How to become a lighting director: Cate's story

Meet Cate and learn more about her life as a lighting director for artists such as George Ezra. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

I'm trusted with someone else's art...

  • Cate is lighting director for artists such as George Ezra. She works with them to understand their vision for their tours or live shows, and then helps to make it a reality through lighting, visuals and staging
  • She also works at the John Peel stage at Glastonbury, creating a 'blank canvas' stage that many different artists, and their designers, can work with to create their own spaces
  • Cate became inspired to work with artists after attending Glastonbury when she was 15. She went on to study Music Technology, then gained work experience working in sound on live shows. Over the years, Cate was given more and more responsibility until she began lighting shows herself, and through this moved into set design
  • Cate states that there are challenges to this work - not least the long days and short nights - but that the rewards of seeing all your hard work come to fruition, creating the atmosphere and environment that someone can perform their art in, makes it all worthwhile!

Cate is a lighting director, and she's spent a number of years working up to this position. A lighting technician is a similar role, although one with arguably less responsibility. Lighting technicians set up and operate lighting for concerts, conferences and theatre, or in film and TV productions.

What to expect if you want to be a lighting technician

  • Lighting technician salary: Variable ranging from £15,000 to £40,000 per year
  • Lighting technician working hours: 42 to 44 hours per week. You could work evenings, weekends and bank holidays, away from home

What qualifications do you need to be a lighting technician?

  • Typical entry requirements: You can get into this job through a university course, a college course, an apprenticeship or specialist courses run by private training providers.

  • You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma, or degree in a related subject like Performing Arts (Production), Lighting Design, Lighting and Performance Technology or Technical Theatre. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) for a foundation degree or higher national diploma or two to three A-levels (or equivalent) for a degree.

  • Some lighting technicians start by taking a college course to develop their skills before looking for work. Qualifications include Level 3 Diploma in Production Arts and Level 3 Certificate in Technical Theatre: Sound, Light and Stage. You'll usually need four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a Level 3 course.

  • You may be able to get into this job through an advanced apprenticeship in technical theatre: sound, light and stage. You'll usually need five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and Maths, for an advanced apprenticeship.

  • You may be able to find a traineeship with a specialist lighting company, or you could look for experience in lighting equipment hire companies. You could also try helping out at theatres or concert venues, amateur theatre or student or community film projects. You can search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT and The Knowledge.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Raphael: sound engineer
Melissa: Head of TV at Caroline International
Felix: Stage manager