If you are passionate about music or sounds in general, you may have considered starting a career in this field. You wouldn’t be alone; Zippia reports show that there are over 10,000 sound engineers in the US alone.
There are various reasons why this career is a first choice for many. For starters, it doesn’t have a rigid schedule, which is good news if you have kids or other responsibilities. Likewise, you get to express your creativity while doing something that you love. As a sound engineer, you will be responsible for recording, editing, and manipulating various sounds with digital devices and mechanical instrument. You also shouldn’t forget about the opportunities for continuous learning that will be available to you. If you are planning to be an sound engineer, consider this helpful guide to excel at this career path.
- Familiarize yourself with the different specializations in this field
Sound engineering goes beyond just playing sounds; there are many aspects that work hand in hand to produce audio that people want to listen to. However, the truth is that you may not be able to do everything that sound engineering entails, and your best bet will be choosing an area of specialization. Each branch also requires a different level of skill set, so feel free to consider this. Therefore, make it a point to be familiar with the various specializations to determine which one resonates with your interests. This way, you can quickly become You can choose to become a broadcast sound engineer, game audio designer, music engineer, live sound engineer, mastering engineer, mixing engineer, or a voiceover sound engineer. After settling on which field you want, make it a point to determine what skills you’d need, and certifications to launch you into your career. This leads to the next important step.
- Get the required academic qualifications
It is one thing to be passionate about something, but succeeding will be difficult if you don’t have the right training. The same can be said for sound engineering. You need to get the right education before commencing your career. The good thing is that you can begin your training in high school; the minimum level of education you need as a sound engineer is a GED or high school diploma. Therefore, consider taking courses like mathematics, electronics, communications, and information technology (IT). While at it, make it a point to involve yourself in your school’s music and theater productions for practical experience in sound adjustment, quality control, and sound production.
You can also choose to go beyond the high school training to give yourself a competitive edge. Sound engineering experts will recommend enrolling for an associate of bachelor’s degree in audio engineering or sound production, depending on your preferences. However, it’s worth noting that an associate degree takes two years to complete. On the other hand, you may need up to four years if you plan on bagging a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that your courses in these academic stage will blend business, technical, and music concepts to prepare you to handle every part of your career. As a tip, consider getting a degree in media studies, music, audio technology, communications, or broadcast technology. Admittedly, getting a degree may seem more costly, but the rewards are worth it.
- Consider other options if a degree isn’t for you
Admittedly, earning a degree is not a path many want to take, and that’s understandable. You may have your reasons, but this does not mean giving up your dream of being a sound engineer. Fortunately, you can opt for post-secondary non-degree programs in audio engineering; these courses usually take a few months to complete. This makes them ideal if you have other things doing and can’t dedicate two or four years to studying. You should note that these courses makes you automatically eligible for the job market, and you can still pursue a degree later if you want to. Music theory, studio recording, and design projects are some of the courses you can expect to take. Upon completion, you will be awarded certifications that will boost your credibility and employability, so feel free to consider this.
- Don’t settle for formal education alone; get practical experience
Sure, formal education is great and the degrees and certificates have their advantages. But they are not enough for a sound engineer. It’s important to take advantage of any opportunity to practice what you learn in the classroom, as this gives you a well-rounded education. One effective way to get practical experience is to work as an intern in radio or television production studios or any other live entertainment company. Platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed are also good for finding opportunities. This way, you can work with senior engineers and learn while on the job. The good thing is that some companies offer paid internships, which is like getting money while acquiring knowledge. However, unpaid internships are also beneficial, as you get practical knowledge to boost your portfolio and give you the advantage when applying for your dream job.
Despite their benefits, internships are not the only way to get hands-on experience in audio engineering. You can choose to work with voiceover artists or aspiring musicians; many professional sound engineers followed this route. It’s a great way to grow and showcase your skills to the world, attracting the right employers or clients. Experts recommend partnering with novices in your area of specialization for the best results. For instance, you can work with local indie bands or soloists if music engineering is your freak career. On the other hand, you can help at the local church or any live music venue to gain more experience on live sound engineering. With a solid portfolio, you can thrive as a freelance sound engineer and earn a decent amount of money.
- Know how to use the right equipment and software
This may be an obvious point, but it is still worth mentioning. You probably know this already, but sound engineering is not possible without various software, devices and equipment. That said, mastering them becomes an integral part of your training. Fortunately, several schools have these items on site and make them a part of the curriculum or syllabus. You can expect to learn how to use a broadcast audio monitor, multimeters, microphones, boom poles, Audio Art Cable, studio headphones, cable testers, mixing consoles, among others. You will also master the art of using digital audio workstations (DAWs), such as Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Reaper.
- Polish your soft skills
Granted, you will need impressive technical knowledge to excel as a sound engineer, but it doesn’t end there. You will also work with other people, and knowing how to collaborate with them is equally important. In this career, you will find it helpful to polish your communication skills, as you will be working with other professionals in a larger production team. The last thing you want is for a project to go bad because you could not have a good discourse with your team. Problem-solving is also a major skill you don’t want to overlook; sometimes, you may deal with faulty sound equipment and workers who don’t want to collaborate, and knowing how to mitigate these problems will make all the difference.
- Don’t forget the hard skills too
In addition to the soft skills, you should also develop your hard skills. For instance, you must have an ear for quality, ensuring that every sound is on the best level. That said, learning how to discover audio issues through wavelengths, spectrograms, or by listening is non-negotiable. Likewise, you should have a working knowledge of music and acoustics, unrivaled editing and recording skills, and familiarity with various recording equipment.
- Network, network, and network some more
It is beneficial to have all the needed skills and certifications. However, you can’t also deny the importance and perks of networking with others in your industry. It is much easier to advance in your career as a sound engineer when you know the right people to connect with. The good news is that you can do this through various means. For instance, you can take advantage of social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter; they are a free and quick way to connect with musicians and experienced sound engineers. As a tip, showcase your knowledge and talent every opportunity you get. You can also leverage your internship and volunteer work as an avenue to network with like-minded people, so feel free to consider this.
- Look for the job of your dreams
Now you have what it takes to succeed as a sound engineer, and it’s time to look for your ideal job. A generic search on Google, LinkedIn, and other job platforms can give you many helpful results. But a more effective trick is to join professional associations that provide job openings best suited to your area of specialization.
A career in sound engineering is worth the efforts, especially if you know what to do. Hopefully, you’ll leverage the tips discussed above for the best outcome.