Trainee AV engineer
Also known as: Junior AV engineer
What does a trainee AV engineer do?
Trainee audio visual (AV) engineers help qualified AV engineers install and look after audio-visual systems – any set-up that needs a screen and a sound system – in places like offices, concert halls, churches and museums. This might involve installing a huge screen at a prestigious awards ceremony or an immersive art exhibition like the touring Van Gogh Exhibit.
Trainee AV engineers start out in a workshop, working in a team to build and test the audio-visual systems that have been designed by more experienced engineers. After putting the equipment together, they break it down into separate loads and package it so it can be transported to where it’s needed. They also help to set up the equipment on site.
AV engineers carry out a wide range of the work involved in designing, setting up and looking after AV systems. They take on many tasks, from basic jobs like soldering wires to more challenging roles such as learning how to customise software to fit different AV systems – enabling them to develop lots of useful skills.
- Technical production 101: audio visual systems explained
- Merging art and AV with Van Gogh | AV experiences
What are trainee AV engineers good at?
- Working with electronic equipment: learning basic wiring skills such as soldering and cable management
- Working with computers: being able to pick up how to use software-based systems controlled by computers; knowing some basic programming and perhaps understanding a bit about computer networks, like knowing how IP networks are used
- Safety: lifting and carrying equipment safely and being fit enough to do this; being aware of safety on a building site
- Learning by watching and listening: observing what’s happening, taking initiative and asking questions at the appropriate time
- People skills: knowing how to interact with customers, working in a team under time pressures and speaking to staff who look after the sites.
Who does a trainee AV engineer work with?
They watch and learn from more experienced AV engineers. They also work with the people who need the AV content by speaking to clients about what they want and working with the staff who look after the site they’re working on.
How do I become a trainee AV engineer?
Firstly, you need to be great with technology. You might have set up a screen or speakers at a college awards evening already. If you want to go to university, a computer science-related degree will help, especially if you want to keep your career options open. You might also consider a degree in sound, light and live-event technology or audio and visual media.
However, as this is an entry-level job where you learn from more senior AV engineers, you won’t need a degree if you can show that you have some experience with tech and an interest in working with AV systems. Having a driving licence is also very useful, as it means you can travel with equipment to different sites.
At school or college
If you’re interested in broadcast engineering generally, A-levels in maths, physics and computer science or ICT would be good to get under your belt.
The following vocational qualifications are relevant to this role:
- BTEC in Creative Media
- Level 2 Diploma in Creative Media Production
- Level 3 Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production
- HND in Audio Visual Technology
- BTEC in Engineering with Engineering Maths
- Cambridge Technical Extended Certificate in Engineering
- BTEC National Foundation Diploma in Engineering
- C&G Technical Certificate in Engineering
- EAL Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Engineering Technologies
- BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering
- City & Guilds Advanced Technical Diploma in Electrical Installation
- EAL Diploma/Advanced Diploma in Electrical Installation
Selected schools and colleges have also started offering T-levels – a qualification equivalent to three A-levels that is designed to help you get into the industry of your choice. Study is 80% classroom- and 20% work placement-based.
- Media, Broadcast and Production
- Digital Production, Design and Development
- Digital Support Services
- Digital Business Services
- Design and Development for Engineering and Manufacturing
- Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing
- Engineering, Manufacturing, Processing and Control
Apprenticeships are jobs with training and there are apprenticeships available for AV engineers, although they tend to be with small companies rather than big broadcasters.
Go to What’s an apprenticeship? to find out more. You might be interested in doing a creative venue technician apprenticeship, a live event technician apprenticeship or a rigger apprenticeship. You can find apprenticeships by searching online, or you can approach companies directly and ask them if you can join as an apprentice.
You will also be able to learn on the job if you work for a small company, which will give you plenty of experience.
Get involved with events in your local community, whether that’s running the sound for your school talent show, helping out at a film screening or doing other hands-on tech roles like managing the special effects for an amateur dramatics society.
Contact theatre productions or local music venues that can get you behind the scenes of a production environment. Anything that gives you experience in dealing with equipment like screens and cables and speakers in a live environment will be helpful. Voluntary experience is great for your CV, because it shows you’re enthusiastic, have technical ability and experience and you work well as part of a team.
Get a degree
You don’t need a degree to become an AV engineer, but if you want to keep your options open, a degree in a maths or science subject would stand you in good stead for getting into the world of broadcast engineering generally. You could also look at electronic engineering, software design or computing. Something like media technology or sound engineering could be especially helpful for this job. Go to ScreenSkills Select to find university and college courses accredited by ScreenSkills.
Look outside the industry
If you can’t or don’t want to get into AV engineering straightaway, industries that require similar skills include local and hospital radio and engineering for temporary sound and vision systems for theatre and smaller live events. These would enable you to strengthen your technical abilities and get experience with technical equipment.
Get work experience
Write to local AV companies and ask if they offer technical assistant roles or ask for work experience.
Alternatively, try approaching a rental equipment company that supplies productions with the gear they need. This will enable you to get your hands on equipment, learn more about it and get to know people who work in TV.
Take a short course
If you are over 18, make a ScreenSkills account and check out ScreenSkills’ Training and opportunities page and click on Training to see what courses are available, whether they are in person or online. The training doesn’t have to be linked directly to broadcast engineering; for example, a short course on developing resilience would help you understand how to thrive in challenging circumstances.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people working with AV in your area.
Search for jobs
Search for jobs on the broadcasters’ websites as well as on LinkedIn and other job-hunting websites. Make use of the ScreenSkills jobs board. You can also send a short speculative letter with your CV to AV companies.
You might also be interested in...
- ARK-AV YouTube channel
- AV Magazine
- Why the Industry needs more Broadcast Engineers | NFTS
- BritishFilm Commission list of UK studios
- Engineering Council
- Rise: Women in Broadcast
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology
- The International Trade Association for the Broadcast & Media Industry
- Society of Media Professionals, Technologists and Engineers
- International Broadcasting Convention
- The Media Production & Technology Show
- E&T (Engineering & Technology) magazine
- NEP UK and Ireland
- Broadcast – Tech Talks
- Broadcast Buddy TV YouTube channel
- BBC Research and Development
- BBC Academy
- ITV Entry Careers
- Sky early careers
- 4Skills (Channel 4)
- Bectu (the media and entertainment union)
- Bectu Ratecards