Sound engineers are responsible for setting up the instruments and tools used in the audio production process. They also balance and adjust the sound during and after the recording process. If you are detail-oriented and are passionate about music, this could be an excellent career choice. Read our guide to learn how to become a sound engineer.
What Is a Sound Engineer?
A sound engineer, also called an audio engineer, works in the music production industry. They are responsible for manipulating instruments and recording tools to create music and sound effects. They also help with sound equipment during live events. To learn audio engineering, you can go to a community college or enroll in a degree program.
Sound Engineer Job Description
A sound engineer equalizes effects to produce high-quality sound for recorded and live performances. The sound engineer must also edit, mix, and balance the volume of the audio. They perform tests before recording or starting a live event. The role of the sound engineer is to enhance audio and meet the producer’s standards for the final product.
Sound Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a sound engineer earns an average salary of $47,420. The BLS also reports that audio engineering is expected to grow in demand by up to 21 percent in the next decade, which is faster than the estimated job outlook for most occupations. This makes audio engineering a consistent and reliable career choice.
Top Reasons to Become a Sound Engineer in 2021
Audio engineers play a unique role as they get to experience the music industry and be creative while making a profit. In addition, this career can bring several job opportunities. Below, we will show you some of the top reasons to become a sound engineer.
- High salary. ZipRecruiter reports that sound engineers earn $53,876 per year, which is a decent salary to keep you going. High-level sound engineers can earn up to $107,500 per year, which is even better.
- Consistent demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for sound engineering is expected to grow up to 21 percent between 2020 and 2030. This means that you will most likely have numerous job opportunities in the job market.
- Creative job. If you are passionate about music, this could be the right track for you. You will get to use practical skills to create something you love and work with interesting people from around the world. A recording engineer is vital to the music industry.
Sound Engineer Job Requirements
Sound engineering is a technical profession that requires expertise in music, technology, and attention to detail. You will need to combine your creative skills and your technical skills to succeed in this job. The list below describes the job requirements in detail.
- Post-secondary education. To become a sound engineer, you need to have post-secondary education in most cases. However, some companies may only require a high school diploma.
- Audio editing software expertise. It is important to know how to use audio editing tools to work as an audio engineer. These skills may include editing, equalizing, and adjusting the sound. You should have hands-on experience if you want to get a job.
- Experience with audiovisual projects. Experience is not always a requirement, but it’ll help you stand out from other candidates. You can demonstrate your experience through a digital portfolio.
Types of Sound Engineer Careers
The audio engineering career path has many different specializations you can pursue depending on your level of experience and skills. You can become an audiovisual designer, a production engineer, or an audio technician. Each of those careers is tied to the same foundational subject but has different duties. We’ve provided more details in the list below.
Audiovisual designers or audiovisual engineers are responsible for combining video and audio by implementing aesthetic techniques. They work in television broadcasts, films, and live events. If you’re interested both in audio and visual arts, this is a great career choice.
A production engineer is a senior-level role that determines creative standards for the final creative product. They work with sound engineering technicians and artists to implement their strategies. They might also work in a supervisory role to ensure production for music tracks runs smoothly.
Audio technicians are similar to sound engineers. However, an audio technician focuses on installing and maintaining audio equipment and sound recording tools. In contrast, the audio engineer will supervise this work and provide instructions so the sound qualities will be high.
Sound Engineer Meaning: What Does a Sound Engineer Do?
A sound engineer is involved in different tasks to develop a quality product. They prepare the audio equipment, equalize the sound, and perform post-production edits. Those duties are detailed below.
Prepares Audio Equipment
One of the main duties of a sound engineer is to prepare the recording studio’s electrical equipment or the event location. They make sure all the recording equipment and instruments are working before the artists arrive. There is usually a full sound crew for larger events and recording sessions.
Sound engineers also have the responsibility to perform tests on the electrical equipment to evaluate their performance and sound intensity. This helps them meet the producer’s quality standards. These tests include sound and microphone checks.
Finally, when a product is recorded, the sound engineer will start editing songs or sound effects using different software. This is why these experts must have skills in tech. If you’re interested in audio editing, you could also become a music producer.
Essential Sound Engineer Skills
Sound engineers must have a mix of technical and creative skills. They must have communication skills, manual dexterity, and competencies to handle acoustic and electrical equipment. They also need a trained ear for music and interpersonal skills for team communication.
Sound and Video Editing
One of the main sound engineering skills is sound and video editing. They must be proficient in sound editing on computers and understand how to work with different software for editing. This can be a long process, so sound engineers should also be patient and meticulous.
Sound engineers must have an understanding of music and music theory. They must be familiar with rhythm, tone, and other music principles. This helps them to create the best product possible. It takes a lot of technical music knowledge behind the scenes to make a song or other audio piece sound good.
Knowledge of Electronic and Acoustic Equipment
A sound engineer must know how to handle electronic and acoustic equipment for the recording process. This is a practical skill you should have if you want to work in this profession. You must know how to prepare the instruments and perform tests on them to make sure they’re working properly.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Sound Engineer?
