Live sound engineer

Live sound engineers control the sound at events like theatre performances, music concerts and festivals.

Average salary (a year)

£25,000 Starter

to

£40,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

39 to 41 variable

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays away from home

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

University

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

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree

More information

College

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

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course

More information

Apprenticeship

You may be able to get into this job through an advanced apprenticeship in technical theatre: sound, light and stage.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

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

Other routes

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.

More information

Professional and industry bodies

You can join The Institute of Sound and Communications Engineers for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a live sound engineer from Creative Choices and Spotlight.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • 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
  • being able to use a computer terminal or hand-held device may be beneficial for this job.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

You could work at a recording studio.

Your working environment may be at height, travelling often and spending nights away from home, hot and outdoors some of the time.

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.

Training opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Theatre Technician Apprentice

  • Wage : £180.00 Weekly
  • Location: Plymouth PL4 0SJ

Courses In England

Sound Engineering Ext Cert

  • Provider: Suffolk One
  • Start date: 02 September 2019
  • Location: Ipswich

BTEC National Extended Certificate in Sound Engineering

  • Provider: HALESOWEN COLLEGE
  • Start date: 10 September 2019
  • Location: Halesowen

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