What is a Sound Engineer?

Jennifer Fenn

A sound engineer operates and maintains sound equipment used for television, film, theater and concerts. Sound engineers are hired by a client to make sure audio effects for an event, recording, or performance meet established standards. This is a growing field, with an increase in opportunities for employment projected into 2016 by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A sound engineer should know how the various types of microphones behave in different settings.
A sound engineer should know how the various types of microphones behave in different settings.

There are several different types of sound engineers who specialize in different aspects of the job. Audio equipment technicians set up and operate speakers, microphones, mixing boards and other recording equipment. Audio equipment technicians work at concerts, news conferences, sporting events and other presentations. Sound engineering technicians are responsible for the machines that record, mix and reproduce music and other audio. A sound engineering technician would work in many of the same venues an audio equipment technician does. A sound engineer works closely with producers, performers and directors to make sure the desired sound effects are achieved. Sound engineers also frequently work in film post-production.

Audio equipment technicians often maintain the equipment at rock concerts.
Audio equipment technicians often maintain the equipment at rock concerts.

Many programs exist for those looking to become a sound engineer. Most sound engineers complete vocational programs or have an associate's degree. On-the-job training helps engineers refine their skills. A sound engineer may also complete an apprenticeship, which enhances skills and aids in job placement. Sometimes a licensing exam is required before a sound engineer is allowed to begin work. Many workers in this occupation work their way up from "gofer" and assistant positions.

Audio equipment technicians set up and operate speakers, microphones, mixing boards and other audio equipment.
Audio equipment technicians set up and operate speakers, microphones, mixing boards and other audio equipment.

Being a sound engineer requires knowledge about computers and other technical equipment. A sound engineer must also be able to adapt to new technology, as equipment innovations happen frequently. A fine arts background can aid those working in the theater or with musical artists. As in many professions, customer service and people skills are important, as sound engineers work with a wide variety of clients. Good hearing and the ability to focus on details for a long period of time are also assets, as long hours adjusting equipment or working in a recording studio may be required.

In some cases, sound engineers may be employed by an amphitheater or other concert venue.
In some cases, sound engineers may be employed by an amphitheater or other concert venue.

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Discussion Comments

anon277782

I don't know. Not many people know unless it includes theatres, music companies and movies.

anon118149

why do people never talk about the advantages of sound engineering?

anon79044

yes there should be a need because of the sound work.

anon32447

Is there a need for musical engineers in the music industry?

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