Audio Engineering Degrees: Majors, Bachelor's & Master's Degree Info

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What will you learn in an audio engineering degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Audio Engineering Degrees: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at a Glance

Audio engineering is a broad career field that encompasses several job titles, such as audio technician, sound engineer or sound editor. These professionals operate the machinery and equipment used to record and mix music for the sound recording, motion picture and broadcasting industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most audio engineering technicians need only an associate's degree to get started in the field. However, a bachelor's degree can help you stand out in this competitive job market, and a master's degree might prepare you for managerial positions.

While employment of broadcast engineering technicians is predicted to grow at the average rate of nine percent from 2010-2020, job growth for sound engineering technicians is only predicted to grow one percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As labor-saving technologies in the audio engineering field advance, more technicians' jobs will be consolidated.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work on the technical side of the music recording industry Individuals who want a better understanding of digital audio technology or who want to advance to managerial positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Audio engineering technician ($56,000)*
-Music and dialogue editor ($67,000)*
-Broadcast sound engineering technician ($52,000)*
- Music recording engineer ($17,000-$79,000)**
-Music producer or director ($54,000)*
Time to Completion Four years One to two years
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 120 credits
- General education courses
- Technical/sound courses
- Possible capstone course or senior project
- Roughly 50 credits
-Thesis or final project
- Audio engineering courses
Prerequisites - High school diploma - Bachelor's degree
- Possible proof of music capability
Online Availability No No

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011), **PayScale.com (Dec 2012)

Bachelor's in Audio Engineering

Bachelor's degree programs in audio engineering and audio engineering technology are designed to provide students with a theoretical understanding of music theory, electronics and sound technology while also providing hands-on training. Students learn how to use digital technology, computers and other audio equipment to record, mix and even produce sound. Most programs feature a heavy studio or laboratory element, as gaining practical training in sound production techniques is necessary to securing a job.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree in audio engineering can set you apart from other job applicants in a competitive market.
  • Bachelor's degree programs can prepare you to work in a variety of industries, ranging from film and television to the performing arts.
  • Most audio engineering positions offer a higher-than-average salary.

Cons

  • Competition for audio engineering jobs is very strong.
  • Job growth for audio engineering technicians is going to be below average (at one percent) over the 2010-2020 decade.*
  • Many audio engineering jobs only require an associate's degree.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In addition to theory-based courses and general education courses, you will likely be required to complete in electronics technology and sound engineering. Bachelor's degree programs also include general education courses, in order to give students a well-rounded education. Some audio engineering courses can include:

  • Circuit analysis
  • Electronics
  • Music for audio technology
  • Audio acoustics
  • Advanced principles of audio
  • Control systems
  • Sound technology

Online Degree Options

Due to the hands-on nature of audio engineering technology, bachelor's degree programs in the subject aren't offered online from not-for-profit institutions. Most of these programs will require you to be present to gain training in a studio or laboratory space and work with school equipment.

Stand Out with This Degree

Earning a bachelor's degree in audio engineering will already set you apart from other job applicants who have just an associate's degree or vocational training in the field. To get even further ahead, you will need to stay updated on the most current sound engineering technologies. Attending additional training courses or earning certifications from organizations like the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) can help you in this regard. SBE offers the Certified Audio Engineer (CEA) designation to individuals who have five years of related experience (and a bachelor's degree program will count towards four of those years).

Master's in Audio Engineering

Graduate degree programs in audio engineering are not as common as bachelor's degree programs in the field. Master's degree programs might also go under the titles of music engineering or music technology. Many of these programs combine audio engineering with the disciplines of electrical engineering, computer science and digital technology. Students typically need a bachelor's degree before they can begin graduate classes. Most programs will require the completion of a thesis paper or graduate project.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A master's degree program can prepare you for higher-paying positions.
  • You could be prepared for a broader range of careers, including those in studios or audio software and design companies.
  • Having a graduate degree can set you apart from the competition for producing jobs (only about 17% of producers had a master's degree in 2011).*

Cons

  • Graduate education is not required for most audio engineering jobs (22% have an associate's degree, while 31% have some college education).*
  • You might need to work overtime or on nights and weekends if you engineer live events.
  • Technical improvements in the field will continue to decrease the need for audio engineers.

Source: *O*Net OnLine

Courses and Requirements

Most courses in graduate audio engineering programs combine the subjects of sound and electronics. You might be allowed to choose an emphasis or concentration, such as audio software or hardware. Some common courses include:

  • Digital audio electronics
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Audio workshop
  • Music and psychology
  • Digital signal processing
  • Music theory and representation

Online Degree Options

Online degree options for graduate programs in audio engineering are rare for the same reasons that online degree options for undergraduate programs in the subject are rare. Many of the courses involved in these programs include hands-on training and in-depth research projects, many of which require in-person involvement.

Stand Out with This Degree

Having a master's degree will already set you apart from the competition. However, if you want to teach at the postsecondary level, you will want to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and gain graduate teaching experience. If you're interested in entering a Ph.D. program, you may consider preparing for it at the master's degree level by taking relevant courses and maintaining a high grade point average.

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Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • M.S. - New Media Journalism

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Communication - General
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Film and TV
  • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Producing
  • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Script Writing

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