= What exactly will an Audio Engineering degree teach me? =

Will a Bachelor's in Audio Engineering from a reputable school not only teach me the fundamentals of audio and facilitate me developing the skill-set to become a professional level recording and mix engineer but also teach me about live audio, the construction and actual engineering of loud speakers and sound systems, music theory, music production, more niche topics like psychoacoustics, etc?
I self studied my way to the music producer I am today over the last four years. I've come very far but today I crave a formal education. I want to polish my accumulated knowledge and current abilities with a curriculum curated by experts, engineers, scientists and industry professionals, leaving myself reassured with no doubts that I've amassed a true scholarly education on everything audio - at the very least tried my best to do so. And I'm trying to decide what academic program I should pursue

What I'd like to get out of a degree:
Evolve from a producer with an advanced, semi-pro skill-set and understanding of audio, production and mixing to an individual with the confidence that he's truly up to speed with the pros in his technical abilities as both a producer and mix engineer, as well as his thorough top down comprehension of the science of audio and how to translate that to top quality music production

Work on original productions in professional recording studios with my professor(s) and (practically) perfect my mixes - at the least level them up to the standards I've set for myself. This one I'm already fairly close to just having grinded solo for the past few years but I know testing out my mixes in a pro studio along with learning then what I still don't know now will be like icing on the cake

Dive bottom of the ocean deep into the science and mathematics of audio, live audio, the engineering of sound systems and other more niche topics

My question is for those who've earned Audio Engineering degrees, what exactly did you learn? What exactly is taught? What are the career paths that your schools designed their programs around setting you up for?

Said humbly and only said to be clear about my intent for even going to school, I'm not worried in the slightest about eventually getting where I want to be career-wise post college insofar as making it as a pro musician. Connections and getting my foot into the industry isn't at all what I want or need out of a degree. I just want to go to a proper school and learn. I want to learn all there is to know about audio in every sense with the invaluable asset of being taught by (ideally) industry pros who I can query directly and I want to be tested, build projects and earn a degree

Before it's said, indeed my next task is to simply review curriculums of programs I'm interested in but it's always helpful to hear accounts from people spoken freely about the real truth of what a degree in any field boiled down to for them

Thanks in advance

A lot of what you get from a degree is what you put in, time and effort-wise. A good audio degree can get you all of the things that you're looking for. A bad one is going to throw you into Pro Tools and say "here's some projects, good luck"

My degree is from UMBC, where it was a specialized music degree more than an engineering degree. Five semesters of music theory, four of ear training and keyboard skills. The music side of things wasn't incredibly challenging to someone with a music background, but several of my drummer and guitarist friends struggled here and there. That's not to say there wasn't any engineering - the department chair spun up a 400-level class on how to make your own microphones from scratch because there were four of us interested and he was (and is) an absolute audiobut the math bits were always secondary to hundreds of specific guided hours of specialized practice towards objectives like hearing compression, proper use of EQ, gain staging, use of reverb and effects, mixing and mastering on a professional level, meeting standards for post audio, surround mixing, and, most importantly, how to get business and work with diva artists

If you want the math bits too, you'll probably need to take mid-level physics and calculus courses as well. Few curricula specifically include it as a requirement, though I believe Peabody Institute, which is attached to JHU, does require calc3 and physics requirements. Some offer a track as an elective, but you'd probably have more success checking with math and physics departments directly. Plug-in coding is mostly done in C++ and it's not too difficult to find a college that teaches their basic code classes in C++ (or C) these days


You'll want a college that's got a robust live events division for anything live-sound oriented, which is becoming much more common as the demand for on-campus staff for these events skyrockets. The skills you have in the studio can transfer to work in the live arena, but they are not always a 1:1 conversion and studio engineers are not automatically also experts in live sound unless they have specific experience (Live audio is my specialty) UMBC had a great on campus job program for exactly this sort of work stretching back into the early 00s where you would get solo board time within your first year as well as experience with lighting and video systems, production management as an upperclassman, as well as knowledge of how the entire business model for live events fits together. We've got one of the Tech Services leads in this sub, I'm sure he'll chime in at some point too. His degree is Sound Design for Theatre, which is also something very good to spend some time in if you do end up going the college route

It’ll teach you that you didn’t need a college degree to learn audio engineering. Most of your teachers won’t have gone to college and simply just started working on a studio somewhere. They will tell you that they started working as a studio runner, then moved up the ladder to eventually filling in for an engineer on aday and then eventually building up clients

Honestly, don’t go to college for this stuff. Go around and ask for a job at a studio and treat that as an internship and learn from it. Don’t get into debt like that

I'm going to respond from the other side, the acoustics engineering and psychoacoustics realm. I have a PhD in sound perception and psychoacoustics and have worked in environmental and architectural acoustics engineering. While audio engineering programs do give you the necessary scientific background for recording work, in my experience they don't dive nearly as deep into the science and mathematics of sound or the science of perception as they could. In my opinion these are really two separate fields that only occasionally overlap in how they are treated

If you already have a career and the practical skills in a studio, I would actually say for the new stuff you want you should go the acoustics route. This would typically (especially in the US) be an electrical engineering or possibly physics degree. There are some programmes in the UK and Europe that have much more of a mix - ISVR in Southampton, Salford, or the Tonmeister course come to mind. Personally, I studied a combined BSc Physics & Music which would have fit well, but it doesn't exist anymore

Education has worth, I feel that. But don’t mistake worth for value

Will it be worth it to you for the next 10 years? Probably. It’ll be as fun as it is interesting. College is cool

