Lighting design is one of those professions that combine engineering and "soft" skills, and so is worth a look if you're technically minded with a creative streak. Some of the tasks lighting designers might face in their work are:
- Illuminating a monument or famous building so it appears dignified and doesn't change its appearance at night.
- Arranging and calibrating floodlights for a sports field so all parts are equally illuminated and TV cameras can work correctly.
- Designing an office lighting system to optimize employee productivity, one for a restaurant to attract more customers, or at a museum to display exhibits at their best.
- Setting up lights for a video shoot or theater performance according to (possibly vague) instructions from the director.
The challenges involved in lighting design work can range from trivial to overwhelming. In the latter case, projects are generally left to qualified architects and engineers who've taken a master's degree in lighting design. This supplements their existing knowledge of physics, electrical systems, and design with an impressive laundry list of other subjects: human psychology and physiology, the social and cultural norms surrounding lighting, visual arts, and power conservation among others.
Bachelor's degrees in lighting design, which are what about two-thirds of people in the profession have, typically do not dwell too much on the scientific aspects of the work. Instead, they often have considerable overlap with theater courses and prepare students for employment in that field. Architectural lighting is also covered, though. At both American and European universities, a large portion of the course consists of practical "learning by doing", so be prepared to get your hands dirty. It's also best if you don't have a fear of heights.