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Sound Design Degree Program and Course Information

Many students interested in sound design get training for entry-level positions through certificate and diploma programs, while others seek higher education through bachelor's and master's degree programs.

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Essential Information

In sound design certificate and diploma, bachelor's and master's degree programs, students learn to use state-of-the-art recording technology to create music, soundtracks and special effects for television, film, theatrical productions and video games. Hands-on experience is essential to all of these programs. Certificate, diploma and bachelor's degree students get fundamental training in all aspects of recording and music editing. In a master's degree program, more experienced students choose an area of the entertainment industry on which to focus their studies. They usually must research and defend a thesis and often are required to gain experience through a teaching or field internship.


Certificate and Diploma Programs in Sound Design

Individuals who wish to gain training in sound design in less than two years may obtain a certificate or diploma from a technical institute or community college. These programs are open to applicants with high school diplomas, degree holders and professionals currently working in the field who wish to enhance their skills. Some schools offer job placement assistance for graduates.

Courses are generally offered on-campus due to the amount of hands-on training involved. Through labs and workshops in sound studios, students can gain knowledge in such areas as:

  • Advanced sound design
  • Digital audio and video
  • Audio mixing
  • Music editing
  • Recording

Bachelor's Degree in Sound Design

In a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Sound Design program, students learn to merge musical knowledge with technical proficiency, creating soundtracks for visual media. Certain classes may be offered online; however, students typically need training on computer-based recording equipment, whether in a home studio or on campus.

Applicants must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Prior musical training, especially on instruments like pianos and synthesizers, may be helpful. Coursework varies by program and may cover related topics, such as sound physics, film production and computer technology. Other B.F.A. classes might include:

  • Recording software
  • History of theater
  • Music theory
  • Soundtrack postproduction
  • Notation for musical scoring

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Master's Degrees in Sound Design

Students who wish to broaden their knowledge of sound design and music technology may consider earning a graduate degree. Some schools offer a choice between earning a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). A 3-year MFA program may require twice as many credit hours as an M.A. program.

Programs may be competitive and admit a limited number of students per academic year. The minimum admissions requirement is a bachelor's degree. Candidates may need to submit portfolios containing previously recorded material or orchestrated musical scores. It may be possible to submit music samples electronically, as long as they adhere to school-approved specifications and formats.

At the graduate level, sound design students can focus on a particular area of the entertainment industry, including film, television, video games or theater. Students may choose from specialized courses, such as:

  • Audio engineering
  • Theatrical acoustics
  • Animation orchestration
  • Video game sound design
  • Movie and TV scoring

Popular Careers

Sound designers are employed at many types of multimedia, music and technology corporations. They may also get freelance work at recording studios.

Graduates of certificate and diploma programs are prepared for a wide variety of careers merging music and other forms of technology. They may find employment as:

  • Film composers
  • Audio/video editors
  • Commercial advertising composers

Entry-level positions for bachelor's degree program graduates may include:

  • Film/TV sound designer
  • Composer
  • Audio editor

Continuing Education

While graduates of a B.F.A. program may enter the workforce, they may also pursue a master's degree in sound design to further enhance their skills. In addition, doctoral degree programs in music technology are available to students who wish to teach at the university level or be involved in the research and development of applications and theories.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of music directors and composers was expected to increase by 3% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the mean annual wage for these individuals was $59,040 in May 2015.

To summarize, certificate and diploma programs are brief and provide an overview of the field of sound design. Bachelor's degree programs pair similar studies with general education requirements, while master's degree programs offer more advanced audio-related courses and research opportunities.

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