Broaden Your Musical Horizons: Interactive Audio and Sound Design Career

Nov 24, 2016

Do you love music, but think your only viable career options are being a rock star or music teacher? Have you always wanted to work in the film industry, but have no interest in acting? Maybe you’re passionate about video games, but have no idea how to turn that love into a career. If any of these describe you, you may want to consider obtaining a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in either Sound Arts or Interactive Audio. Both of these degrees prepare you for an incredible number of interactive audio and sound design career, working in music, film, or gaming.

What are Interactive Audio and Sound Design Career Options?

A Bachelor’s Degree in Sound Arts qualifies you for a wide variety of sound design careers. A sound designer is probably the most popular career choice for someone with this degree.

A sound designer is a bit of a catch-all title that encompasses audio designer, audio engineer, audio artist, creative sound designer, sound artist, sound engineer, and technical sound designer, as well as the term Foley Artist.

No matter what you call it, the essentials of the job involve handling various aspects of the sound and audio for films, TV, video games, and more. Much of the work involves music, but it can also include Foley work, such as sound effects like rain or footsteps.

The sound designer’s goal is to create a world that draws a viewer or an audience in an experience. If it’s a video game set in a fantasy world, you might create the sounds of fantastical creatures, such as the roar of a dragon or panting of a giant wolf. For a horror movie, you make sure the doors creak and the thunder cracks.

What Does a Sound Designer’s Day Look Like?

Sound Engineer working on software before the show - Sound Designer |

If you don’t like spending a lot of time in front of a computer, this probably isn’t your calling, because you will spend a lot of time working with sound effects software and similar programs.

People who choose sound design career may work directly for a studio, or they may freelance. Either way, expect to spend most of your time indoors, in an office or similar setting. Typically, you work with other members of the sound team, but you also work with other departments involved in the project. For example, if it’s a video game, you’ll work with programmers, designers, animators — pretty much any department involved in developing and designing the product.

Expect your schedule to fluctuate a bit, depending on what leg of the project you’re working. For example, as you come closer to deadlines, your workday tends to lengthen, as does your work week, and you may find yourself working 10-hour days, seven days a week when it’s crunch time. Typically, though, you work a standard 8-hour day.

Of course, hours vary by employer. This is one of the reasons it’s important to choose this career only if you feel a passion for the work.  

What Salary should you expect in Sound Design Career?

There is a lot of variability in this work, with designers performing a wide range of duties. This means that salaries vary widely. Factors include your role on the project, your level of experience, and the type of project.

All that said, you can expect to make around $40,000 per year when you’re first starting out. Foley Artists working on a film, though, receive a daily wage similar to other members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, around $340 per day on the low end. If you aren’t a member of this union, expect to make less.

As experience levels rise, so do salaries. Top sound designers earn annual salaries in the $110,000 range. The median is around $70,000, but it will take you time to build up to that level.

If you work freelance instead of as an in-house employee of a studio, you still have to work your way up to earning higher pay. The goal is developing your skills and talent to earn a reputation as a quality designer. You’ll accrue more clients, as well as ones who pay better.

How to Start Your Sound Design Career?

Getting started in any career can be tough. One of the goals in earning your degree is making yourself more attractive to prospective employers. You can start looking for internships and apprenticeships while still in school.

Audio Engineer - MIDI program. Sound Design Career |

You should also look at sites like Mod DB, which includes a job board, and is a great place to find independent developers looking to collaborate on projects. You’ll fill up your résumé and gain valuable experience, honing your skills to make you more attractive for the next job.

Educational Requirements for Sound Design Career

SAE Expression College offers two programs that  prepare you  for a career as a sound designer: Sound Arts and Interactive Audio. Each program is a 32-month program with project-based coursework in music theory, recording and production, audio integration, and more.

Opportunities in this industry are strong, but any artistic field requires a good amount of ambition and perseverance since it doesn’t have the same linear progression traditional careers enjoy. However, that’s also a strength, as you don’t face limitations to how far or how fast you can rise.

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