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  • A man is sitting in a recording studio, next to some recording equipment and a computer.  He is using the computer mouse.

    Individually recorded performances are built up with the aid of computer technology.

  • A man is pressing a button on some sound recording equipment, which is next to an electronic keyboard.

    The engineer must know exactly how each piece of equipment works.

  • A man is setting up a microphone, on a stand, in a recording studio.  There is a drum kit beside him.

    Arranging microphones before the recording.

  • Two men are standing by an electronic keyboard, in a studio.  They are talking and pressing some buttons on a piece of sound recording equipment.

    The sound recording engineer liaises with a musician, advising him of the different effects the sampler can achieve.

  • A man is standing at a mixing desk, in a studio.  There are some large speakers above the mixing desk.

    Different elements of the track are controlled at the mixing desk.

  • A man is sitting at a drum kit in a recording studio.  He is talking to a man, who is standing next to him and showing him a piece of paper.

    Talking through requirements with a musician.

  • Audio Engineer

Audio Engineer

Introduction

As an Audio Engineer, you will record music and sound in a recording studio. You'll sometimes record at live performances, such as at a concert, and if you are working on a computer game soundtrack you may need to compose and perform the music yourself.

Also known as

  • Engineer, Sound Recording
  • Recording Engineer, Sound
  • Studio Recording Engineer
  • Studio Sound Engineer

Work Activities

As an Audio Engineer, you will record music and other types of sound in a recording studio, or sometimes on location for live performances, such as at a theatre or concert. You'll use complex equipment and need a high level of skill to get the best results.

You will work with:

  • Musicians
  • Singers
  • Producers
  • Managers
  • computer games companies
  • other technical studio staff

If you are working for a computer games company you might compose, perform and record the music all yourself. In this case you will need to work closely with the Games Designers and Producers in order to understand fully what is wanted.

You will usually be responsible for operating a console or the software, which controls the level and quality of sound.

You'll usually start a recording by building up individually recorded performances, usually leaving any vocals until last. You can record different sections of music or vocals onto a multi-track system. You might operate equipment that produces special effects.

The Record Producer has overall responsibility for the recording; your role will be to give technical advice on the best methods, effects and levels needed to achieve the desired sound.

You will then spend a lot of time improving and fine-tuning the quality of particular sounds. Once all the performances have been satisfactorily recorded, you'll produce a rough 'mix', before making the finished version that everybody is happy with.

Travel and working away from home may be required, especially for location work and outside broadcasts.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Audio Engineer, you need:

  • to be both creative and technically minded
  • good problem-solving skills
  • to enjoy working on the recording process from start to finish
  • patience and a high level of concentration - you could be working for long periods without a break
  • to be committed to keeping up to date with advances in audio technology
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • to work well in a team, offer ideas and take on board other people's requirements and expectations
  • an open mind to different styles of music
  • a good ear for musical sound, pitch and tone
  • to be able to differentiate between sounds
  • an understanding of electronics and acoustics
  • to pay close attention to detail
  • to work well under pressure as you might be given tight deadlines to meet

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £19,000 - £21,500
  • With experience: £23,500 - £28,000
  • Senior positions earn £30,000

Hours of work

Audio Engineers often work long and irregular hours, including nights and weekends.

Where could I work?

Employers include the 250 professional sound recording studios in the UK, most of which employ only a handful of staff. The smaller, less expensive studios tend to consider employing less experienced Audio Engineers.

Television, radio and film production companies, and computer games companies also employ Audio Engineers.

Self-employment

In broadcasting, Sound Engineers normally work as self-employed freelancers, working under contract for the period of the production.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of broadcasting organisations or recording studios.

However, it's a good idea to build up a network of relevant contacts, as vacancies are rarely advertised. Making speculative job applications to potential employers can be useful.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

As an Audio Engineer, you will usually start by working in a training position, for example, as an Assistant Audio Engineer. You'll need good knowledge of sound recording to get into the industry.

An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also great place to start.

There are a number of further education courses related to sound recording and music technology.

Degrees, foundation degrees and HNDs are available, with titles such as sound technology, audio technology, sound engineering and music technology. Courses in electronics are also relevant.

Entry to this career is very competitive. You'll need skills, experience and determination to succeed.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Training

You'll get most of your training through 'hands on' experience - this is generally considered to be as valuable as formal qualifications.

It's important to keep up to date with changes in technology, eg, by taking further training and relevant short courses.

If you would like some training, the London Academy of Music Production offer a short course in sound engineering. This is suited for people looking for an introduction into sound engineering. You could be learning:

  • the signal flow and recording software used
  • modern recording techniques
  • recording and mixing techniques
  • mixing and mastering techniques

Check the website for dates and availability.

Other courses could be available in your area.

Work Experience

Previous experience gained, for example, in hospital radio, amateur dramatics or music recording, are useful for this career.

Progression

Audio Engineers can progress to senior and management posts after further training and experience.

Qualifications

There are no formal academic requirements for entry into this career. However, GCSEs in maths, science or physics are useful.

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Other relevant qualifications, such as a foundation or higher level diploma in engineering, may be accepted for entry to this career.

For entry to a relevant degree course, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 2/3 other subjects

For entry to a relevant HND course, the usual requirement is at least 1 A level.

Other qualifications are accepted, including:

  • BTEC level 2 and level 3 qualifications in music technology
  • City & Guilds level 2 in sound engineering and music technology
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted

Check college/university websites very carefully.

Experience, commitment and enthusiasm are generally considered to be at least as important as academic qualifications.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Skills/experience

Practical skills gained, for example, in hospital radio, amateur dramatics or music recording, are useful for entry to a training scheme.

Working as a studio assistant can lead to entry to sound recording engineer posts.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Numerous institutions offer part-time degrees in Music Technology.

Distance learning

The Open University offers an individual unit, TA212 The Technology of Music. This can be studied on its own, or as part of a larger degree.

Further Information

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering

Email: contactus@tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

British Film Institute (BFI)

Website: www.bfi.org.uk

ScreenSkills

Skills for the creative industries

Email: info@creativeskillset.org

Website: www.creativeskillset.org

Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills

Email: info@creative-choices.co.uk

Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090

Website: www.open.ac.uk

Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts

Email: london@ccskills.org.uk

Website: ccskills.org.uk

Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group

Email: ner@vmgl.com

Website: www.engineerjobs.co.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181

Email: consult@scottishengineering.org.uk

Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

National Theatre

Tel: 020 7452 3400

Email: info@nationaltheatre.org.uk

Website: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Northern Ireland Screen

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Email: info@northernirelandscreen.co.uk

Website: www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk

BPI: British Recorded Music Industry

Tel: 020 7803 1300

Email: general@bpi.co.uk

Website: www.bpi.co.uk

Association of Professional Recording Services (APRS)

Address: PO Box 22, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7YZ

Tel: 01803 868600

Email: admin@aprs.co.uk

Website: www2.aprs.co.uk

Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES)

Address: PO Box 915, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 9FT

Website: www.jamesonline.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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