Sound Engineering Technicians Overview

With 15 percent of sound engineering technicians working in sound recording, motion picture and video industries, a recording arts technology degree from a community college, technical school and even college training, has aided in preparing sound engineering technicians for the competitive job market. The majority of high paying sound engineering technician jobs are in the city so many choose to look for careers in smaller towns and cities for more options. A career as a sound engineering technician can also mean working evening, weekend and holiday hours.

Nature of the Work for Sound Engineering Technicians

Sound Engineering Technicians

The duties of a sound engineering technician can vary while including tasks such as electrical equipment set up and maintenance for radio and television broadcasts as well as equipment used in concerts, plays, movies and sound recordings. With so many tasks, there are many specialized occupations in the field for sound engineering technicians.

The duties of a sound engineering technician are usually accomplished in a sporting arena, movie/video production, theater production or recording studio. Their work involves operating equipment and machines used to synchronize, mix, record or reproduce music, sound effects and voices.

The role of a sound engineering technician at a small station would mean performing a vast amount of duties and tasks for that particular station. Working for a larger station would require a more specialized technician to perform tasks, even though many of the tasks performed can change day-to-day. The role of a “engineer,” “operator,” or “technician,” sometimes used interchangeably, can be in charge of working with electronic broadcasting equipment to ensure proper set up, adjustments and repair as well as monitoring signals and operating transmitters. Their job can also include working with television broadcasts to help regulate brightness, volume, contrast and sound quality for that particular broadcast.

Sound engineering technicians can also be involved in program production. The role of a recording engineer involves using sound and video recording equipment while properly operating and maintaining the equipment for the use of producing special effects as well as other sounds. Sound mixers, which can also be known as re-recording mixers, work on the soundtracks for movies or television shows and can perform a number of tasks such as “dubbing” to insert sounds after recording has taken place. Thanks to the need of electrical equipment and changing technology used for television news coverage, field technicians are used to help set up the portable transmission equipment for the studio. News stations have even started hiring technicians to work for the news exclusively due to technology and the demands of properly-used electrical equipment.

Another job devoted to keeping communication systems working properly as well as repairing equipment such as hand or power tools and electronic testing equipment is set aside for radio operators.

In terms of working conditions, the work environment remains pleasant for sound engineering technicians who usually work 40 hour weeks with occasional overtime hours and strict deadlines. Though for the most part conditions remain stable, many sound engineering technicians will sometimes work outdoors when working for studios who broadcast in varying locations. Outdoor job duties can include heavy lifting, equipment set up and climbing antenna towers or poles.

Though larger stations usually require sound engineering technicians to work a full time, 40 hour week with occasional overtime, those working at smaller stations can expect to work evenings, weekends and holidays as well as longer hours. Due to the fact that stations sometimes run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, some technicians are needed on call in case of broadcasting problems that may occur.

Sound engineering technicians working for motion pictures may be subjected to longer working hours due to contracts made to meet certain deadlines and scheduling.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Sound Engineering Technicians

It is recommended that a sound engineering technician receive some sort of official training. Though sound engineering technicians are urged to have this training, radio operators need a high school education since most of their training is learned from training on the job after several months.

The usual training completed by a sound engineering technician is a year long vocational program with shorter programs if necessary. Those looking to enroll in such programs are expected to have completed courses in math, electronics and physics from their high school. Though these courses are expected to be completed, computer training is also important for those looking to become sound engineering technicians.

Once training is completed and the job search begins, many entry-level sound engineering technicians tend to take jobs at smaller stations and markets where their general skills are deemed valuable. Larger stations and markets usually want sound engineering technicians who are extremely experienced and who have specialized skills. For those looking to gain experience, it is recommended that a sound engineering technician work at a local radio or television station to gain hands on experience before entering the job market.

For sound engineering technicians interested in entering the motion picture industry, their position usually begins as a freelance technician or an apprentice editorial assistant before working their way up.

In terms of landing a job, knowledge of emerging technologies, reputation and diligence are all essential for those looking to become sound engineering technicians.

Top 10 Most Popular Recording Arts Technology Schools

1. SAE Institute of Technology, Nashville (Nashville, Tennessee)
2. Columbia College, Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
3. The New England Institute of Art (Brookline, Massachusetts)
4. Berklee College of Music, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts)
5. Colegio de Cinematografia Artes y Television (Bayamon, Puerto Rico)
6. Bossier Parish Community College, Bossier City (Bossier City, Louisiana)
7. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)
8. Northeast Community College (Orlando, Florida)
9. Audio Recording Technology Institute (Norfolk, Nebraska)
10. Guilford Technical Community College (Jamestown, North Carolina)

See All Recording Arts Technology Schools

Online School: Boston University - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Sound Engineering Technicians

Number of People in Profession

15,560

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow more slowly than average (increase 3 - 6%).

15,560 jobs were held for sound engineering technicians. The breakdown of what industries these positions were held includes 29 percent of sound engineering technicians working in broadcasting, 15 percent for the motion picture industry and video industries as well as 13 percent for those who were self-employed.

In terms of employment, televisions stations tend to employ more sound engineering technicians than radio stations. Even though sound engineering technicians tend to work for television and radio stations, many choose to work in sales, communications and training programs.

For those looking to work in radio and television, cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Washington DC offer specialized jobs with higher pay for sound engineering technicians.

Though a sound engineering technician is likely to find a career in pretty much any US city, specialized jobs such as jobs in the motion picture industry tend to be found in cities such as Los Angeles and New York City.

Just like the average for all occupations, employment is expected to grow 8 percent for sound engineering technicians.

Earnings and Salary for Sound Engineering Technicians

Median annual wages of sound engineering technicians are $46,370. The middle 50 percent earn between $32,450 and $67,010. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $23,420, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $94,270.

In terms of earnings, those that work in larger markets tend to make more than those working smaller cities and markets. Those also working in television rather than radio as well as those working for commercial broadcasting rather than non-commercial also tend to make more money.

Annual Salary for Sound Engineering Technicians

On average, Sound Engineering Technicians earn $46,370 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $23,420/yr $32,450/yr $67,010/yr $94,270/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook