.So you want to be an audio engineer. Of course, the first questions that come to mind are – what does an audio engineer do? Do I need specific schooling for such a job? And finally, if so, what kind of audio engineering schools are out there?
The job of an audio engineer is much more than just dabbling with sound presets. And, it involves much more than just having a great ear for music. As Career Explorer defines it, “An audio engineer works with the technical aspects of sound during the processes of recording, mixing, and reproduction. Audio engineers often assist record (music), producers and musicians, to help give their work the sound they are hoping to achieve.”
An audio engineer will piece together parts of a song, use auto-tune on a recording, and/or add synthetic sounds to a track. Audio engineers are different from producers. However, some audio engineers go on with their careers to double as producers or assume the role of producer (above).
Essentially, it is a job that covers everything from tuning instruments to running cables in the studio to mixing the sound and doing specific recording tasks as voice-over and voice dubbing. It involves a lot of technical elements, like knowing both analog and digital audio equipment and who to use each set properly.
This means that when choosing an audio engineering school a prospective student has to take a number of elements into consideration. These include how fast you can get an adequate degree, to how well a specific learning institution is technically equipped.
But, let us first take a look at subfields of audio engineering as a precondition for choosing the right audio engineering school.
Various audio engineering jobs
Career Explorer (above) has a handy list of subfields of audio engineering and what they involve:
- Studio engineer – Is producer’s right hand in a recording studio. There are quite some instances when studio engineers double as producers and work independently.
- Assistant engineer – Also working in the studio, an assistant engineer is often a person gaining experience in a large recording company or independent studio.
- Recording engineer – This person may focus on recording sound, but his job involves quite a number of precise technical tasks that she/he needs to perform.
- Game & Audio Design engineer – “A game & audio design engineer helps work with the sound engineering on video games, as well as how to appropriately add sound to the game.”
- Mix engineer – To create a complete, recorded track, a mix engineer focuses on mixing a single recorded track to create one or more versions.
- Mastering engineer – A mastering engineer completes the work of a mix engineer to make the final version or versions of a track-ready for release.
- Live sound engineer – This type of engineer works at live events “to make sure the sound is of appropriate value and high quality.”
- Monitor engineer – At live events, a monitor engineer is tasked with making sure that artists are able to hear themselves.
- Systems engineer – “A systems engineer manages the entire experience of sound at live performances. Systems engineers manage both live sound engineers and monitor engineers, and also work to set up the entire live sound system at many live events.”
- Audio post engineer – An audio post engineer works to mix and edit audio for television and movies.
So, it seems that there are quite a number of audio engineering subfields and a lot to learn out there if you want to have a wider array of job opportunities. But, one question remains open.
Do you really need an audio engineering degree or not?
Sure, getting formal audio engineering might not be a prerequisite everywhere in the recording industry. It is usually the actual skill and ear for the sound that is the deciding factor.
But, as Ledger Note points out, if you’re looking for a typical day job in the music industry, employers often want to see a degree on your resume from an accredited school. In this case, you’ll want to seriously consider earning an audio engineering degree.
There are quite a number of benefits in attending an audio engineering school, and the above source provides a detailed list:
- Being close to sources of the recording industry – “Many top audio engineering schools and colleges are in cities that feed the music industry. We’re talking about cities like Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles. For many, going to school in a city like these means you’ll be able to not only get a better education, but you’ll be able to potentially find even more job opportunities and better quality jobs at that.”
- Forming relationships and networking – In the music industry, networking and relationships mean more than in some other industries. Attending an audio engineering school gives the student the opportunity to meet more people who aspire to move into the music industry to build a career. “Audio engineering jobs often come to people through referrals and connections, which is vital to succeeding in the music industry.”
- Acquiring adequate work experience – You need experience as the only way to hone your overall skills. Attending an audio engineering school is the best way to gain such experience and build a resume. Many audio engineering schools have resources for you to get feedback and critiques on your resume and cover letters, and some even provide electronic press kits (EPKs) or even professional headshots.
Choosing the right audio engineering school for you
F. I.R.S.T. Institute, one audio engineering school itself, points out at some elements to consider when choosing the right school:
- Which programs does the school offer?
- What supplies and materials are used to complete projects?
- Would your instructors have relevant industry experience?
- Would there be opportunities for networking & audio engineering internships?
The Sheffield Institute of Recording Arts, another specialist audio engineering school goes into more detail with elements to consider:
- Does the school have state-of-the-art equipment? Technical fields including audio engineering are an ever-developing field. You need to make sure your school has the most updated versions of software and equipment that are presently being used in the industry.
- Will you get ads-on instruction? Getting experience with the latest gear is the most practical and efficient way to become an expert.
- Does the school provide solid theoretical foundations? “A solid foundation in music and sound theory, basic business practices, and things such as good communication, listening skills, and critical thinking are all important qualities of a good audio engineering school. “
- Are there good connections in the industry? The school you attend should able to get you in touch with professionals in the audio engineering industry. One of the best ways to avoid the struggle to find employment post-graduation is to tap into the networks you created while attending audio engineering school.
- Will you get one-on-one instruction? “Personalized instruction from your teachers is important for mastering the skills required to become a successful audio engineer. Check to see that the school you are interested in offers some individualized training. “
- Is this school affordable? Your schooling investment should not burden later rewards.
More on choosing the right school
- Does the audio engineering school offer actual work experience? You will need to know how professionals perform their jobs in the field of audio engineering and what you can look forward to once you graduate and become an audio engineer.
- Will you be able to attend tailored courses? Creating a niche for yourself is important once you enter the field of audio engineering. That is one of the ways to break into the competitive profession and create a reputable name for yourself and your services. Make sure the school you choose offers courses in the area you are interested in. As you may have seen from the existing audio engineering subfields, one-size-fits-all does not work in audio engineering.
- Does the prospective school have a career center? Audio engineering is such a competitive industry, and standing out can sometimes be difficult as an entry-level audio engineer. Having that extra hand to help guide you to landing your dream job is vital to your success post-graduation.
- What kind of alumni get from a specific school? A number of audio engineering schools provide extra job placement support, continued relationships with industry professionals, and access to special events, all of which can be valuable to your progressing career.
When making a choice among the available audio engineering schools consider all of the above elements. In the United States, there are hundreds of audio engineering schools to choose from. Making the right choice may be an overwhelming task. There are probably more online links recommending possible choices than schools themselves.
According to Ledger Note (above), these four audio engineering schools are among the most prestigious in the United States:
New York University – New York, NY
California Institute of the Arts – Valencia, CA
Berklee College of Music – Boston, MA
Georgia State University – Atlanta, GA
The course available vary, but in a general sense, they include the following:
- recording techniques,
- critical listening,
- music business courses,
- music production,
- recording theory,
- mixing essentials,
- introduction to live sound and post-production.
Attending an audio engineering school is the best way for a novice to get into the industry. Even for experienced audio engineers, refreshing their knowledge or getting up to speed with constantly developing new technologies can be extremely beneficial.
What if you have successfully graduated audio engineering school and you want to start an adequate freelance career? BunnyStudio offers quite a few freelance opportunities in the audio industry. From 3d audio to dubbing and audio recording for voice-over. We also offer a number of other subfields where there is a need for qualified audio engineers.