Theatrical Sound Engineer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Working as a theatrical sound engineer requires little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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From the roar of thunder to the sound of raindrops falling on a tin rooftop, sound effects can help to establish the setting and mood for scenes in theater productions. Theater sound engineers work together with other members of the production team in rehearsals and performances to ensure sound equipment is functioning properly.

Essential Information

Theater sound engineers produce and amplify sounds and effects for theatrical performances. Strong knowledge of electronics and sound technology is essential for this position, and vocational training can lend greatly to a sound engineer's experience. On-the-job training will be provided with employment, but many sound engineers have completed postsecondary certificate or degree programs in the field to prepare them more thoroughly for this career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there is average job growth expected in the coming years. Formal education can provide an advantage in a competitive field.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in sound engineering or a related field
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 2% for all sound engineering technicians
Median Salary (2018)* $52,390 for all sound engineering technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Theatrical Sound Engineer

Theatrical sound engineers are responsible for amplifying, mixing, recording, syncing, and reproducing sounds and effects for theatrical rehearsals, productions, and special events. They may be responsible looking over equipment, checking connections, and coordinating staff. Sound engineering technicians work alongside other theater professionals, including sound mixers, sound designers, producers, and performers to plan and carry out the structure of sound for every performance.

Theatrical Sound Engineer Job Duties

Theatrical sound engineers must prepare soundboards and equipment for shows, as well as maintain the quality of sound throughout a performance. Sound engineers set up microphones on performers and in various places in the theater. They are responsible for checking sound levels and equipment functionality, running sound checks, and other tasks using MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) production equipment.

Repairing and troubleshooting sound equipment, as well as maintaining the work area for other sound professionals to ensure safety and productivity are also included in job duties. Sound engineers attend meetings with key professionals before rehearsals and help organize cues to perfect the order of execution for effects, music, and other sounds.

Requirements for Theatrical Sound Engineering

Sound engineering technicians typically require some form of on-the-job or vocational training in sound and audio engineering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), broadcast and sound engineering technicians may want to consider completing a certificate or associate's degree in the field.

Sound engineering programs provide prospective engineers with fundamental knowledge in studio recording, digital audio workstations, microphone techniques, and signal techniques. Internship opportunities may help students gain hands-on experience working with equipment. Additionally, the BLS stated that sound engineers may take advantage of apprenticeship opportunities.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the mean annual salary earned by sound engineering technicians was $63,500 in May 2018; those employed by performing arts companies earned an average of $57,280 a year. The employment of sound engineering technicians is expected to grow slower than average between 2018 and 2028, per the BLS.

Theater sound engineers may learn on-the-job; however, postsecondary training is an asset. A certificate or associate's degree may be preferred by employers. Postsecondary training will prepare theater sound engineers to use sound equipment properly and to be able to identify issues and correct them to ensure the best sound quality for a production.

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