Students who are interested in sound production may enroll in a degree program titled sound or recording arts technology, audio production, music engineering or music technology, among others. All of these programs include hands-on training in the studio. To apply to an undergraduate program in one of these fields, prospective students must have a high school diploma (or GED), demonstrate proficiency in both engineering and music and submit a portfolio of previous work. Applicants to master's degree programs need a bachelor's degree.
Sound production students learn to work with specialized equipment to record, manipulate and play sound in concerts, recording sessions, broadcast productions and more. Those who are interested in learning how to set up and maintain sound production equipment may consider enrolling in an associate degree program in sound production. Baccalaureate and graduate degree programs in the field include more advanced studies such as producing, sound mixing, sound editing and sound engineering.
Associate Degrees Covering Sound Production
Two-year associate's degree programs in sound arts or recording arts technology programs teach students how to record sound on location, manipulate raw files and layer tracks to create a finished piece. Traditional applications of sound production include sound mixing for movies and music production. Programs focusing on nontraditional careers - like creating soundscape installations - are available, often through for-profit schools. Students learn how to use different types of recording equipment to highlight different tones, fix recording errors and mix sounds so that they appear to be seamless. In addition to learning about the physical properties of sound, some course topics may include:
- Sound mixing
- Music theory
- Commercial production
- Audio equipment
Bachelor's Degrees Covering Audio Production
Noise control, sound design, feedback suppression and different mixing styles are taught in a 4-year bachelor's degree program in audio production or music engineering. Students learn how to produce and critique audio pieces in addition to arranging technical equipment for the optimal listening experience. Because these careers involve collaboration on practical projects, programs require laboratory work - inside a studio - aside from classroom hours. Audio theory fundamentals - like why some sound engineers prefer vinyl records as opposed to compact discs - and technical information on sound delivery systems are taught. Some course topics may be:
- Studio maintenance
- Recording science
- Music theory
- Audio post-production
Master of Science in Music Technology
These two-year graduate programs offer courses in technology and composition for physical musical interfaces, like audio pads. Students in these programs learn about audio production software, mobile technology, audio over the Internet and audio hardware. Thesis and project-based tracks are both available. In addition to an examination of how human brains process music, graduate-level training includes work on how emerging technologies can change the way humans interact with music. Courses in these areas can include:
- Digital signal processing
- Music analysis
- Music interface design
- Music for multimedia applications
- Media production
Popular Career Options
Because careers in this field marry the artistic with the technical, they can involve working on the audio electronics end or the administrative end of working with talent. Jobs for recent college graduates include:
- Live sound engineer
- Production assistant
- Recording equipment manufacturer representative
- Sound technician
- Studio maintenance technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2018-2028 employment forecast, sound engineering technicians were anticipated to see an two percent increase in job opportunities (www.bls.gov). The motion picture and video industry provides the highest number of jobs for sound engineering professionals, as of May 2018. BLS salary reports for this year showed that sound engineering technicians employed nationwide earned a median annual wage of $52,390.
Ph.D. programs are available to master's degree program graduates interested in research careers or jobs teaching at the college-level. These 2- to 3-year programs include course offerings in artificial intelligence, computer science and mathematics as they relate to music theory and performance.
While it may be difficult to find a degree program offered specifically in sound production, there are a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs that cover the topic. Students can choose the right program based on their audio expertise and career goals, whether they be to gain entry-level employment as sound technicians or more advanced positions as sound engineers or production assistants.