Sound engineering is a trade employed in most forms of media, from producing an album, to scoring the soundtrack to a film, to generating the foley in a tablet game.
While in some cases it may not be the frontrunner in terms of selling point, the sound that accompanies a media production is usually the driving force that makes a piece engaging to its audience. The title, “Sound Engineer”, a section Service Canada puts under the label “Audio and Video Recording Technicians”, actually includes a wide array of jobs – each branching out from the “sound” milieu to contribute a specific task to the creation of the sound portion of any media project.
Sound engineering is a unique craft: on one hand, it requires immaculate knowledge of the machinery and systems used in the music industry; having foundations in computer systems knowledge as well as a comprehension in the mathematical side of audio is a prerequisite to many sound engineering jobs. On the other hand, it draws on one’s creativity and artistic intuition. Sound engineering is an unparalleled combination of tech savvy and creativity.
There are various kinds of sound engineers, from those that work in the studio to those that work as live sound engineers at concerts and other venues. Within studio engineers there are recording engineers, editors, mixers, and mastering engineers. Live sound engineers include the Front of House engineer, monitor engineer, and the systems engineer. In general, the majority of sound engineers in North America work in motion picture and sound recording industries but many also work in radio and television, performing arts, and education (1)(2). Each of these industries requires sound engineers with expertise in the industry. Furthermore, because the process of producing a music composition is so laborious and layered, it is separated into major stages: recording, editing, mixing and mastering. The level of know-how at each stage of production is so evolved that sound engineers typically specialize in only one.
According to a 2006 census, the top industries in Canada to employ audio and video recording technicians are motion picture and sound recording (55%), radio and television broadcasting (16%), performing arts (5%), and education (5%). Average full-time salaries in these industries are around $45,000, with roughly the top 30% of employees earning over $50,000 (1). In 2012, the top 25% of earners made over $50,000 annually (3). By comparison, sound engineers in the United States in 2012 earned a mean annual wage of just over $55,000, with wages in the 90th percentile nearing $100,000 (2). The slight increase in salaries in the United States can be attributed to the higher demand for sound engineers, but as you can see, salaries across North America are fairly similar. As these statistics project, the industries that employ sound engineers are extremely stable as they are based on consumer demand – which, with tablets and smartphones revolutionizing media entertainment, is only going to go up.
Of course, with the competition getting stiffer more and more employers are looking for sound engineers with both a specialized post-secondary education and experience in the field – that’s why it is so important for future sound engineers to be diligent when choosing the right school. For 30 years RAC Digital Arts College has been a leader in providing education and training for sound engineers from around the world. Demanding employers from various media sectors prefer RAC graduates because they know they are hiring a very capable and mature professional who has been well trained to work as a sound engineer.