First and foremost, this is a highly competitive field with not a lot of job openings. As the name denotes, this is a very specialized field within the realm of audio engineering. But if this is your ambition then the following information may provide some insight into the profession.
Also referred to as a Sound Designer, this job can vary depending on what company you work for, the needs of a given project, and what your exact role is within the creative team. The sound designer must work hand-in-hand with other audio colleagues, set designers and programmers. As a sound designer, you create content which often involves recording audio elements and crafting them to match animations or environments of the particular game. Hence, the job requires substantial technical skills with respect to managing the hardware, software, and different audio techniques to create the appropriate audio for each game scene.
Some may enter this profession from working as an apprentice or assistant audio technician in a related field, such as the music industry. This route may entail no formal education beyond high school. Others may be trained musicians who have developed an interest in this field, and decided to enroll in a nearby community college or local college. There are also degrees offered in Audio Engineering Technology at the Bachelor’s level.
For example, the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut, offers a Bachelor of Science with a major in Audio Engineering Technology. It spans the three disciplines of electronics, acoustics, and music to prepare students for careers in the recording and music industries. Their program stresses the fundamentals of electronics, music theory, harmony, and sound technology. Graduates will be competent in professions involving broadcasting, multimedia, recording studios, and other industries where sound is critical to the production.
Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, offers both a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in Audio Engineering Technology. This program is designed to study, investigate, and contribute to the art, science, and practical application of audio engineering. Graduates will have the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in the application, installation, manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of audio and music recording, reproduction and processing.
For those wishing to launch one’s career into video game audio by taking the bachelor’s degree path should be prepared for courses such as:
- Electrical Fundamentals for Engineering Technology
- Music for Audio Engineering
- Precalculus for Engineering Technology
- Intro to Digital Devices
- Sound Technology
- Algebra-based Physics
- Principle of Media Recording
According to the 2012 Music Careers in Dollars and Cents published by Berklee College of Music, there is a vast range in video game audio engineers’ salaries. It depends on where one sits within the hierarchy of the audio technology profession. Assistant Engineers earn from $18,000 to $28,000; Director of Audio earns between $70,000 and $140,000; the Sound Designers may earn in excess of $120,000.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2014 that the median salary in the Video Industry was $75,870. The BLS reported the annual median wage for Software Publishers at $66,340. This is in line with the middle income in the Berklee report of 2012 as most of the wage earners will be on the lower rungs of the scale.