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Sound Engineer

Education and Training: Certification or Associate’s degree
Average Salary: $42,000
Job Outlook: Good

A sound engineer typically works for a television or radio station to operate sound equipment needed for recording, mixing, or reproducing music or other audio. They may add in sound effects, adjust the volume, and maintain excellent sound quality throughout a broadcast. Sound engineers often work for recording studios, as well as for large arenas, theaters, and movie production companies.

Sound engineers are generally responsible for checking and performing basic maintenance on sound equipment, and for working with sound in either recorded or live situations. Many sound engineers are adept at recording their work into different formats, which is particularly important with the prevalence of the internet, where many radio and television stations reproduce their work. Sound engineers should be very familiar with mixing boards and other necessary sound equipment needed in their jobs.

Education and Training Requirements

Sound engineers can typically get a job with a small recording studio, television station, or radio station when they are essentially self-taught and have a high school diploma. Most companies, however, prefer that their sound engineers be trained through a vocational program or two year associates degree. Because so much of sound mixing is computerized now, sound engineers should take plenty of computer and mathematics courses. Vocational training programs typically last for a year, and some schools have dual-study programs so that high school students can start a technical program while still in school.

Getting the Job

Sound engineers can be hired straight from their training programs by applying to radio stations, television networks, and other potential employers who have openings. Competition for sound engineering jobs in large cities is expected to be keen, so technicians who need a job immediately should look into potential positions in smaller towns and communities with their own television and radio stations.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Job growth in this field is about average, but competition is high in larger cities. Job applicants in small towns may have better luck finding jobs without as much competition. Often times, applicants can work in smaller radio and television stations to gain experience before applying to jobs at large recording studios, big city television and radio stations, or movie production operations.

Sound technicians with good experience often go on to supervise other sound engineers in their company. Typically, further education is necessary for this.

Working Conditions and Environment

Sound engineers may work in a somewhat stressful environment, particularly if they are engineering sound for live broadcasts on television or radio. Typically, they work in a sound room full of equipment, and they work a regular shift. However, for television and radio stations, a sound engineer’s shift may vary widely, from early morning to late evening to weekends, depending on how the station is set up and when programming runs.

Salary and Benefits

The average income for a sound engineer in the US is about $42,000. Typically, sound engineers earn between $32,700 and $69,700 per year, though the top paid individuals can earn $92,000 or more. Those in the lowest paid bracket earned just around $23,000 per year, though these are usually lower-level engineers with little experience. Pay is dependent on experience, and some companies offer bonuses based on performance.

This full time job typically comes with health benefits and other benefits, including paid time off.

Where to Go for More Information

Audio Engineering Society
60 East 42nd St., Rm. 2520
New York, NY 10165
(212) 661-8528

Recording Engineers Association
100-5 Patco Ct.
Islandia, NY 11749
(631) 582-8999

The Society of Professional Audio Recording Services
(800) 771-7727

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts