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Music Design Programs: Degree and Training Information

Oct 10, 2019

Certificate, bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in audio engineering, music production, and theater production. These programs prepare students for jobs and careers that center on applying sound elements to different mediums such as film, live theatre, or music recordings.

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Essential Information

Certificate programs vary in length and content, but they teach the basics of music and sound design preparing students to pursue entry-level careers in audio visual production or sound design. Through theoretical instruction and hands-on learning experiences, students gain an understanding of sound synthesis, video production and live performance recording. Individuals studying for bachelor's degrees choose programs aligning with their career goals, whether in film, television or the recording industry. Students learn about various aspects of stage production, including dialogue editing in film and post-production sound. Students of master's degree programs further develop their technical skills and gain advanced knowledge of acoustic design, gaming sound synthesis and sound design methods.

To enroll in a theater or music production program, students should possess fundamental musical knowledge, skill or appreciation. Some schools including advanced training in composition or those incorporating video production into their curricula require applicants to have some educational or practical experience.


Certificate in Audio/Visual Production

Music designers, also called sound designers, create sound effects and audio components for theatrical productions, films, television programs and music recording. Certificate programs in audio/visual production and sound design introduce students to the fundamental concepts of music designing and sound effects recording through hands-on learning. Certificate programs consist of classes taking from six months to two years to complete, depending on the extent of the instruction. Programs teaching entry-level and fundamental basics of sound design have no requirements prior to enrollment.

Students learn a range of technical sound production skills through digital and analog interfaces. Through studio experience and classroom lectures, fundamentals in audio production are taught to prepare students for entry-level jobs in audio production. Topics of study include:

  • Adding sound to video
  • Digital audio and video production
  • Sound design for film
  • Sound effects design
  • Sound synthesis
  • Studio and live performance recording

Bachelor's Degree in Sound Design

Many industries utilizing sound designers employ different techniques for music mixing and production. Schools offer degree programs based on students' professional aspirations. For example, students wishing to become live theatrical sound designers study sound design through a 4-year theater arts program. Likewise, students interested in sound design in music, gaming, film, and television production industries choose to enroll in a sound engineering technology bachelor's degree program. Applicants only need a high school diploma or GED for the major.

Theater production coursework involves hands-on experience in multiple areas of stage production during the first year of study, eventually focusing on sound design sequences. Programs in music recording offer classes that develop well-rounded experience in multiple recording techniques, such as digital composition or musical synthesis. Sound design is offered as a concentration during the final two years of study. Course topics include:

  • Foley and sound effects
  • Dialogue editing in film
  • Post-production sound
  • MIDI technologies
  • Advanced sound design
  • Video game sound composition

Master's Degree in Sound Design

Liberal arts schools offer master's degrees for those interested in further exploring sound design through theater arts production and game development. Music design programs in audio technology and sound design are found through technical audio engineering schools. Students gain advanced mixing skills, further develop their creativity and interpret audio and sound effect possibilities in a variety of productions. Academic Master of Arts and professional Master of Fine Arts degrees in sound design take two years to complete. A bachelor's degree is required for graduate study.

Graduate-level coursework further expands on conceptual and technical production skills. Classes examine advanced concepts, such as sound theory and acoustic design, in addition to technical skills, such as mastering techniques. Other topics of study include:

  • Sound design analysis
  • Music theory
  • Gaming sound synthesis
  • Sound design methods
  • Advanced audio technology
  • Dialogue recording

Popular Careers

Certificates in sound design qualify graduates for entry-level positions in audio technology; however, better job opportunities exist for those with a bachelor's or master's degree in sound design. Music and designers may find employment opportunities in:

  • Theater production
  • Music studio audio production
  • Television and film postproduction
  • Video game development

The duties of a sound designer range from developing non-compositional sound for film and television audio to recording original sound effects for a variety of media outlets. Sound designers may integrate multiple production methods to their skill sets and find employment as one of the following:

  • Foley artist
  • Recording engineer
  • Record producer
  • Sound editor
  • Video game sound designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Those who are adept in multiple technologies and possess individual creativity are likely to stand out and earn jobs by reputation. Payscale.com reported in 2019 that sound designers earned a median annual salary of $51,425. Salaries varied by experience, location and industry, and salaries at the time ranged from $35,000 to $94,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 8 percent growth for sound engineering technicians from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education

Continuing education courses are offered by independent sound companies, community colleges and technical schools to keep students and industry professionals up-to-date on current and emerging technologies. Training programs in individual technologies, such as Pro Tools, may offer better qualifications for competitive jobs.

Certificate and degree programs in audio/visual design train students for sound design work in various fields such as film and television, theatre, and video game production. Programs teach students to work with the latest sound equipment and technology.

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