How to Become a Sound Engineer in the US

Sound or audio engineers record, manipulate and reproduce sound. They are also involved in the design and development of music products. Effectively, they are the reason you enjoy your favorite songs on your headphones or other listening devices. If you have a passion and talent for music and technology, this is how you can become a sound engineer.

See Also: 5 Jobs for those with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre and Entertainment Technology

1. What Do Sound Engineers Do?

The specific duties of sound engineers vary depending on whether they work in reproduction of sound or development of music devices:

In sound reproduction, they:

  • Use acoustic equipment to record sounds
  • Use sound mix board to edit recorded sounds, adding special effects in the process
  • Convert recorded sounds into various formats
  • Installing and configuring musical instruments and other pieces of equipment in vehicles, theaters, conference centers and other settings
  • Keep records of sound recordings
  • Supervise sound engineering technicians

In product development design, they:

  • Create designs for new audio devices
  • Team up with electrical engineers to create sound transmission systems for these devices
  • Make adjustments to the designs of existing products
  • Create user manuals for finished products.

2. Work Environment

Regardless of the area of work, sound engineers commonly work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Those who engineer sound in live events, however, have irregular schedules.

Sound engineers involved in product design spend their time in an electronics design laboratory while the others spend most of their time in a music studio environment.

3. Salary

According to Indeed, sound engineers in the US earn an average annual salary of $90,000.

4. Entry Requirements

To become a sound engineer, earn a bachelor’s degree in sound or audio engineering technology. The program will equip you with knowledge of acoustics and psychoacoustics, sound reinforcement, sound technologies, electrical engineering as well as sound for theater and studio production.

Institutions offering the credential include:

As part of the program requirements, you will complete an internship, which can help you gain some hands-on sound engineering experience and prepare you for employment.

It is also possible to get started with a bachelor’s degree in theatre and entertainment technology.


5. Important Qualities

To be a competent sound engineer, you need:

  • Excellent technical and practical skills
  • A high level of creativity
  • Strong skills in computer design
  • Strong listening skills (A technical ear)
  • A good level of physical fitness
  • A good sense of pitch and rhythm
  • The ability to distinguish sound quality
  • A passion for music and technology
  • Good communication skills
  • Good teamwork skills
  • Internet proficiency
  • Good problem-solving skills to fix complex malfunctions in sound devices

6. Career Advancement

Beginning sound engineers develop their skills on the job.

Technology is quickly advancing, so you have to stay abreast of technological developments in the industry.

To demonstrate your competence and increase advancement prospects, get certified as an audio engineer by the Society of Broadcasting Engineers.

The Audio Engineering Society also offers membership opportunities, which you should grab to take advantage of a range of professional development resources, including conventions and podcasts.

Lastly, earn a master’s degree in sound and audio engineering to qualify for senior-level positions.

7. Job Opportunities

The employers of sound engineers include:

  • Electronic device manufacturing companies
  • Movie theatres
  • Music and film production companies
  • Conference centers, clubs, resorts and sports stadia
  • Colleges and universities
  • Broadcasting firms (radio and TV stations)
  • Sellers and distributors of electronic music equipment
  • Recording Studios

With vast experience and advanced credentials, you can advance to become a sound engineering manager or the head of sound engineering.

You can also move into self-employment and establish a company that provides sound engineering services.

See Also: How to Become an Audio-Visual Technician

So, is the industry promising in terms of job availability? Although the BLS doesn’t provide job growth stats specifically for sound engineers, it forecasts a 7 percent (slightly slower than the national average) job growth for all arts, design, entertainment, sports and media professions.

The fact that sound engineers can work in diverse settings also gives you workplace flexibility. Apply to as many companies as possible, and focus on moving to your preferred area of practice after establishing yourself in the profession.

Now you know how turn you love for music and technology into a well-paying profession. Good luck!