An audio engineer is a trained professional who works with the mechanics of recording, mixing, and reproducing sound. Audio engineering is also known as sound engineering. In Germany, an audio engineer is called a Tontechniker, and in Italy is called a Toningenieur. Audio engineers are not the same as sound producers, writers, or performers. Audio engineers deal specifically with the technical and the mechanical aspects of music and sound, nothing else.
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An audio engineer works with the technical aspects of sound during the processes of recording, mixing, and reproduction. Audio engineers often assist record producers and musicians to help give their work the sound they are hoping to achieve. For example, an audio engineer will piece together parts of a song, use auto-tune on a recording, and/or add synthetic sounds to a track. Audio engineers are different from producers, however, some audio engineers go on with their careers to double as producers or assume the role of producer. There are several subfields of audio engineering that one can become involved in.
Studio Engineer A studio engineer works closely with producers in a studio. Sometimes studio engineers double as the producer and work independently.
Assistant Engineer An assistant engineer usually works in a studio setting as well. They are often apprentices to studio engineers who own or work in large facilities.
Recording Engineer A recording engineer is someone who focuses specifically on the aspect of recording sound.
Game & Audio Design Engineer A game & audio design engineer helps work with the sound engineering on video games, as well as how to appropriately add sound to the game.
Mix Engineer A mix engineer focuses on mixing together different tracks to mesh and create a new track.
Mastering Engineer A mastering engineer smooths over the results of a mix engineer, making the final product into a whole.
Live Sound Engineer A live sound engineer works at live events to make sure the sound is of appropriate value and high quality.
Monitor Engineer A monitor engineer works with live sound engineers to help the performers at a live event hear themselves.
Systems Engineer A systems engineer manages the entire experience of sound at live performances. Systems engineers manage both live sound engineers and monitor engineers. Systems engineers also work to set up the entire live sound system at many live events.
Audio Post Engineer An audio post engineer works to mix and edit audio for television and movies.
There is no set accreditation when it comes to becoming an audio engineer. However, those thinking of becoming audio engineers will be at more of an advantage if they enrol in higher education. There are both Bachelor's and Associate's degrees available for audio engineering, as well as vocational certificates. A Bachelor's degree usually takes about four years to earn, an Associate degree usually takes about two years to earn, and a vocational certificate usually takes about a year or less to earn. Out of the three degrees, a Bachelor's degree is most valued, while a vocational degree is the least valued.
After a degree is earned, or while a sound engineer is earning their degree, the first audio engineering job that most audio engineers have is that of an assistant engineer. Being an assistant engineer is a great way to learn the trade, get used to a new line of work, meet people, and make important networking connections. Networking is a very important part of many careers in audio engineering. Often audio engineers work as independent contractors instead of specifically working for one company for a long period of time.
The workplace of an audio engineer varies by what each engineer chooses to specialize in. Audio engineers are found working in places such as music studios, film studios, television studios, band crews, tour crews, event crews, maintenance crews, opera houses, play houses, theatres, conference centres, auditoriums, government offices and institutions of higher education. Where an audio engineer works depends on their personality, experience, subfield, work ethic, location, and salary requirement. There are many different locations in North America and throughout the world for audio engineers to find employment.
The average salary of audio engineers is between $30,000 - $55,000 a year. However, audio engineers with higher degrees and levels of experience typically average a salary of around $90,000 - $100,000.