What does an Explosives Expert do?

Cassie L. Damewood

An explosives expert performs a wide range of tasks, including detonating and analyzing explosives, analyzing detonation sites, and choosing the best blasting materials and techniques for a project. Sometimes, these experts are used on movie and television production sets, but more mundane jobs are the norm. They also work with scientists and technicians in researching and implementing new explosive products and methods.

Explosive experts are often employed by the construction industry for building demolition.
Explosive experts are often employed by the construction industry for building demolition.

Explosives experts are found in many industries, including the commercial, public, and military sectors. The commercial sector often uses them to evaluate blasting materials used in engineering and mining operations. In the public sector, they commonly plan and implement the actual blasting needed for demolition; this can include creating holes and channels for gravel and granite mines, swimming pool construction and general excavation projects. The military sometimes employs such experts to advise on explosives manufacturing and applications.

Explosives experts prepare and oversee the safe detonation of explosives.
Explosives experts prepare and oversee the safe detonation of explosives.

In addition to planning and executing explosions, an experts in explosives are commonly needed to advise on the safe transport and handling of explosive devices and materials. When storage facilities for explosives are being designed and built, an expert is often consulted to recommend the safest materials and design for the project. She is sometimes recruited to detonate abandoned explosives or remove suspected ones from public places.

Construction companies regularly involved in demolition sometimes have a full-time explosives expert on staff. She inspects areas targeted for demolition, determines the best type and amount of blasting material for the job, and decides what safety precautions need to be taken. The expert often takes the next step of strategically placing the explosives into the structure, compacting them, and ultimately setting off the charge.

If drilling holes for insertion of explosives is needed, she decides where the holes are drilled, their depth, and how much powder is needed to effectively complete the job. Common explosives used for these types of jobs include slurries, black powder, aluminum nitrate, dynamite and ammonium nitrate. In some cases, the expert sets up remote detonation equipment to execute the blast.

This can be a potentially dangerous job, and precautions and protective steps are needed to prevent harm to the explosives expert. Protective clothing and equipment should be provided, and emergency medical personnel should be nearby during all explosion projects.

A career as an explosives expert can be rewarding if a person enjoys working in high-pressure atmospheres. It is necessary for this person to have exceptional analytical and planning skills to accurately set up and set off explosives. She also needs to demonstrate a calm demeanor and never veer from logical and responsible thinking.

Explosives experts must be familiar with a wide range of explosives.
Explosives experts must be familiar with a wide range of explosives.

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Discussion Comments


I am an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician and I was sad to see that there was no mention of EOD here. We have been around since 1940 and are the explosives subject matter experts across all branches of military service. We are also found throughout almost every conceivable job field where explosives are used.


Like the article says, explosives always sound exciting, but I bet there is a lot of boring stuff that goes along with it. Of course, like any job, if you like what you're doing it won't be boring.

I always thought it would be amazing to be one of the people that got to blow up some type of a stadium or big building. It seems like it would be quite the challenge to know the physics of how everything will happen.

That being said, I could easily see how an explosives expert would need an engineering degree. Blowing things up is a lot more scientific than just hooking up some dynamite and pressing a trigger. Plus, with liquid explosives you would need to know the chemistry behind the elements used and how they will react in different amounts.


@jmc88 - I am pretty sure I've never heard of an actual degree in explosives. I would guess that what most people do is get a related degree and then get certifications in explosives.

At the school I go to, there is a big mining program that trains geologists and engineers and the like for how to mine coal, gas, and other minerals. I would guess that they probably have classes in explosives. Getting an engineering degree might not be what you want, though.

There are probably other programs where you can serve as an apprentice to an explosives expert and get training that way. I would just check around online for an agency that licenses explosives experts in your state. I'm sure that might give you a better idea of where to get training.


@TreeMan - That sounds really neat. I never thought about the military being a stepping stone to getting other jobs related to something like this. It sounds like in your father's case that the Army gave him all of the training that he needed. I doubt that is the case anymore.

Does anyone know what types of training explosives experts have to go through now? I have always been seriously interested in pyrotechnics. My father and I have also made a couple of small-time charges using things like Mother of Satan. Are there special schools that give explosives training, or do you go to a regular university?


The article is definitely right that being an explosives expert can be a rewarding career. My father served in World War II as an explosives coordinator.

He always said that when he joined the Army that he wanted to drive tanks, but they decided that his knowledge made him better suited for explosives. His main job was working in Japan setting up airfields on the islands, since a lot of large rocks needed destroyed first.

Sometimes, though, his group would have to work at night on the front lines setting up explosives near enemy lines to facilitate future attacks.

After he retired, his training got him a good job working on explosives for the San Francisco Police.

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