In the gaming industry, “audio engineers” may be called a number of different things: sound designer, audio designer, and so on. But the job description is basically the same wherever you go, as they all make the sound effects, ambient effects, and often the music for the video game. Annual income for these positions varies widely, with entry-level audio positions beginning as low as $20,000, and senior audio engineers in lead positions having the potential to bring in well over $100,000 every year.
Whether you are working as a permanent employee of a studio or you are a freelance audio engineer, you have the potential to be paid very well compared to other gaming roles.
So, how much do video game audio engineers really make?
Annual incomes for audio engineers in the gaming industry vary widely, as rates change based on experience and other factors, and with freelancing, engineers may be able to make large amounts of money if they are able to lock down project after project.
If an engineer is a salaried employee at a game studio, they could start at around $30,000 per year, with the potential to grow all the way up to $150,000 per year as they gain experience. Freelancers can earn anywhere from $100 per project (with minimal experience and working on an indie game), to $150,000 per project on the high end, when working in a senior position for a larger, AAA-quality game.
What factors determine how game audio engineers are paid?
There are a variety of factors that will determine how much you are paid as the audio engineer for a game, including:
1. Your experience
Just like any other job, the amount of experience you possess will determine how much you get paid. The more experience you have, the more you will be paid.
2. The project size/scope
How much you are paid will depend on what type of game project you are working on. If you are an audio engineer for a small, indie game with a team of only a few people, you will be paid significantly less than if you were working at a large studio on AAA-quality games.
3. Whether or not asset ownership is retained
When audio engineers work under a “work for hire” contract, the ownership of any assets they create during that job will be transferred to the studio they are working for. This means the engineer is not free to use those assets for any other company, but they are usually paid more for their work in exchange.
Should I Become a Game Audio Engineer?
If you are comfortable working as a freelancer instead of a permanent employee at a studio, and are passionate about audio in the gaming industry, then becoming a game audio engineer could be a very fulfilling career for you! Just be aware that game audio jobs are not the most plentiful field and you may need to work in non-game jobs first before you can secure your dream job as a video game audio engineer.