What Is an Audio Engineer?

What You Need to Know About This Music & Film-Industry Based Career

Man seated at mixing board gesturing
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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

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, audio equipment technicians earned a median annual salary of $42,190. Sound engineering technicians earned $55,810.
  • There were 134,300 sound engineering technicians and 72,740 audio equipment technicians employed in 2017
  • Most people worked in the radio and television, motion picture, video and sound recording, and the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries.
  • The BLS projects a growth of 13 percent (for all categories), from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.employment in this occupation.

    A Day in the Life of an Audio Engineer

    Before you embark on preparing for this career, you should know what typical job duties you can expect to perform. Below is a list of basic job responsibilities: 

    • Minimizing unwanted sounds on set
    • Regulating volume levels and sound quality during recording sessions, and using various types of professional field mixers
    • Setting up ambient sound microphones for crowd and cage
    • Collaborating with producers and performers to determine and achieve the desired sound for a production
    • Providing audio system oversight for the show during production
    • Setting up and operating playback and reinforcement for theatre, opera, meetings, musical concerts, dance, symphonies, variety shows, and city events
    • Playing music and mixing front-of-house audio for live events
    • Processing audio to meet a company’s quality standards
    • Maintaining and repairing (or having oversight for repairs) for all equipment

    How to Become an Audio Engineer

    If you want to become an audio engineer you can attend a postsecondary vocational program, which usually takes one 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 including the following:

    • Problem Solving: When equipment malfunctions, the audio engineer must be able to identify the problem. Then he or she must make the repairs and make necessary adjustments.
    • Critical Thinking: To fix problems, engineers must come up with alternative solutions and then figure out which solution 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: Engineers must possess excellent listening and speaking skills to collaborate on projects with others involved in the project.

    What Will be Expected of You?

    Employees will look for the following skills:

    • Ability to demonstrate planning and organizational skills that will allow for  the successful completion of a project by a specific date
    • Ability to handle multiple, and diverse, projects simultaneously
    • Strong ability to learn new and emerging technology
    • Ability to effectively collaborate in a results-oriented team structure
    • Ability to create superior content while working under pressure

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    If this career path sounds right for you, you should probably take the Holland Code: RIC (Realistic, Investigative, Conventional), and the  MBTI Personality Types: ESTP, ISTP tests to make sure you have the right personality for the job.

    The ​​"Should You Become an Audio Engineer?" quiz is also a quick, fun way to test your personality type.

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

    According to the BLS, the average median salary, descriptions, and educational requirements for similar careers are as follows:

    Title Description Annual Salary (2017) Educational Requirements
    Camera Operator Makes visual recordings of the action in movies, television shows, and commercials. $61,180 Bachelor's degree in film or broadcasting
    Broadcast Technician Regulates the audio and video on television broadcasts and the audio on radio broadcasts $42,650 Associate degree in broadcast technology
    Radio Operators Receives and transmits radio communications $44,490 H.S. or equivalency diploma