Sound engineering technicians record, mix, synchronize, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effect using recording machines and equipment. They may work in theater productions, sporting arenas, recording studios, or movie and video productions. Closely related occupations include recording engineers, who operate and maintain video and sound recording equipment designed to produce special effects and other sounds; and sound mixers and rerecording mixers, who produce the soundtrack of movies and television shows.
Sound engineering technician jobs have been greatly altered by the transition to digital recording, editing, and broadcasting. Electronic equipment has largely been replaced by desktop software, and video and audio tapes have been replaced by computer hard drives and other types of data storage. Computer networks coupled with specialized equipment have become the standard for broadcasting. As a result, sound engineering technicians have been forced to adapt and learn software and computer networking skills.
Sound engineering technicians need to have skill working with electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems and equipment. It is also important for them to have good manual dexterity.
In 2002, sound engineering technicians earned a median annual salary of $36,970. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $18,540, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $82,510.
Training and Education
Prospective sound engineering technicians should take high school courses in math, physics, and electronics. Another source of valuable experience is building electronic equipment from hobby kits, as well as working for campus radio and television stations. Sound engineering technicians can advance to jobs such as supervisory technician or chief engineer. A college degree in engineering is required in order to advance to chief engineer at a larger television station.
The most effective way to train for a career as a sound engineering technician is to enroll in a technical school community college, or 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. Quite a few employers offer programs in which they will pay the tuition and expenses for courses and seminars that improve the skills of their employees and help keep them updated on the latest developments in the field.
In 2002, sound engineering technicians held about 13,000 jobs. Television jobs are usually located in cities, but radio jobs can be found even in small towns. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. offer the highest-paying jobs.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of sound engineering technicians is expected to increase faster than the average. Advancements in technology will increase the abilities of technicians to produce higher quality radio and television programming. Job growth will be limited by the consolidation in ownership of television and radio stations. In the cable and pay television sector of the industry, employment growth will be higher.
For more information on a career as a sound engineering technician, please see our directory of Media Production Schools