The concern that people have when pursuing any line of education is the likelihood that it will pay off after graduation, and rightfully so. Luckily for those working towards their degree in sound design, they are training to enter a robust field with a dynamic range of career options. No matter what your specialty is, there’s a role that’s perfect for you. And with so many positions to pick from, there is a good chance that you’ll find an open position that can become your new dream job.
What Jobs Can I Get with a Sound Design Degree?
Before setting your sights on any career choice, it’s a good idea to get a feel for all the positions that are available. You might find that a specific job wasn’t exactly what you envisioned, or that there’s a different option that’s an even better fit for your natural talents. Here are some of the most popular jobs that sound design majors enjoy after graduation.
Job #1: Sound Mixer
A sound mixer pulls a lot of weight on the sound design team, leading the effort to create the best audio experience possible. They are responsible for organizing and supervising the work of other crew members, making sure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same vision. Their work happens both in the studio and at the various locations where sound is captured.
In addition to managing the audio crew, sound mixers also have the duty of balancing and mixing the recorded sound for a production. This involves a substantial amount of problem-solving that requires active listening, good judgment, and technical knowledge to carry out their decisions. Since there are myriad problems that can, and do, arise during even the tightest production, sound mixers must be highly attentive and put plenty of care into their work.
Job #2: Audio Engineer
Audio engineers are front and center, capturing sound and managing the equipment necessary to make music. Their duties include setting up and tearing down recording equipment, ensuring that every tool is where it needs to be over the course of a production, and operating the equipment to record the best possible sound, while enabling various audio manipulations.
Job #3: Boom Operator
These crew members operate a special type of recording instrument, a boom microphone, which is held using a boom arm. Although this tool uses leverage to make it easier to control, it’s still a job that requires a fair amount of upper body strength as well as a steady hand. Boom operators must place the boom as close to the action as possible without allowing the arm to slip into the shot. It takes a careful balance to unobtrusively capture the up-close audio that these types of microphones provide.
Job #4: Film Sound Designer
In any film, there’s a laundry list of sound effects and musical cues that the film’s sound designer is responsible for. In some cases, these effects are pre-recorded and selected from an existing audio library. Other times, more unique and specialty sounds are required, in which case, the sound designer may record them personally or assign the job to other audio team members.
The job of film sound designer also requires an intimate understanding of recording technology and playback equipment. They are either directly responsible for operating the mixing board or directing a separate technician. In either case, the sound designer must know how to use the equipment to achieve the right results for a wide variety of sounds.
Job #5: Special Effects Technician
Many audio projects require a variety of special effects to create a distinct sound. Special effects technicians use their knowledge of audio effects to determine what’s best for any given situation and use whatever tools are necessary to enact that vision. Oftentimes, finding the perfect effect takes a considerable amount of artistry and creativity.
Job #6: Foley Artist
This is an extremely interesting and sometimes bizarre job in the film and audio production world. Foley artists use every type of object imaginable to recreate everything from footsteps, fighting sound effects, to glasses of ice water clinking. Whenever there’s movement of any kind in a film, there’s sure to be a Foley artist at work behind the scenes.
In film, everyday sounds must be heavily exaggerated for them to feel right. Even though a fist hitting a face makes barely any sound in real life, movie fights are full of heavy thumps and smacks. In some cases, the props used to imitate a sound makes sense, like using real footsteps for a character who’s walking. Other times, something as unexpected as breaking stalks of celery turn out to be the ideal way to represent fisticuffs. It’s up to the Foley artists to not only decide which props will work best but also to perform the sounds themself.
Job #7: Associate Producer
Productions would be impossible to run were it not for the producers. The associate producer is there to make the life of the main producer easier, allowing them to focus on the more complex elements of their job. This associate will often take care of editing and writing jobs, communicating them with the rest of the crew. They’re also there to flexibly assist everyone on the team, seeing where there is a need and filling it before a problem emerges.
Job #8: Production Coordinator
With all the moving parts of any production inevitably includes, success is only possible with organization and coordination. The production coordinator takes care of logistical needs such as work permits, visas, travel, and other accommodations. They’re the ones who organize staff, getting everybody on the same page, ensuring that every piece of equipment is in place before beginning, and handling the purchasing of any supplies needed.
Job #9: Production Assistant
Directors and producers have more than enough on their plate, whether working onset or in the studio. The same goes for almost any crew member; there’s so much to do at any given time that help is always needed.
For that reason, it’s important to have production assistants to take care of any duties or errands that don’t explicitly need to be done personally by directors or members of the crew. By delegating these tasks, every part of a production functions like a well-oiled machine. Serving in these types of assistant roles offers a pathway to more prominent positions.
Job #10: Gaffer
In charge of the entire electrical unit, the gaffer’s main role is to coordinate the rest of the team and oversee the use of technological equipment. They manage the electrical crew and form an overall plan for lighting on a production. Serving between the gaffer and the lighting technicians is the best boy grip, who takes the gaffers plan of action and disseminates it amongst the crew.
Job #11: Key Grip
On the grip crew, the key grip is the leader of the pack. Grip is a part of the crew that’s responsible for putting all the cameras and other equipment in their ideal positions. As the leader of this team, the key grip must manage others and ensure that they’re all working in a concrete effort by clearly communicating production plans.
Job #12: Best Boy Grip
This member of the grip team oversees all matters electrical. They must know how much electrical power it will take to run a production and observe all safety precautions that must be made. Also, on their list of duties is determining the number of electricians and assistants needed for a production, hiring, and verifying the qualifications of new team members.
Job #13: Dolly Grip
Audio jobs and film jobs go hand in hand, so it’s easier to move into one after breaking into the other. It’s also a way to keep your options open. In music videos, for instance, a dolly grip is someone who operates the camera dolly. This is a way of capturing smooth tracking shots to create a natural sense of motion. Some dolly grips enjoy riding the dolly as they’re capturing the shot, they consider it a fun perk of the job.
Job #14: Assistant Editor
Regardless of how simple or complex a production may be, the editing process can be rigorous and mentally exhausting. To keep up with the demands of their work, editors must be able to delegate certain tasks to focus on what’s most important to their assistants.
An assistant editor may take care of technical tasks under the direction of the chief editor. Other times, they’re taking care of the busywork that comes with using technological equipment and collaboration and communicating with the rest of the team. In either case, they’re providing invaluable assistance that makes the film possible.
Now that you know what jobs you can get with a sound design degree, it is time to learn more. Once you have graduated, you will enjoy career services that can help you prepare for that first interview and identify the best job for your talent. So, get ready for the job of your dreams in sound design.
Film and Sound Design Program
The Film and Sound Design program offers an occupational degree that immerses you in the world and industry of film and sound design. IPR’s condensed program allows you to earn a multi-skill, multi-functional Occupational Associate of Applied Science Degree in as little as two years. You learn hands-on, entry-level skills in every aspect of the film business: story, preproduction, production, and post-production for video and audio. Work as a part of a team to produce your own film- from concept and storyboard to production and editing – you’ll graduate with a portfolio of work to showcase your creativity and launch your career in the exciting Film Industry.
If you are interested in a career in film and sound design you should tour our Minneapolis creative arts college, see the labs, and meet our staff. Call 1-612-351-0631 or contact admissions to make arrangements.