Even if you’re not all that gifted in playing a musical instrument, you can still be involved in the music business by becoming an audio engineer. That lets you work with music and associated electronic equipment for film companies, music companies, and theatrical organizations. You can work with sports arenas as well. In fact, you can work for any enterprise that regularly uses audio equipment like microphones and speakers.
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What Does an Audio Engineer Do?
To put it simply, the job of an audio engineer is to make sure that all the audio equipment works as expected. That can then mean doing several more specific tasks, such as:
Setting up the audio equipment for use:
For example, you may have to help set up all the microphones and speakers in an arena or club for a live musical performance.
Your responsibilities may include making sure that each piece of equipment works, separately and together with other equipment. You may be asked to fix malfunctioning gear, or buy replacement equipment along the way.
You may be tasked to use the equipment (both analog and digital). That means you should know how to record voices and sounds, mix tracks, manage broadcasts, and adjust volume levels for live performances.
Preparing Early to Become an Audio Engineer
If you’re set on becoming an audio engineer (also known as a sound technician), you should prepare while you’re younger. Play around with sound editing software at home, as your expertise with those programs can be invaluable in the future. Involve yourself with high school and local music and theater productions. Befriend an actual engineer and become their intern or apprentice, so you can learn firsthand what they do.
You should also pay more attention to your high school studies, because it will greatly help you if you get a postsecondary degree in audio engineering. Try to do well in subjects such as physics, computers, and electronics while you’re still in high school.
Get Your College Degree
It is true that a college degree is not an absolute requirement to be an audio engineer. You can learn on the job if you’re an intern, especially if you have a friend or relative who’s an audio engineer willing to take you as an apprentice.
But a college degree helps you gain a competitive advantage over other applicants vying for the same jobs. Also, you may advance more quickly and become the overall manager of the sound department if you have a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s in audio engineering.
You can also be an audio engineer with just an associate’s degree. This means you can get your degree in just 2 years instead of 4.
Several good colleges and universities offer excellent undergraduate BA or BS degrees for audio engineering. These can be a Bachelor of Arts degree in Audio Production, or a Bachelor of Science Degree in Audio Technology. The American University in Washington, DC even offers an MA in Audio Technology.
Additional Benefits of a Degree
Obviously, it should give you a leg up over other job applicants if you have an actual degree in audio engineering from a good college. It means you have both the expertise and discipline for the job.
Some universities also excel in providing real-world internship experiences along the way. One of these colleges is the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business (Belmont University). The college is located just 2 miles from downtown Nashville, so you can have plenty of opportunities to learn what it’s like to be an audio engineer in the real world while working on the Nashville music scene.
Colleges also offer plenty of in-campus learning opportunities, with school theatrical productions, concerts, and sports events that require extensive audio equipment. This way, you can learn to work with others to make sure that these events go on without a hitch.
The college can also offer lots of networking opportunities, helping you connect with previous graduates who now work in the sound departments of various entertainment companies. It’s very common for college graduates to have jobs waiting for them once they complete their degree.
Once you get a job as an audio engineer, your degree still gives you an advantage over the others when it’s time for a raise or a promotion. It’s much more difficult to be the chief audio engineer in your sound department if you don’t have at least a bachelor’s degree.
You still have other means of finding job opportunities if you want to explore other alternatives to getting a job through your college. You can always use Google, and find online want ads for audio engineers.
You should also check out organizations associated with audio engineering. You can try out the Audio Engineering Society and other similar groups. They often have huge databases for available sound technician jobs.
Look for places in your city, such as bars, clubs, and restaurants that use audio equipment to entertain patrons. Your job then can be maintaining and using the audio equipment so that the patrons can enjoy their music or live entertainment.
Another way to use your expertise is to work with private clients such as other songwriters and performers. They may be geniuses with their piano and guitar skills, but they don’t have your knowledge about recording equipment and sound editing software. You can help them record and mix their music to help them produce professional-sounding tracks.
Finally, you can even open a repair shop fixing and maintaining audio equipment. After all, part of your job as an audio engineer includes fixing sound gear like microphones and speakers on the fly.
Working with audio equipment can be a lot of fun, even if you don’t have the gift of playing a musical instrument yourself. You can then be part of the team that helps provide the soundtrack and the sound effects for movies and TV shows, or enable musicians to bring their songs online or to live audiences.
The average salary of an audio engineer is about $70K per year. The top earners can average about $125K a year.