Career Information Hotline

Toll Free 1-800-661-3753

Edmonton 780-422-4266

Guest Account Sign In Sign Up
Occupational Profile

Sound Engineer

Sound engineers use a variety of techniques and electronic equipment to control the sound components of live events such as theatre performances and music concerts.

Related Video(s)
Sound Engineer (Live) (7:37)

  • Avg. Salary $53,815.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.29
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Audio Recording Engineer, Engineer, Mix Engineer, Sound Technician, Front of House Engineer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

46%
46%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Sound Engineer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Audio and Video Recording Technicians
NOC code: 5225
OBJECTIVE

Interest in controlling audio consoles or computers, tape machines, microphones and sound processing equipment to mix, combine and edit music and sound at concerts and live events and to operate electronic equipment to generate program titles, credits, subtitles, graphic backgrounds or animation for television programs

METHODICAL

Interest in compiling information to play back edited sound tracks in synchronization with motion picture films

INNOVATIVE

Interest in mixing, combining and editing music and sound at concerts and live events, and synchronizing edited dialogue, music and sound effect tracks from different sources

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation. 

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Jan 31, 2017

Sound engineersmix sound in live performances to produce the sound audiences and performers hear. Performers may use earphones or monitors to hear only specific voices or instruments.

In general, sound engineers:

  • discuss sound requirements with the production director, sound designer, artists or their representatives
  • develop a sound plot (a script of sound effects, music and changes in sound level)
  • select music and sound effects (for example, birdsong or traffic noises) from a sound library or record them
  • develop and program playback of created sound plots using a variety of audio equipment (for example, digital playback automation software)
  • select and position microphones and loudspeakers, and lay any necessary cables (or direct others in these tasks) 
  • balance amplication, equalize frequency response and mix sound during technical rehearsals and sound checks based on input from directors, sound designers or performers
  • conduct system tests before performances to ensure all sound equipment is placed and working properly
  • operate the sound desk during shows according to the sound plot, previous direction from performers and cues from the stage manager
  • maintain sound equipment

In addition, sound engineers

  • may be responsible for the house sound system, the performer's monitor system or recording the performance.

For live shows performed in a series of different venues, sound engineers may supervise the set up and tear down of the entire sound system or do the work themselves. It can be challenging to ensure the audience and performers can hear the sound effects and live music to the best effect, particularly in venues without an acoustically stable environment.

For information about sound engineers who work primarily in studio environments, see the Recording Engineer occupational profile.

In smaller organizations, sound engineers also may assist with lighting (for more information, see the Lighting Technician occupational profile).

Working Conditions
Updated Jan 31, 2017

Sound engineers work in theatres and other performance venues, often in semi-darkness at a control desk near the back. They occasionally may work at heights. Those who travel with a show sometimes work outdoors in all weather conditions. Some lifting is required to move and place sound equipment, which can weigh 20 kg or more.

Working evenings, weekends and holidays is common in this occupation. Sound engineers may be required to work long hours during rehearsal periods or spend a lot of time traveling on performance tours.

  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Jan 31, 2017

Sound engineers must:

  • be patient, understanding and flexible
  • have the stamina to work long hours
  • be self-motivated
  • be able to think logically and pay attention to details
  • have good hearing with an ear for musical pitch and tone
  • have good communication skills to clarify what sounds are desired, make suggestions and accept criticism
  • be able to work with a variety of people as part of a team
  • be able to think and make decisions quickly to solve problems as they arise.

They should enjoy trouble-shooting problems and using electronic equipment to perform tasks requiring precision.

Educational Requirements
Updated Jan 31, 2017

Although a related post-secondary certificate or diploma is an asset when seeking employment, there are no formal education requirements for sound engineers. Most have acquired a working knowledge of today's computer-based recording technologies (for example, digital mixing consoles and random access editing). They have also developed an ability to adapt quickly to many different recording formats and devices by learning on the job and taking related courses. Sound engineers must be very versatile, keep up to date with changing technology and be able to work in many different circumstances.

An understanding of music theory and harmony is an asset for those who work on music projects.

Aspiring sound engineers should discuss their career plans with people and employers in the industry before enrolling in a training program.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Alberta College of Art and Design

APRA The Academy of Production & Recording Arts

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Grant MacEwan University

Pixel Blue College

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

University of Lethbridge

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Jan 31, 2017

It can be difficult to break into sound engineering. Experience working on a practicum placement through a school training program or as a volunteer at a performance venue is an asset.

Most sound engineers are self-employed. They may work on a contract basis for:

  • theatre and dance companies
  • live sound re-enforcement companies
  • clubs
  • bands
  • cruise lines.

It is common in the industry for someone to start out as a "gofer" or assistant engineer in a theatre or a "roadie" for a band, and work their way up. You must be willing to work for little money to gain practical experience and establish a reputation for good work.

Advancement generally takes the form of working on increasingly complex productions. Experienced sound engineers may become sound designers or technical production managers, or move into related occupations in radio or television, or sound equipment sales, installation and maintenance.

Sound engineers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5225: Audio and Video Recording Technicians. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Jan 31, 2017
Audio and video recording technicians
NOC code: 5225

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.23 $35.06 $23.53 $23.08
Overall $22.21 $42.82 $29.29 $30.77
Top $28.85 $46.04 $33.57 $34.74

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

46%
46%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

7%
7%

2015 Vacancy Rate

2%
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Drama
    • Music
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Physics
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Jan 31, 2017

Alberta Music Industry Association website: www.albertamusic.org

Alberta Venture Factory website: www.venturefactory.ca

Cultural Human Resources Council website: www.culturalhrc.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Jan 31, 2017. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

Was this page useful?
Top