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Do I Need an Audio Engineering Degree?

7/10/2012

If you’re eyeballing a career as an audio engineer or music producer, you may be asking yourself: “Do I need an audio engineering degree? Does having a degree increase my credibility in the music world, or give me a better shot at a career?”

In many other professions, this would be a no-brainer. If you want a career in law or medicine, for example, you’ll need not only a college degree, but multiple degrees. But in the music business, things are not so cut-and-dried. There are plenty of successful audio engineers and music producers who have never attended college, or who have never received any formal training at all. The music industry is practical and results-oriented, which means that if you can do the job well, you can succeed—regardless of how much formal education you have under your belt.

So if you don’t need a degree to become an audio engineer, the next question is: does having an audio engineering degree give you any more credibility, or improve your chances for success?

It might surprise you to learn that the answer is no.

Many graduates from audio engineering programs are flabbergasted when they discover that no one in the music industry even cares about their degree or diploma. It simply carries no weight whatsoever. The people in the music business don’t want to know where you went to school or how advanced your audio degree is. They want to know what projects you’ve worked on, and they want to know who recommends you.

In other words—experience and connections matter more in this business than any degree or diploma. You could attend the most prestigious, most expensive audio engineering school in the country, but without having some in-studio experience and some working relationships within the industry, you will have little chance of landing a job. (Meanwhile, the guy who never went to school but has spent the last few years hanging around the studio has gotten hired before anyone even looks at your resume.)

Now, let’s be clear: you don’t need a degree in audio, but you DO need some sort of education. Remember, the music industry is results-oriented. If you don’t know how to work the consoles, you won’t get a job as an audio engineer. But there are other ways to get that education than by going to school, and one of the best ways is to apprentice under a working audio engineer in the recording studio. If you don’t know an audio engineer or music producer willing to train you, one way to get that in-studio training is to attend a school that uses the mentor-apprentice approach (like Recording Connection).

There are many ways to get educated in audio, but you also need to have a way to gain experience and connections. An audio engineering degree is not necessary to your career, as long as you can find a way to get the education, experience and connections you need.

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