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Audio Technician Training Programs and Requirements

Audio technicians, also known as sound engineers, install and operate audio systems and associated components. Those interested in this profession can enroll in certificate programs in audio technology or undergraduate degrees in audio production.

Essential Information

Certificate programs and undergraduate degree programs in audio production train students to operate a myriad of industry-standard equipment through laboratory and classroom instruction, practical experiences and portfolio development. As a result, students spend the majority of their time using computer-based tools to process, monitor, mix and produce broadcasts, productions and sound effects. Although technical skills are not a requirement for admission, prior technical knowledge can be beneficial. Following program completion, graduates can pursue certification; eligibility requirements will vary by level of credential.

  • Program Levels in Audio Technology: certificate program, associate's degree, bachelor's degree
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
  • Some Program Specializations: associate's degrees may offer concentrations such as music, computer science and business management
  • Program Length: certificate programs take up to a year to complete, associate's degrees require two years, bachelor's degrees need four years of full-time study.

Certificate in Audio Technology

Technical institutes, community colleges and vocational schools typically offer this program, which generally requires 9 to 12 months for completion. Students are exposed to practical training exercises in state-of-the-art studios that teach them how to manipulate audio signals and electronic systems that manage sound. Students also learn to use audio technology tools such as musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) sequencing, digital audio workstations (DAWs), audio processors and microphones. Common course topics include:

  • Recording techniques
  • Dynamic processor design
  • Analog and digital signal flow
  • Audio mixing techniques
  • ProTools application
  • Live sound reinforcement

Associate's Degree Program in Audio Production and Engineering

This 2-year degree involves the theoretical and applied concepts of studio and computer recording, sound design, synthesis, acoustical system design, maintenance and operation. Students are often required to produce a final portfolio that showcases their artistic and technical skills. Some programs also incorporate internship experiences into the curricula so students can gain a head start in the field. To prepare for that experience, students often take core classes such as:

  • Sound system design
  • Audio recording
  • Audio mixing techniques
  • Architectural acoustics
  • Music business
  • DAW applications

Bachelor's Degree Program in Audio Production

This degree program generally takes four years to complete. Students are taught how to create, record, manipulate and process sound in a variety of environments, such as the recording studio, live venues and digital media formats. Some programs offer internships with entertainment companies or offer in-house state-of-the-art recording studios that allow students to gain hands-on experience.

Typical coursework covers theoretical and practical applications of audio production techniques, tools and acoustics. Common classes cover topics such as:

  • Audio theory
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Studio recording
  • Live sound recording
  • Synthesis and signal processing
  • Audio systems

Popular Career Options

Sound engineering or audio technician certificate programs prepare students for careers involving the manipulation of sounds and systems for recording, live environments and multimedia applications. Graduates can pursue careers in film, television, advertising, radio and theatre, among others. Some common job titles include:

  • Audio system installer
  • Live sound engineer
  • Recording engineer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for sound engineering technicians in 2014 was $49,870 (www.bls.gov). Most of the jobs in this field tend to be found in large metropolitan areas where the entertainment industry thrives, such as New York and Los Angeles, but competition is quite heavy in these areas. The BLS expected jobs in this field to grow by 9% between 2012 and 2022.

Continuing Education

DigiDesign ProTools certifications are common credentials earned by students and professionals in this field. ProTools DAW is the industry-standard audio recording and editing tool, and certification could increase the employability of an audio technician considerably. Certification as an audio engineer is also available through the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). Requirements vary depending on the level of certification.

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