There are approximately 134,300 broadcast and sound engineering technicians employed in the United States. Though most major recording studios are located in metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles, many cities across the country have vibrant music scenes. Talented, skilled engineers will always be in demand, no matter the size of the recording studio. They may be employed by a studio, or they may be self-employed, either contracting with studios or operating their own recording business. Engineers also work for broadcast companies, engineering sound for radio and TV programs. Some recording engineers work for video production companies and corporate media libraries, helping to create in-house company presentations and films. Others work in the computer and video game industry.
After high school, seek experience as an intern or apprentice or begin postsecondary training in audio at a university or college or trade school. Because most professional recording studios and broadcasters prefer to offer apprenticeship positions to students who have some previous experience in audio, those who have completed some trade school courses may have better chances at landing jobs. Most university and college programs offer semester internship programs at professional recording studios as a way of earning credit. Professional trade associations also support internships for their members by either matching students with employers or funding internship expenses. Universities and trade schools also have job placement services for their graduates.
Internships and apprenticeships play an important role in helping students establish personal connections. Students are often hired by the studios or stations with which they've interned or their employer can make recommendations for other job openings at a different studio. Employers will often post entry-level openings at universities or trade schools, but very seldom will they advertise these entry-level jobs in employment Web sites or newspapers.
Most audio engineers begin their career in small studios as assistants, called studio technicians, and have varied responsibilities, which may entail anything from running out to pick up dinner for the musicians during a recording session, to helping the recording engineer in the mixing process. Positions in radio will also provide a good stepping-stone to a career in audio recording. Entry-level positions may be easier to come by at studios that specialize in educational recording and radio advertisements than at music recording studios. The sources of employment growth are expected to stem from businesses, schools, and radio and television stations seeking new equipment to improve their audio and video capabilities.
Career advancement will depend upon an engineer's interests as well as on hard work and perseverance. They may advance to the higher paying, glamorous (yet high-pressure) position of music producer, either as an independent producer or working for a record label. Recording engineers may also advance to positions in the radio or television industries, which usually offer better pay than studio work. If engineers wish to stay in the field of audio recording, they can advance to managerial positions or choose to open their own recording studio.
The recording industry is continually changing in response to frequent technological breakthroughs. Recording engineers who adapt easily to such advances as digital recording and new computer software will have a better chance for success. Some recording engineers may team up with producers who work independently of the studio. They may form their own company, allowing for greater flexibility and higher salaries.
Read publications such as the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, SoundBytes, Electronic Musician, Pro Sound News, and Broadcast Engineering to learn more about the audio recording industry.
Visit http://www.aes.org/jobs for job listings.
Join the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services and the Audio Engineering Society to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.