But will it be valuable on the journey to a job? Not at all. Eventually, you be competing against / become best friends with / and look up to a better engineer than you or I ever will be, with no degree. What they will have is talent and experience. Which we would trade that degree for in a heartbeat. This is true of almost all the most successful people and businesses in history; they sweat while we read. And then they outread us while we slept

This is not a cynical view, this should be exciting. Because the playbook is right there. No games. All you have to do is

*outwork theones*. The ones who think they *deserve* to be at the top. The ones who couldn’t handle their first L and forsook all future W’s

Just do thething. Every local band, kid with a podcast, YouTube blogger, Sunday service, local venue, prom nights, talent shows, local festivals. They ALL need sound. YOU can do that. Can you do it well? Show up, apply yourself, prove the haters wrong

…Then become one of the few college professors with actual experience. lol. Again, for which you likely have less formal education than the other “professors”. You’re qualified because it was your profess
*ion*. Checkmate

Ask from whomever is providing the course. How are we to know what the course entails?
Nah… just skip audio engineering school and go straight to electronics engineering and learn everything to later do your own equipment/etc. you can learn exactly the same thing as an audio engineering school via online tutorials, doing an internship at a studio for one year, or via mentorship. And overall practicing and checking out the millions of YouTube videos that show a snippet of something you can expand later via books. There’s no real job prospects for audio engineering unless you do post in Los Angeles. And a very low chance of freelancer where you have other forms of income. Most who go into audio engineering want to produce music. And for that there’s also other ways. Night classes, adult continuation schools , private tutoring etc. it’s not like before where it was hard to find how to learn this stuff. Now it’s everywhere and a bachelor is sure not needed

The only advantage of having a bachelor is that it’s a pieace of paper that will let you enter any job that requires a bechelor. Except of course for any audio engineering job

Rather than review curriculums, review the
*faculty*, the student body, and the overall culture of a program. Visit places in person if you can, or at least get a feel for the people involved in the program through online correspondence. The college environment is so much more rewarding when the people you’re learning from (and with) are people you respect, who inspire you, and who create an environment for you to thrive. That’s different for everyone, it’s a matter of whether the people in a given program resonate with *you*. Whatever a program says about itself on paper doesn’t mean much. What they say they teach is different from how it feels to be there. Find a program where you feel like you can belong on a personal level

Also, consider where the program is. Apart from the program, living in a town or part of the country youwill make this endeavor harder. Look at the partnership between the program and the professional scene in its community. You say you’re not worried about getting your foot in the door professionally, and I respect your desire to just learn learn learn. But the city/scene a program is embedded in can be a huge asset in terms of, again, belonging and being inspired

Lastly, if you can at all help it, do not take out student loans for this. There are great programs with great faculty all over the place with affordable tuition and scholarship opportunities. You don’t have to mortgage your life to attend a school with a certain reputation, especially if what you’re interested in first and foremost is the knowledge, not the connections or “prestige” that comes with certain names

It really depends on your learning style and the school you go to. I went to MTSU and feel like my degree was worth the time. But I’ve also never been asked for my degree or resume for any gig I’ve gotten outside of my unpaid internships. However, the facilities and classes definitely taught me some of the technical things I may not have thought to research on my own. It also forced me to move from Logic to Pro Tools, which for working in the country music industry in Nashville and being able to walk into any studio and operate the system, has been super valuable. The other most valuable thing I gained was the connections and friends I made during my time there. I didn’t approach it from a networking perspective, but so many of my friendships I made there have ended up leading to great gig opportunities down the road that I never would have expected. But like many commenters have said, there are enough resources out there that you definitely don’t need a degree to get started. I would say if you can get scholarships and get the degree for close to free or very cheap, it can be worth it. But if its going to cost tens of thousands of dollars, you’re better off just using that money to rent studio time or buy gear to learn on your own. While I did get a solid foundation at school, most of the real skills and knowledge that make me “pro” came from time spent on my own being obsessed with audio and working on friends projects. As well as the internships in Nashville that I was only able to get because I was a student doing it for school credit. Just some of my unorganized thoughts on the subject, happy to answer any questions if you’ve got them!

+1 for MTSU. The internship was the most valuable thing I did. Classes and studio time was fine, connections are everything. Plus my Audio Engineering degree is a Mass Communications Bachelor of Science, so it looks good(and can get a job) if Audio doesn't work out. Some of the higher level courses are real cool, but you don't really have the skills yet to take real advantage of the amazing gear lol

I will say that there was a lot of musicians that just wanted to be famous/already had the gear/studios/tours/dad's money and music can be soulcrushing to do all the work, and then be lucky to get $15/hr(or even having a studio available to you). Also, a producer can always get studio time, finding clients is the hard part. Most studios are old guys that have already paid the place off, are milking every last dime and don't really need you. I feel like I got pretty lucky to be where I am now
all in my opinion and I have the degree. I went to hone my skills and make contacts in the industry so I could get a job post uni (as was advertised in prospectus and open days) and made 0 contacts apart from my fellow students as my lecturers didn't want to and told us to find our own contacts and placements, not even a list of known companies or people to approach to get started. They didn't give aabout our course aside from us passing at the very least

Tip I've said here before and I will say again, smoke or vape or whatever , those who don't smoke get nowhere in this field

This industry runs on who you know rather than what you know, you could be beaten to a job by some unqualified person because he knows someone

That you should have saved your money. All the information is free on the internet and if you actually have passion and a fewcells to rub together this is not the type of thing worth getting a degree for because you can get hired from your portfolio of personal project if you’re actually good

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