What Does an Audio Engineer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman singing into the microphone in a recording booth, and there is a man on the soundboard directing her and toggling with the sliders and buttons. Text reads:

Image by Brianna Gilmartin © The Balance 2019

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."

Audio Engineer Duties & Responsibilities

The job typically requires the ability to handle the following duties: 

  • Minimizing unwanted sounds
  • Regulating volume levels and sound quality
  • Setting up ambient sound microphones
  • Collaborating with producers and performers
  • Providing oversight during live productions
  • Meeting clients' quality standards
  • Maintaining and repairing equipment

Audio engineers operate the equipment necessary to record sounds for recordings that might be strictly audio or that might also include video. Even if recordings include video, the audio engineer is responsible only for the sounds recorded. Audio engineers also handle equipment necessary for producing the best sound for live performances, such as concerts.

Audio Engineer Salary

Salaries for audio engineers typically depend on experience and demand. While starting pay may be low, engineers with experience working in more populated settings where there is demand for their services can do quite well.

  • Median Annual Salary: $42,650
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $85,340
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $23,160

Education, Training, & Certification

Audio engineers often attend postsecondary vocational programs, which typically take one year.

  • Education: Vocational programs give students an opportunity to work hands-on with the type of equipment they will be using as audio engineers. Because it involves working with equipment, most of the learning in this profession is done on the job.
  • Certification: It's not often necessary to earn certification, but the Society of Broadcast Engineers offers an exam to become a certified audio engineer (CEA). Five years of experience in the field are necessary to take the exam, and having the certification can make audio engineers more appealing as job candidates in some circumstances.

    Audio Engineer Skills & Competencies

    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, but certain soft skills to succeed including the following:

    • Problem Solving: When equipment malfunctions, an audio engineer must be able to identify the problem, then make the repairs and 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: Engineers must possess excellent listening and speaking skills to collaborate on projects with others involved in the project.

    Job Outlook

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 8 percent for the decade ending in 2026. This is slightly better than the 7 percent growth projected for all occupations. Job growth is expected to be better for audio and visual technicians as private businesses seek to do more with video conferencing. However, broadcast technicians are expected to see a 3 percent decline in job growth.

    Work Environment

    Environments can vary depending on the type of work being done. A lot of audio engineering work is done in studios inside, but audio engineers can work in all kinds of environments. For example, those working at live music venues or for specific musical acts might work in arenas or at outdoor venues.

    Work Schedule

    While some jobs will take place during normal business hours, there is no norm among audio engineers. Television and radio stations typically broadcast 24 hours per day and might need engineers to work at any time. Recording studios also might operate at all times, and audio engineers assisting with live music often work evenings and weekends.

    How to Get the Job

    EXPERIENCE

    Vocational or on-the-job training is the best way to learn to use the necessary equipment.

    CERTIFICATION

    After gaining experience, it's possible to earn certification to boost employment prospects.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    Some other career opportunities, with median annual salaries, for those interested in careers as audio engineers include:

    • Announcers: $31,500
    • Electronics Engineering Technicians: $63,660
    • Film and Video Editors: $58,210