Sound Engineering Technician
A sound engineering technician could...
|Add sound effects to make a movie monster roar.||Equip Broadway show actors with microphones so that the audience can hear them.|
|Set up the sound equipment for a live concert.||Mix different sound tracks together to create new music for a club.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Any time you hear music at a concert, a live speech, the police sirens in a TV show, or the six o'clock news you're hearing the work of a sound engineering technician. Sound engineering technicians operate machines and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in recording studios, sporting arenas, theater productions, or movie and video productions.|
|Key Requirements||The ability to focus in and listen to individual sounds, an aptitude for electronics, and an attention to detail.|
|Minimum Degree||Associate's degree or a certificate from a specialized program|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, pre-calculus|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Average (7% to 13%)|
|Interview||Read about the life of a freelance sound engineering technician who works live concerts in this interview from Entertainment Management Online.|
Training, Other Qualifications
Sound engineering technicians usually receive some kind of formal training prior to beginning work.
Education and Training
Prospective technicians should take high school courses in math, physics, and electronics.
After high school, the best way to train for a career as a sound engineering technician is to enroll in a technical school community college, or a university program in electronics, computer networking, or broadcast technology. New employees usually learn on the job from more experienced technicians and supervisors. Some begin their careers working in smaller, local stations and, after gaining valuable experience, move on to larger stations and networks.
Experienced technicians can become supervisory technicians or chief engineers. A college degree in engineering is needed to become chief engineer at a large television station.
Continuing education to become familiar with emerging technologies is recommended for all sound engineering technicians.
Sound engineering technicians and radio operators must have manual dexterity and an aptitude for working with electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems and equipment. Building electronic equipment from hobby kits and operating a "ham," or amateur, radio are good ways to prepare for technician jobs, as is working at college radio and college television stations. Information technology skills are also valuable because digital recording, editing, and broadcasting are now the norm.
Nature of the Work
Sound engineering technicians operate machines and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in recording studios, sporting arenas, theater productions, or movie and video productions.
The transition to digital recording, editing, and broadcasting is still in progress, and affects sound engineering technicians and radio operators. Software on desktop computers has replaced specialized electronic equipment in many recording and editing functions. This transition has made it necessary for technicians to learn computer networking and software skills.
Sound engineering technicians perform a variety of duties in small radio and television stations. In large stations and at the networks, technicians are more specialized, although job assignments may change from day to day. The terms "operator," "engineer," and "technician" often are used interchangeably to describe these jobs.
Sound engineering technicians also work in program production. They operate and maintain sound recording equipment, and may also operate equipment designed to produce special effects, such as the noise of a police siren. Some sound engineering technicians produce soundtracks for movies or television programs. After filming or recording is complete, these workers may use a process called "dubbing" to insert sounds. Those that work in the field, rather than in a studio, set up and operate portable transmission equipment. Because television news coverage requires so much electronic equipment and the technology is changing so rapidly, many stations assign technicians exclusively to news.
In the motion picture industry, people are hired as apprentice editorial assistants and work their way up to more skilled jobs. Employers in the motion picture industry usually hire experienced freelance technicians on a picture-by-picture basis. Reputation and determination are important in getting jobs.
Sound engineering technicians generally work indoors in pleasant surroundings. However, those who broadcast news and other programs from locations outside the studio may work outdoors in all types of weather, or in other dangerous conditions. Technicians who are setting up equipment may do heavy lifting.
Technicians at large stations and the networks usually work a 40-hour week under great pressure to meet broadcast deadlines, and may occasionally work overtime. Technicians at small stations routinely work more than 40 hours a week. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is usual because most stations are on the air 18-24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even though a technician may not be on duty when the station is broadcasting, some technicians may be on call during non-work hours; these workers must handle any problems that occur when they are on call.
Technicians who work on motion pictures may be on a tight schedule and may work long hours to meet contractual deadlines.
On the Job
Typical tasks for a sound engineering technician might include some of the following:
- Confer with producers, performers, and others to determine and achieve the desired sound for a production, such as a musical recording or a film.
- Set up, test, and adjust recording equipment for recording sessions and live performances; tear down equipment after event completion.
- Regulate volume level and sound quality during recording sessions, using control consoles.
- Prepare for recording sessions by performing activities such as selecting and setting up microphones.
- Report equipment problems and ensure that required repairs are made.
- Mix and edit voices, music, and taped sound effects for live performances and for prerecorded events, using sound mixing boards.
- Synchronize and equalize prerecorded dialogue, music, and sound effects with visual action of motion pictures or television productions, using control consoles.
- Record speech, music, and other sounds on recording media, using recording equipment.
- Reproduce and duplicate sound recordings from original recording media, using sound editing and duplication equipment.
- Separate instruments, vocals, and other sounds, and combine sounds later during the mixing or post-production stage.
Companies That Hire Sound Engineering Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Bass or Treble? Measure the Frequency Response of a Speaker
- Bat Detector: Listen to the Secret Sounds of Bats
- Build Your Own Crystal Radio
- Customize Your Own Drum Set!
- Digital Voice Analysis
- Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong: Morning Bells Are Ringing
- Do You Hear What You See?
- Does How You Hold Your Guitar Affect the Sound?
- Don't You Fret! Standing Waves on a Guitar
- Extreme Sounds: Lessons in a Noisy World
- Frequency-Dependent Sound Absorption
- Guitar Fundamentals: Wavelength, Frequency, & Speed
- HAMing It Up with the Astronauts
- How Loud Can Paper Speakers Get?
- How to Make a Guitar Sing
- How to Make a Piano Sing
- How Tweet It Is: Bird Songs in Classical Music
- Is It a Country Ballad? Listen to the Beat!
- Less Cowbell! The Unconstrained Truth About Constrained-Layer Damping
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Sound Engineering Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- BLS. (2016). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2016 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- NOVA scienceNOW. (2009, April). Auto-tune. Retrieved February 27, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xnzdk1fZsQ0
Explore Our Science Videos
Slow Motion Craters - STEM Activity
DIY Toy Sailboat
Why Won't it Mix? Discover the Brazil Nut Effect