It can take two to six years to become a sound engineer. The time it takes depends on the career path you choose. You can study through a postsecondary program like an associate or bachelor’s degree. In addition, you will have to develop some practical experience in the industry before you can achieve this role.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Sound Engineer?
Unfortunately, there are no bootcamps that offer sound engineering programs. Coding bootcamps focus on computer science topics such as software engineering, web design, and web development.
Can I Become a Sound Engineer from Home?
No, there are not very many online programs for sound engineers. Sound engineering is a very technical profession that usually requires manual dexterity, so you’ll most likely find in-person programs like a Bachelor of Science in Audio Engineering. However, there are private training providers that can help you develop foundational skills.
How to Become a Sound Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
To become a sound engineer, you need to develop an understanding of music and learn technical skills such as audio and video editing, quality sound equipment preparation, and equalization. Below, you will find a step-by-step guide on how to become a sound engineer.
Step 1: Get a High School Diploma
The first step to becoming a sound engineer is to earn a high school diploma. Even though there are companies that don’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree, a high school diploma is a must.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s or Associate Degree
Some companies don’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree. You can develop the skills you need by taking music classes and joining sound editing courses. However, this is a very technical trade, so a college degree could help you develop advanced sound engineering skills. An associate degree is enough to start your career and land an entry-level job.
Step 3: Complete an Internship
If you want to gain experience in the recording industry, you can complete an internship at any production company. This is a great way to learn from experienced professionals and to start showcasing your skills. Along with this, you can also work on personal projects and create a portfolio.
Step 4: Start the Job Hunt
Once you have learned about sound engineering fundamentals and have developed some experience in the field, you can start the job hunt. Remember to do research about the company you apply for and prepare a clear and effective resume. Prepare for tough job interview questions and rehearse your answers so you can feel more confident.
Best Schools and Education for a Sound Engineer Career
There are many career options to pursue as a sound engineer. You can start by joining an online course or by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree. Since sound engineering is one of the best careers in technology and design, you should get as much education and experience as you can before entering the field.
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Sound Engineer Bootcamps
As mentioned earlier, there are no coding bootcamps for this career. However, there is a school called the Artists Bootcamp that has a structure similar to coding bootcamps that offers an immersive sound engineering program. This program lasts 16 weeks and covers fundamental audio engineering topics like mixing, editing, and different music software.
You can also build your sound engineering career in a vocational school. Many schools, such as the University of Silicon Valley or Laurus College, offer audio production programs where you can learn essential sound engineering principles. This is an affordable and practical choice.
Attending community college is another low-cost way to learn audio engineering. Schools like Community College of Philadelphia and Lane Community college offer sound production and music technology programs. You will learn about synthesizer basics and signal routing in both analog and digital formats.
Sound Engineering Degrees
To become a sound engineer, you can also earn a Bachelor of Science in Audio Engineering. This is a four-year degree program that will teach you about music technology, electrical and acoustic equipment, and music software and hardware. If you want to keep your options open, a bachelor’s degree is the way to go.
The Most Important Sound Engineer Certification
There is only one certification available at the moment in the sound engineering field. This certification is not a strict requirement to work in this profession. However, it adds value to your resume and validates your skills and knowledge as a sound engineer.
Certified Audio Engineer (CEA)
The Society of Broadcast Engineers offers an audio engineering certification that validates your expertise and experience in this career. To obtain the certification, you must pass an exam that measures your sound operation abilities and your competencies with basic electronics. This will give you a leg up in the field, especially when applying for jobs.
How to Prepare for Your Sound Engineering Job Interview
To prepare for a sound engineering job interview, you need to do some research about the company. Get to know the company’s values, background, and what they look for in the prospective candidate. This way, you will be prepared for their job interview questions. You should also make sure to showcase your technical and soft skills.
Sound Engineer Job Interview Practice Questions
- What are the differences between setting the audio equipment in the studio versus on the stage?
- What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
- What has been your biggest challenge as a sound engineer? How did you approach it?
- What are your future goals in this career?
- What motivates you to be a sound engineer?
Should I Become a Sound Engineer in 2021?
Yes, you should become a sound engineer in 2021. Sound engineering is a highly in-demand career, and there will be many more jobs created in the future. Becoming a sound engineer could result in excellent job opportunities, job stability, and a creative work environment. If you’re interested in music and tech, sound engineering might be the right career for you.
Sound Engineer FAQ
Yes, you can become a sound engineer without a degree. However, you will need to receive the appropriate training and get as much experience in the industry as you can.
Yes, it can be hard because sound engineering involves both creative and technical skills. This makes it challenging for those who are not used to dealing with such a practical trade.
No, you don’t need to be an expert in all mathematical concepts, but you will need to deal with some math fundamentals in a sound engineering career. Trigonometry is usually used in audio engineering for balancing sound waves.
Sound engineers usually work from 35 to 40 hours a week. They often have strict deadlines to meet for their assignments, and hours can fluctuate depending on which projects they’re working on.
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