)
Address: 55 Farringdon Road, London EC1M 3JB
Tel: 020 7242 9200
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844
National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)
Tel: 029 2035 3070
Electrical Careers - The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership