Audio Recording Degree and Career Education Programs

Audio recording degrees are available at the bachelor's and master's levels. Typically, they're obtainable as recording arts or sound engineering technology programs.

Essential Information

An audio recording education usually incorporates both classroom and hands-on technical training in studio settings. Courses emphasize music theory and production processes along with digital recording technologies. While growth is anticipated in the employment of sound engineering technicians, competition for jobs is expected to be keen

Schools often prefer audio recording applicants who have a strong musical background.

  • Program Levels in Audio Recording: Bachelor's or master's level
  • Program Length: About two to four years
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; a portfolio of projects may be required for admission to master's programs; master's applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered
  • Other Requirements: Many programs culminate in a final recording project

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Audio Recording

Bachelor's degrees in audio recording are usually called recording arts or recording arts engineering degrees, and very often they are paired with music production. In most programs, students begin training on analog (not digital) recording labs, which provide a fundamental understanding of audio signal flow, the basis of nearly all mixing and recording technologies. Students typically progress to combination analog-digital studios and finally to fully digital studios. In fully digital studios, students learn about 5.1 surround sound and the latest recording technologies. Programs typically feature a mix of musical training and technical training, both of which are essential to success in the field.

Many programs look for applicants who have a passion for music and involvement in the industry. Their enthusiasm is best expressed in a personal statement. The strongest applicants will also have a musical or computer science background. In addition to training on industry-standard equipment and techniques, students also receive keyboard, aural, and theoretical training. Here are some classes that might appear in the curriculum in bachelor's degree programs in recording arts:

  • Digital consoles
  • Audio post-production
  • Music theory
  • Critical listening
  • Audio file management

Master's Degree Programs in Audio Recording

Master's Degrees in Recording arts are commonly, but not always, offered as Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees, offering advanced training in production, recording and integrated electronic media. Degrees in this field also require students to develop strong understandings of related disciplines, including digital animation, computer science, video production, and music. As such, these areas are often offered as minors. Students can also expect an emphasis on technologies because they change rapidly in the industry and are essential to the success of its professionals. Because an MFA is a terminal degree and qualifies graduates to teach at a post-secondary level, many programs also offer pedagogical training or teaching opportunities.

Students can expect to log many hours in studios recording actual music sessions, especially in graduate programs. However, a strong understanding of theory is required, so classes such as the following will likely appear in the curriculum:

  • Musical synthesis
  • Multitrack recording
  • Visual aesthetics and technology
  • Recordings in a cultural context
  • Legal rights of creative individuals

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

One of the most popular careers for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in recording arts is sound engineering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the employment rate for broadcast and sound engineering technicians would grow 9% between 2012 and 2022, roughly as fast as average. The median annual salary for sound engineering technicians was $49,870 as of May 2014.

Opportunities for master's degree graduates may lie in music directing and composing. The employment rate for this profession is expected to grow only 5% between 2012 and 2022, so there will be significant competition for jobs, according to the BLS ( The median annual salary for music directors and composers was $48,180 as of May 2014.

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