Audio-Visual (AV) technicians set up, operate and maintain multimedia equipment for events and to provide educational support materials - ranging from a simple slide show or video screening to spectacular laser displays.
They work in a variety of settings: education, the health service, conferences, exhibitions and business events or in entertainment. Their work can vary from preparing equipment for a lecture to organising the sound and lighting for a live event, such as a fashion show. In each case they make the best use of their technical skills and the available technology to deliver professional results.
Tasks may include:
Technicians may use a range of equipment, including:
- Slide, overhead and multimedia projectors
- DVD, CD and video recorders/players
- Stills and video cameras
- Lighting equipment
- PA/sound systems
- LCD and plasma screens
- Control rigs
- Video conferencing tools
- Editing suites
For big events a technician works as part of a team, which may include a director, sound engineer and set designer. In a smaller organisation or event they may handle all the technical aspects, supervised by a team leader or events organiser.
In some organisations, Audio-Visual technicians are also expected to look after ICT equipment such as computers and printers.
Audio-Visual technicians typically work between 35 and 40 hours a week. This is likely to include evening and weekend work, if covering exhibitions or conferences. There are also likely to be opportunities for overtime and technicians working in the entertainment industry may work much longer hours. Part-time and freelance work may be available. Some school or college jobs may be term-time only.
The working environment will depend on the type of work the technician does and may include exhibition centres, lecture halls, music venues or mobile production facilities. The job is also likely to include time in an office or workshop.
A driving licence is useful for travelling to venues. The work may involve moving and lifting some heavy equipment.
The starting salary for a newly-qualified Audio-Visual (AV) technicians are between £13,000 and £15,000. There may be opportunities for overtime, particularly on live shows. The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU) can advise on recommended rates of pay for freelance work.
Audio-Visual technicians are employed by:
Most work is based in cities and in areas with a concentration of media industries such as London, the south east, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.
Jobs are advertised in the press, Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices, and with specialist recruitment agencies. There may also be vacancies on websites such as www.avabsolute.com, www.jobs.ac.uk and www.fejobs.com. There are usually more applicants than vacancies.
There are no set qualifications for this work. However, most employers will look for a combination of practical experience of using a range of Audio-Visual equipment and a qualification. Hands-on experience can be gained as a voluntary sound or lighting engineer in amateur theatre, with bands at music venues or alternatively as an amateur camera operator, multimedia designer or editor. A working knowledge of office software packages, such as PowerPoint, may also be an advantage. GCSE's in maths, English, art and design and ICT may be useful.
Some technicians gain a qualification before employment, such as an HNC/HND in audio/video technology, or in electronics and electronics engineering. There are also many courses up to degree level which focus on aspects of the Audio-Visual and media industries, such as BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in media production, City & Guilds Level 2 (7502) Certificate in audio visual industries induction or City & Guilds Level 3 (7501) Diploma in media techniques. Courses in camera, video or sound may also be useful.
For an HNC/HND course applicants normally need a minimum of one A level, a BTEC National Award or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements vary according to the institution and the course so applicants should check with individual colleges and universities.
Entry requirements also vary for degree courses. Applicants for a media production course usually need at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) including English and maths or the equivalent. Some companies take on trainee or apprentice technicians.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Training is carried out on the job. Technicians are expected to keep learning about different technologies and constantly update their skills. They may take short courses to learn about new products or other aspects of the job, such as health and safety and administration.
Most employers will require technicians to hold or gain a certificate in portable appliance testing (City & Guilds 2377). This is gained through examination after a one-day course that is widely available at colleges.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An Audio-Visual technician needs to have:
With experience and qualifications, technicians may be promoted to senior technician or head of department in a larger organisation, or become an account or project manager. They may go on to specialise in different Audio-Visual techniques, eg as editors or colourists.
With further engineering training, career options include working as a sound or lighting director in the theatre, working in film, radio and television production or in the manufacture of broadcasting equipment.
Some technicians may go freelance and there may also be opportunities to work abroad.
Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
The Engineering Careers Information Service (ECIS),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 282167
InfoComm International, European Membership Office,
2 Victoria Square, Victoria Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3TF
Tel: 01727 884606
Production Services Association, PO Box 2709, Bath BA1 3YS
Tel: 01225 332668
Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA),
1 Edward Road, Eastbourne BN23 8AS
Tel: 01323 524120
Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Free careers helpline: 0808 0300 900
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.