Audio Engineer

Career Information

Hand on mixing desk in recording studio
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Audio engineers use machinery and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects. They work on the production of movies, music recordings, live shows, or video games. They sometimes work under the job titles "sound engineering technician" and "audio equipment technician."

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, audio technicians earned a  median annual salary of $42,230. Sound engineering technicians earned $53,680.*
  • There were 16,000 sound engineering technicians and 71,000 audio equipment technicians employed in 2014.
  • Most people worked in the radio and television, motion picture, video and sound recording, and the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in this occupation will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

*The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports information for these two job titles rather than for audio engineer

A Day in an Audio Engineer's Life

Before you embark on preparing for this career, you should know what typical job duties you can expect to have. Here those we found when we looked at online ads for audio engineer and related positions listed on Indeed.com:

  • "Minimize unwanted sounds on set"
  • "Regulate volume levels and sound quality during recording sessions, using various types of professional field mixers"
  • "Set up ambient sound microphones for crowd and cage"
  • "Collaborate with producers, performers, and others to determine and achieve the desired sound for a production"
  • "Provide audio systems oversight of the show during production"
  • "Set up and operate playback and reinforcement for theatre, opera, meetings, choral concerts, dance, symphony, jazz, country, pop, variety shows, and city events"
  • "Play music and mix front of house audio for exciting live events"
  • "Process audio to meet company’s quality standards"
  • "Maintain and repair, and administer the repair of the equipment that you operate"

How to Become an Audio Engineer

If you want to become an audio engineer you can attend a postsecondary vocational program for up to a year. There you will learn how to operate specialized equipment such as audio mixing consoles, equalizers, and microphones. After completing a program, you will receive a non-degree award or certificate. Some employers do not require you to attend school and will instead provide on-the-job training.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

The set of hard skills audio engineers use on their jobs usually comes from a combination of formal or on-the-job training and experience. They also need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. They are:

  • Problem Solving: When equipment malfunctions, the audio engineer must be able to identify the problem first. Then he or she must make the repairs and adjustments needed to make it work again.
  • Critical Thinking: To fix problems, they must come up with alternative solutions and then figure out which will have the best results.
  • Manual Dexterity: Setting up equipment, connecting wires, and using knobs and buttons to make adjustments requires excellent manual dexterity.
  • Monitoring: Audio engineers must continuously monitor volume levels and sound quality.
  • Communication Skills: You need excellent listening and speaking skills to collaborate on projects with others.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

To learn about employers' required qualifications, we again turned to Indeed.com to examine job announcements for audio engineers:

  • "Ability to demonstrate planning, organizing and implementing skills which allow the successful completion of a project by a specific due date"
  • "Ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously"
  • "Strong ability to learn new technologies"
  • "Ability to constructively collaborate in a results oriented team"
  • "Demonstrated success in the creation of superb content under pressure"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2016)Educational Requirements
Camera OperatorMakes visual recordings of the action in movies, television shows, and commercials.$55,080Bachelor's degree in film or broadcasting
Broadcast TechnicianRegulates the audio and video on television broadcasts and the audio on radio broadcasts$38,550Associate degree in broadcast technology
Radio OperatorsReceives and transmits radio communications$46,250H.S. or equivalency diploma

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited July 10, 2017).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited July 10, 2017).

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