Graduate Programs in Sound Design

Oct 01, 2018

Often offered through theater departments, graduate programs in sound design prepare students to become theater professionals skilled at using music and sound as aspects of performances. These programs usually result in Master of Fine Arts degrees and emphasize sound technology and the role of sound design in theatrical productions from conception to execution.

Sound Design Graduate Program Information

While programs granting a master of arts degree may be shorter, the typically-available MFA track usually requires about three years of study. During the course of their studies, students may create a thesis or compile a portfolio featuring their sound design work as they complete courses emphasizing theoretical and practical aspects of sound design like the following:

Sound Design Fundamentals

These programs include classes providing an overview of the field of sound design. Fundamentals courses cover key terms and concepts in sound design and investigate how sound is generally used in theatrical productions. Students may develop listening skills and study various sound delivery systems. Additionally, they may study theoretical foundations of the field and examine how the use of sound in theater and media has changed over time.


Graduate programs in sound design emphasize practical skills used in the field, including sound mixing. Classes in this area explore techniques for mixing audio on set in video productions and for live events. Students gain practical experience in multi-channel mixing and troubleshooting.


With their focus on equipping students to be proficient sound designers upon graduation, these programs include coursework on specific techniques and software applications used in the field. Classes on Vectorworks introduce students to computer aided drafting and how sound designers use this process. In addition to an overview of terms and concepts unique to computer aided drafting, topics covered may include plate organization and use of software with digital signal processors.

Production Management

In addition to instruction in technical and practical aspects of sound design, graduate-level work in the field includes coursework on management practices students may use in their careers. These classes cover professional standards and the administrative aspects of productions involving sound design. Topics include management approaches to building relationships among staff, budget administration, and time management issues.

Special Topics in Sound Design

Students in these programs complete some coursework focused on particular issues within sound design. Examples of these issues include the process of analyzing scripts from a sound design perspective, creating sound designs for particular themes, or advanced problems currently facing the field. Often presented in a seminar format, these classes may include the completion of a significant individual or group project related to the topic.

Sound Design Graduate Program Admissions

Applicants to graduate programs in sound design must submit transcripts showing an earned bachelor's degree or its equivalent. Prospective MFA students should be prepared to submit a portfolio of prior work, and they may need to complete an interview including a presentation and discussion of their portfolio. These programs also require letters of recommendation from professional references. Additional requirements often include a resume and a statement of purpose outlining an applicant's career goals and their motivation for applying to a particular program.

Often granting MFA degrees, graduate programs in sound design prepare students for careers in theater and entertainment by providing instruction in the theory and practice of sound design and the specific tools used in the field. Applicants with a background in this area can expect to gain hands-on production experience as they pursue their degrees.

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