How Can I Become a Sound Engineer?

Sound engineers manage the audio for many forms of media, from music to film to video games. Learn about the field's job duties, educational requirements and employment outlook. Schools offering Wildlife & Forestry Conservation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Sound Engineer Do?

Sound engineering, also known as audio engineering, is the practice of recording and mixing audio tracks in order to finalize the sound design for various forms of media. While an audio producer tends to manage and guide audio projects through ideas and discussion, the engineer is a far more hands-on, technically oriented position. Once a craft where the tools were entirely analog, sound engineers today work almost primarily with digital equipment and turn to older analog formats primarily for the sound. It's important for a sound engineer to work well with others, since the capturing of sound, whether musical or not, is typically an intensely collaborative process.

What Education Do I Need?

Although there is no singular path to becoming a sound engineer, a good way to get your foot in the door is through an internship at a music studio. Before this, you might want enroll in an associate's degree program in sound engineering or recording arts. A typical sound recording program combines coursework with hands-on experience with a plethora of audio equipment. You build a portfolio and a body of work as you cover subjects such as mixing and mastering audio, analog technology, microphone placement, surround sound, mixing consoles, studio maintenance and music theory. Upon graduation, you may also choose to continue your education through a bachelor's degree program in sound engineering.

What Skills Do I Need?

For sound engineering, the skills that you can prove are more important than the training you can show you have on paper. For many jobs, you need to be able to set up and work with a wide array of hardware, from microphones to mixing consoles. Since many recording studios are run from Macintosh computers, a strong foundation in Macintosh operating systems and Windows may be necessary. Most sound engineering is no longer done with analog equipment, so you need to know a lot about digital equipment and software. A handful of audio software programs that you need to be well-versed in are Pro Tools HD and LE, Logic Pro, Ableton Live and, if you work with film, Final Cut Pro.

What Is the Job Market Like?

According to projections made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of positions available for sound engineering technicians was to see a slight increase of six percent between 2008 and 2018. Although the number of professional recording studios has shrunk somewhat due to the home studio explosion, many sound engineering jobs, such as mixing and editing, can be accomplished in a sophisticated home studio. In May 2009, the BLS also stated that the median annual wage of sound engineering technicians was $46,370, with the lower ten percent making $23,420 and the upper 90% making $94,270 (www.bls.gov).

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