How To Become a Sound Engineer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 January 2023

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sound engineers design and edit the sounds in music, films and video games. They can pursue degrees or learn about sound design from other experts in the field. If you're interested in becoming a sound engineer, you may want to learn more about what they do. In this article, we explore how to become a sound engineer, their responsibilities and frequently asked questions about the sound design profession.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

How to become a sound engineer

These are the steps you can follow that outline how to become a sound engineer:

1. Determine if it's the best career for you

The first step to becoming a sound engineer is ensuring it's the best career for you. To do this, you can evaluate your personal passions and interests and compare them with those that professional sound engineers have. Many successful sound engineers are artistic and passionate about music and film. Dedication to improvement is important for consistent quality, and charisma can be helpful for developing connections within the industry. If you enjoy collaborating with others, constructive criticism and a competitive atmosphere, sound engineering may be the right career choice for you.

Related: How To Find a Rewarding Career Path in 9 Steps

2. Pursue a relevant degree or education

Though many studios don't require their candidates to have official college degrees, attending university can be helpful in developing your skills and validating your qualifications. You can start by completing a one-year diploma programme, then consider pursuing a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree to set yourself apart from other candidates. If you decide to pursue a bachelor's degree or more, consider courses in audio engineering or another closely related field.

3. Consider an internship with a studio

Consider completing an internship with an audio engineering company or studio to enhance your skills. If you're pursuing a college degree, internships are a productive way to spend breaks or free time during the school year. An internship can be a great way to network with professionals in the industry and gain hands-on experience with equipment and collaboration. During an internship with a studio, you may also use professional equipment to work on personal projects.

4. Curate a sound library and portfolio

Developing your personal style is an important part of establishing yourself within the industry, and to do so you can curate a sound library and create a professional portfolio. To do this, you may complete internships or generate material during your courses. If you're not in school or completing an internship, consider applying for assistant or beginner positions within studios. You can use this experience to learn about sound design and ask for permission to use the equipment during off hours.

Related: What Do You Include in a Portfolio?

5. Pursue freelance opportunities

Freelancing is a great way to gain experience editing audio, producing original music and compositions and creating ambience. If you're early in your career and are looking to gain experience, consider volunteering to help another sound designer or audio engineer with any part of the music production process to learn their process. Freelancing can allow you to develop professional relationships, develop your skills and earn the money to purchase your own sound equipment or software.

6. Develop professional relationships and skills

A commitment to continuous improvement is important for sound designers, and the best way to elevate your personal brand and advance within the industry is to expand your skills, specialisations and personal style. For example, you can become an expert with particular sound technology or develop personal editing techniques. Choosing a field in which to work allows you to refine your abilities and define your personal brand. For example, you can choose to work in video game audio, filmmaking or live audio production.

What does a sound engineer do?

An audio designer is a creative professional who creates sounds for theater, television, film, video games and music. They typically work in studio environments, either at a production company or independently. They're responsible for a production's overall sound and therefore may work on creating sound effects or editing musical scores. If they work in the gaming industry, they might create sound effects to make the game more exciting.

Designers may use musical instruments, props or physical objects to create sounds, or they may create them digitally using technical software. Some engineers also work in the field in order to record natural sounds for soundtracks. The day-to-day responsibilities for audio designers can vary depending on the specific industry in which they work and the project on which they're working. Some of their duties may include:

  • Interpret scripts: When working for film or television, sound engineers may work with writers or other production experts to determine the best spots in the script for sounds and music.

  • Collaborate with directors: Sound engineers communicate with directors to refine and edit the sound or music, so it aligns with the director's vision for the piece.

  • Consider non-musical effects: Sound designers assist in developing non-musical effects like footsteps, thunder, crashing and breaking glass that enhance performances.

  • Curate sound libraries: Sound engineers gather and select sound and music for projects and personal use.

  • Attend rehearsals: When working on live projects like musicals or concerts, sound engineers attend rehearsals to improve their timing and practise providing support for the performers.

  • Train sound staff: Sound engineers may educate other sound professionals about new or specialised equipment.

  • Create sound plans: Sound engineers determine cueing, volume levels, reverberation and other effects during sound planning to best support the performance.

  • Edit files and sounds: When working with music, film or television, sound engineers can refine sounds to remove or add ambient noise, heighten quality or rearrange the sequence of noises.

  • Maintain equipment: Sound engineers clean and update sound equipment to ensure it produces quality recordings.

  • Research products: When new sound equipment becomes available, sound engineers research the qualities to determine if their studio or production team can invest in new software or tools.

Frequently asked sound engineer questions

These are the answers to some commonly asked sound engineer questions:

How long does it take to become a sound engineer?

How long it takes to become a sound engineer depends on if you choose to pursue an advanced degree or develop your skills by working in a studio. Earning your master's degree in sound design can take over five years. If you're in the midst of gaining experience through internships and external work, it may take longer to receive an offer as a sound engineer.

What skills does a sound engineer need?

Sound designers create sound designs and collaborate with other artists and professionals to provide entertainment and quality products, and creativity is important for producing original ideas and pieces. Sound engineers also need excellent time management when working with live productions and adaptability when working with teams of other creatives. The ability to receive and provide constructive criticism is also important for sound engineers.

Related: Creative Skills in the Workplace

What kind of equipment does a sound engineer use?

Sound engineers use many types of sound equipment to arrange sound and ensure high-quality recording. These are some tools a sound engineer may use:

  • Audio interfaces: An audio interface allows sound engineers to convert sound files into digital renditions while maintaining quality.

  • Microphones: Microphones allow sound professionals to record sounds, voices and instruments in a studio setting.

  • Headphones: An audio engineer may use headphones to listen to their recorded sounds, mixes and compositions.

  • Field recorders: This type of microphone allows sound engineers to capture sounds outside a professional studio. For example, they may get recordings of animals, vehicles or large gatherings of people.

  • Sound programs: Sound programs are advanced software that sound designers use to edit sound files and produce compositions.

How do I become a live sound engineer?

Live sound engineers work with productions like musicals, concerts and other performances to provide active sound support. You can become a live sound engineer by gaining experience as a sound engineer and specialising in live performances. Consider joining the staff for a band or performer or apply for positions at your local theatre or venue as a sound engineer. You can work with experts and learn about live sound production before working independently or leading teams of sound support yourself.

How much do sound engineers make?

The average salary for a sound engineer is $6,019 per month or $85,006 per year. The amount that a sound engineer earns can vary depending on factors like location, experience, reputation, personal style and ability.

Related: Audio Engineer Skills: Definition, Examples and Steps

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles