Education and Training Required to Become a Successful Sound Engineer

Knowledge of sound equipment and computer programs used in audio productions is the foundation of the profession and can be acquired through college programs.

Associate’s Degree

Students just starting out in an audio engineering degree program may expect to take some basic courses where they learn things like connecting cables, placing microphones, operating a mixing board, producing sound effects and troubleshooting sound problems. They will learn how to use audio software programs like Logic and Pro Tools. The first year, most students take composition, technical writing, public speaking, interpersonal communication, algebra, physics, psychology, sociology, and music appreciation. The second year is when students typically take the major courses like audio engineering, keyboard skills, electronic circuits, music technology, live sound reinforcement, multimedia production, sound editing and synthesis, audio recording and audio engineering. Tuition and fees for an Associate’s degree in audio engineering average $2,500 to $5,000 per year. The major does not require many books as much of the course work is done with computers and sound equipment. Costs for books generally do not exceed $500 per year.

Bachelor’s Degree

Students working on a Bachelor’s degree in audio engineering do not necessarily have to plan to go into the music or theater industry. Other industries that need audio engineers include advertising firms, video game production companies, and corporate broadcasting companies. Along with basic courses in an audio signal, music theory, acoustics, and digital sequencing, students working on a Bachelor’s degree may also take classes in music business and management. Prior to graduating, students will need to put together a portfolio of original audio demos and may work in an internship approved by the college or university. Students who have some musical talent may consider being a part of a college band, orchestra, choir or ensemble as well. Costs range from $7,000 to $15,000 a year for in-state tuition at a public university, $19,000 to $25,000 a year for out-of-state tuition and $26,000 to $35,000 a year at a private institution.

Master’s Degree

Graduate students in the field of audio engineering may take more advanced courses like engineering acoustics which involves equations governing sound waves as well as sound momentum, intensity, absorption, and scattering. Students may also study noise reduction and control along and aerodynamic noise. They may take advanced courses in acoustics like psychoacoustics and electroacoustics. It is best to verify that college degree programs for audio engineering are accredited by the National Association of Music Education, the Audio Engineering Society, the National Academy of Broadcasting or the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services.

Licensing and Certification

There are no state or federal licenses or certifications that are required in the field of audio engineering; however, many students go on to take the voluntary examination given by the Society of Broadcast Engineers or SBE. Passing the exam gives an individual the designation of a certified audio engineer or CEA. Fees for the exam are $137.00 for SBE members and $162.00 for non-members.

Once a student earns a degree in sound or audio engineering, the learning does not stop there. Music technology is advancing quickly and software is constantly being upgraded and enhanced; therefore, it is vital that audio engineers continue to take classes and learn new technologies as they emerge.