Live sound engineer
Live sound engineers control the sound at events like theatre performances, music concerts and festivals.
Salary range: £25,000 to £40,000
How to become a live sound engineer
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- a specialist course run by a drama school
You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma, or degree in a related subject like:
- sound and live event production
- live sound and lighting technology
- music technology
- technical theatre art
You’ll usually need:
- 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
Some sound engineers start by taking a college course to develop their skills before looking for work. Qualifications include:
- Level 2 Diploma in Sound and Music Technology
- Level 3 Certificate in Technical Theatre: Sound, Light and Stage
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You may be able to get into this job through an advanced apprenticeship in technical theatre: sound, light and stage.
You’ll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
Volunteering and experience
You can get practical experience of using sound equipment to help your career prospects. This may be part of a course or you can try:
- helping backstage in a theatre
- being a roadie for a band
- rigging sound in amateur or student theatre, or for local bands
- working for a sound equipment manufacturer or hire company
Several drama schools offer degrees and diplomas in technical theatre accredited by the Federation of Drama Schools. Some of these courses include lighting and stage management as well as sound.
Professional and industry bodies
You can join The Institute of Sound and Communications Engineers for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
You can find out more about becoming a live sound engineer from Creative Choices and Spotlight.
You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- to be flexible and open to change
- persistence and determination
- customer service skills
- knowledge of media production and communication
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
Your duties might also include:
- discussing the production’s sound needs with the director or sound designer
- identifying places in the script where any sound effects, music and changes in sound level are needed
- pre-recording any sound effects and music
- positioning and rigging up microphones
- completing sound checks before a performance
- operating the sound desk during shows
- following a sound plan (known as a ‘plot’) and cues from the deputy stage manager
- looking after and repairing equipment
- unloading, setting up, dismantling and loading equipment at each venue when on tour
You could work at a recording studio.
Your working environment may be at height, hot, outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could progress to chief sound engineer in a theatre, become a sound designer, or set up your own sound services company.
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