Becoming a Sound Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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Sound technicians earn a mean wage of about $58,670. Is this worth the education and training requirements? Learn the truth about the career outlook, and read job postings from real employers to decide whether or not this occupation is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Sound Technician

As a sound technician, you have the potential opportunity to create the sound effects for a television show or movie, arrange music beats for an album or maintain audio equipment for a concert. Below is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide if becoming a sound technician is ideal for you.

Pros of Being a Sound Technician
Can work in a variety of industries, including radio, television, music or motion pictures*
Training for the job can be completed in as little as one year*
Good earning potential (mean annual salary of about $58,670 in May 2014)*
Typically work indoors*

Cons of Being a Sound Technician
May be required to do heavy lifting*
Motion picture work may come with tight deadlines*
Usually work evenings, weekends and holidays*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Sound technicians are also known as sound engineering technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In this profession, you are responsible for operating audio equipment in recording studios, movie sets, concerts, radio stations or schools. Typically, your job responsibilities at a smaller station may be more varied, while your duties at a larger station may be more specialized. Some of the functions of your job can include mixing, editing and synchronizing vocals and sound effects, setting up and testing recording equipment, working with music producers and using transmitters to broadcast programs. You may also specialize in an area of sound engineering, such as recording engineering or sound mixing.

The nationwide employment of sound engineering technicians was projected to increase by one percent from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. That rate is slower than the average for all jobs. Most of the demand is projected to come from schools, businesses, and television and radio stations updating older audio and video systems. As of May 2014, sound engineering technicians earned a mean salary of about $58,670. The lowest-paid ten percent of sound technicians earned about $22,820 or less, while the highest-paid ten percent earned approximately $106,870 or more each year.

Education and Training Requirements

You typically need to complete at least a vocational certificate program to work as a sound technician, according to the BLS. However, completing an associate's degree program is common for most technicians. You can prepare to become a sound technician while in high school by taking courses in computer science, electronics, mathematics and physics. If you're just starting out in the field, you are likely to receive on-the-job training by assisting a more senior-level technician. Some of your training may include performing sound tests on equipment, setting up audio cables and learning the protocols of the industry. Since this profession is very technology oriented, you may also need to take continuing education courses to stay abreast of the latest technological advancements.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many job postings for sound technicians required at least two years of experience, but some employers looked for candidates with up to five years of experience. Employers also sought candidates who knew how to use audio board consoles that are common in the industry. Listed below are some job postings for sound technicians that can help you understand what real employers were looking for in November 2012.

  • A major television and media company in New Jersey looked for an audio engineer with at least five years of experience in audio, including two years of experience working with Calrec audio board platform. This employer preferred candidates with a bachelor's degree in sound engineering or communications. Job duties included setting up and testing audio equipment, mixing live and recorded news events, and editing audio using special effects.
  • A Fort Lauderdale, FL, broadcasting company sought an audio mixer to work on entertainment, live news and musical shows. The candidate needed at least five years of experience and knowledge of digital audio consoles such as Calrec and Yamaha. A high school diploma was required, but the employer preferred applicants with vocational training or an associate's degree.
  • A Washington, DC, theatre company looked for a sound technician with at least two years of experience. The candidate needed working knowledge of modern digital technology, sound reinforcements and sound systems. Job duties include installing, operating and maintaining sound/video systems for events.
  • A broadcasting company in Miami, FL, wanted an audio mixer with five years of experience, good organization, bilingual skills and at least a high school diploma.

How Can I Stand Out?

You can improve your job prospects in this field by obtaining the Certified Audio Engineer (CEA) designation from the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). You must have at least five years of experience to be eligible for the CEA exam. The SBE recognizes certain academic achievements as a substitute for work experience. For instance, an associate's degree counts as two years of experience, and a bachelor's degree or professional engineer license counts as four years of experience.

You may also stand out as a sound technician by earning a 4-year degree. For example, you may earn a Bachelor of Science in Audio or Sound Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Digital Recording Arts or a Bachelor of Arts in Sound Design. You can earn experience mixing and recording music or sound during school projects.

Alternative Career Paths

Film and Video Editors

If you like working in the broadcasting industry, but you want a career that involves working on visual projects, then consider becoming a film and video editor. You usually need to have a bachelor's degree and several years of experience in an assistant role to become an editor. Some of your job duties might include selecting audio and visual effects, operating computer editing systems and organizing raw footage. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median salary of about $53,000 as of May 2011. The BLS also found that film and video editor jobs were expected to only increase by five percent from 2010-2020.

Electrical or Electronic Engineering Technicians

You might also consider a career that focuses on designing and building electronics. As an electrical or electronic engineering technician, you would perform duties such as building prototypes, designing and assembling circuitry, repairing parts and developing solutions to technical problems. To work in this field, you generally need to have at least an associate's degree. As of May 2011, the median salary earned by electrical and electronic engineering technicians was approximately $57,000, according to the BLS. From 2010-2020, the BLS predicted that the national employment of these professionals would increase by two percent due to companies often contracting out electronic jobs.

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