How to Become a Sound Technician in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for a sound technician. Get the facts about certification, degree programs and salary potential to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Sound Technician Do?

Sound technicians monitor and adjust the volume and balance levels of audio equipment used in recording sessions or live events. They are responsible for setting up all the microphones before a performance or recording session and making sure they are functioning properly before the recording begins. They then edit the audio files, blend them together, and adjust the levels to create professional level quality recordings. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Certificate; associate's degree
Education Field of Study Audio technology; studio and field recording technique; physics of sound
Key Responsibilities Work with producers or directors to determine ideal sound for an event; set up and take down of sound equipment; sound mixing
Certification Optional Certified Audio Engineer (CEA) credential from the Society of Broadcast Engineers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* (sound engineering technicians)
Median Annual Salary (2015) $53,330* (sound engineering technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Sound Technician?

A sound technician is a technical specialist who adjusts and monitors tape recorders, digital recorders, mixers and other audio devices used to capture or reproduce sound. You might perform you duties in a recording studio for music, movie and TV productions or at live venues such as theaters or stadiums. Your duties could include consulting with performers, producers or directors about the sound design for an event or production; setting up speakers, cables, mixers and microphones before an event and tearing down after an event; editing and manipulating sound; synchronizing sound with images; making repairs or arranging for repairs when equipment malfunctions; and maintaining recording logs.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

Taking part in any audio-related extracurricular activities available at your high school is one way to begin gaining experience in the field. Participating in audiovisual clubs or the school radio station can help you get an understanding of the technology. Playing an instrument in the school band can also help you to develop your aural aesthetic. Courses in electronics, computers math and physics may also be helpful.

Step 2: Earn a Certificate or an Associate's Degree

O*Net OnLine reports that around 25% of sound technicians have some postsecondary education and about 22% have an associate's degree (www.onetonline.org). Associate's degree programs in audio production and related subjects are available from community, technical and vocational colleges. Certificate programs are available from both 2-year and 4-year schools. Programs at both levels aim to familiarize you with audio technology, its uses in multiple industries and the process of creating audio compositions. Course content may cover studio and field-recording techniques, listening skills, sound design and sound physics.

Step 3: Complete an Internship

An internship gives you an opportunity to gain work experience and network with industry professionals. TV and radio stations and recording studios are possible internship providers. Sometimes an internship might lead directly to a job with the same employer after you graduate. Schools may include an internship either as an elective or as a required course.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

The movie and video production industry, music recording industry, broadcasting industry and theatrical and live events industry will provide most of your employment opportunities. You're likely to encounter a lot of competition for work, because the number of people interested in these jobs exceeds the number of positions available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 16,100 people worked as sound technicians in 2014 (www.bls.gov). From 2014-2024, employment for sound engineering technicians is projected to grow 8 percent to around 17,400. As of May 2015, you could have potentially earned a median annual salary of $53,330 as a sound technician.

Step 5: Consider Certification

To boost your professional profile you can obtain the Certified Audio Engineer (CEA) credential from the Society of Broadcast Engineers. Eligibility for the certification exam requires five years of experience as a technician. Formal education can substitute year-for-year for experience up to a maximum of four years. The CEA exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that test your knowledge of safety, audio theory and operating procedures.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several other careers that prospective sound technicians may be interested in. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians also work with various types of equipment, from medical monitoring devices to various types of navigational equipment. They are responsible for some design aspects as well as equipment testing. Careers in film and video editing are also similar, though they involve editing footage rather than sound.

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