So you’ve just graduated from audio engineering school and are looking to land your first gig. What kind of work is out there for a budding audio engineer like yourself?
While there are several types of jobs to choose from, let’s start off with a list of general categories that will get you started:
1. Live Sound
If you live in a big city where there are clubs and festivals that actively promote and encourage live music performances, you can count on finding work in live sound.
However, live sound isn’t simply restricted to music.
There are plenty of corporate and public speaking events that require the expertise of an experienced live sound engineer.
Don’t forget about public venues such as schools and churches either!
When you first start off working for a live sound company, you’ll likely be asked to perform a lot of grunt work. This involves equipment set-up, teardown, maintenance, and transportation.
With that said, it’s in your best interest to make sure that you’re up to the task physically, to move heavy objects.
2. Recording Studios
Where there are bands and live music, there are also recording studios where those bands go to record their music.
The most common way of finding a job at a recording studio is by applying for an internship.
Protip: Having a demo reel of songs you’ve mixed and mastered yourself will help you land that first gig!
Like live sound, you’ll end up being a “runner” for the head honcho at any recording
studio when you first start off. Which simply means you’ll be running errands
outside the studio.
Some examples would be:
- Helping out with session preparation
- making coffee
- cleaning the restrooms
- sweeping floors
Over time, as you prove yourself to the studio owners with your dedication, hard work,
and willingness to learn, they’ll be willing to let you in on sessions and give you some
insight into what made them successful.
Take their advice and learn as much as you can, but if you have the means
to purchase equipment yourself, do so and spend as much time as possible honing
your craft outside the studio.
3. Broadcast Engineering
If you listen to the radio and wonder how they go from news segment to commercial break to another news segment so quickly…well, it’s basically your job as the broadcast engineer to make that happen!
Depending on the radio station, your tasks could include working with the host to record speech segments, interviews, or schedule programming for weeks or even months in advance.
Of course, let’s not forget about the hours upon hours of spoken dialogue that you’ll
have to edit in order to erase any clicks, pops, bloopers, awkward
moments of silence, background noises, and hums.
Don’t forget about FCC rules and regulations either; radio and broadcast engineering companies abide by them to the letter in most cases and will expect you to be fully informed of and compliant with FCC standards while on the job.
The audio segment of virtually any professionally produced show or feature film is usually edited by a post-production engineer or, more commonly, a team of experienced and dedicated post-production engineers.
These teams specialize in a variety of different tasks such as:
- sound design
- ADR (after-dialogue recording)
- stem mixing
- surround-sound mixing
- among other things
As mentioned earlier with regard to recording studios, the most common
way to get your foot in the door is to have an outstanding demo reel you can hand off when you first introduce yourself.
Include only your best projects, and if your old project that you did while you were school didn’t turn out to be so great, take time to polish it up and make it sound good.
Get it critiqued by professionals at any reputable blog or forum that addresses topics regarding professional sound design and post-production practices, and then submit it to potential employers when you think it’s ready.
Specific Audio Engineering Jobs
After reading through the first list of general categories, you should have a rough idea of what you’d like to do and should work in that direction.
However, please keep in mind that as a newbie in the audio industry, you’ll probably end up doing just about everything except working in front of the mixing board twisting knobs and punching buttons.
There is nothing easy about working in the audio industry, and there are many people out there who often hold down more regular jobs so they can hone their craft on the side and search for opportunities without foregoing the rent.
Below is a list of some typical audio engineering jobs:
- News & Talk Programming Producer/Board Operator
- AV Installer
- Event Technician
- Multimedia Producer
- Stage Manager
- Creative Director
- Sound Assistant
- Sound Engineer
It’s A Jungle Out There
If you read through the job descriptions of each position, you’ll note that most companies require you to possess more than just passing knowledge of other technical specialties and know-how while being a whiz at audio.
Oftentimes, these go hand-in-hand with the audio-related aspects of the jobs they offer, such as:
- graphic design
- web design practices
- administrative tasks
- effective team management
Additionally, the jobs that are strictly audio-related usually require you to be very familiar with a wide variety of DAW’s, analog and digital mixing consoles, while they also expect you to have a considerable amount of work experience.
What Should I Include In My Demo Reel Or Portfolio?
The simplest and most direct answer would be to cater your material specifically to whomever you’re trying to convince to hire you.
But once you get past that step, what do you provide that will be most convincing to your prospective employer?
The best way to answer this question is to appeal directly to the quality standards that these companies consistently pursue.
Often, it’s as simple as visiting their website and taking a look through the kind of work they do.
If they require skills that you don’t currently have, then list those skills and go learn them! There are more than enough online resources for you to learn just about anything you want to if you’re determined and disciplined enough to stick it out!
Take What You Can Get
Most importantly, be open-minded and don’t turn down opportunities because they aren’t ideal positions for what you want to get into right away. You might find that they’ll lead to different and even better opportunities.
Last but not least, don’t forget to talk to your job counselor or audio engineer instructor for assistance; they’ll be more than happy to help you in most cases as long as you’re willing to put the work in and show them that you’re motivated to get after it! Good luck!