Studying Music Engineering: Degrees at a Glance
A degree program in music engineering, audio engineering or music production can give you the skills you need to work in a variety of jobs in the music industry. For example, an associate degree program can generally prepare you for entry-level positions, such as an audio equipment or sound engineering technician. In a bachelor's degree program, you can get advanced education in music and learn technical skills that translate into higher-paying positions with more responsibility, such as recording engineer, mastering engineer or music producer.
You could look for jobs in private studios, schools, radio and television stations or the film and video industry. If you're an entrepreneur, you might consider starting your own recording studio or becoming a freelance sound and recording engineer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that broadcast and sound engineering technician jobs could increase 10% from 2010-2020.
|Who is this degree for?||People interested in preparing for a 4-year degree in music engineering or finding an entry-level job in the industry||Individuals seeking a comprehensive skill set and a career in music recording, music software design, studio design or a related area|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate salaries)|| - Sound engineering technician ($56,000)*|
- Audio/video equipment technician ($46,000)*
- Broadcast technician ($42,000)*
| - Recording engineer ($39,000)** |
- Audio engineer ($41,000)**
- Music producer ($52,000)**
- Mastering or re-mastering engineer; studio designer (salaries not available)
|Time to Completion||Two years||Four years|
|Common Graduation Requirements||Internship||Internship; capstone project or portfolio|
|Prerequisites||None||Some schools require a music background, audition or portfolio|
|Online Availability||Rare||Rare; individual courses are available at a few colleges|
Sources: *BLS 2011 (mean salaries); **Payscale.com September 2012 (median salaries).
Associate Degree in Music Engineering
Associate degree programs in audio engineering, recording engineering and music technology are designed to prepare you for entry-level jobs in the audio industry; however, they may not give you a complete musical education. They tend to have a lot of hands-on instruction, which could qualify you for positions working with music and audio in other areas, such as broadcasting, film or corporate sound.
You'll learn how to use industry tools and software to record music and work with live sound. You can usually transfer your credits earned in an associate degree program to a 4-year college in order to continue your studies in music engineering. In addition to classes in recording engineering, lighting, music fundamentals and music history, expect to take general education coursework, such as English, math, speech and the social and natural sciences.
Pros and Cons
- You'll have the skills necessary to get an entry-level job after just two years.
- You can transfer your credits to a 4-year college and finish your bachelor's degree in two more years.
- Associate degree programs can be found at many community colleges, making them quite affordable.
- Associate degree programs don't normally provide a comprehensive musical education.
- Fewer jobs may be available than for a bachelor's degree.
- The scope of the program and the skills learned are limited, compared to a bachelor's degree program.
Courses and Requirements
The exact coursework you can expect varies by school. For example, some programs may focus more heavily on certain audio software, while other programs give you the gamut of musical instruction, from the history of rock and roll to entertainment law. However, do expect to spend a lot of time in a recording studio and to take courses in engineering, live sound production, acoustics, audio recording, music technology and sound editing. Other elective or required courses you could encounter include:
- Live sound reinforcement
- Electronic circuitry
- Multimedia production
- Music theory
- Film/video sound design
- Music history
Some programs provide for an internship or cooperative work experience, which can help you build contacts, or it might offer extended employment after graduation. A final project or portfolio may also be part of the program.
Online Degree & Course Info
Due to the hands-on nature of this field, online associate degree programs in music engineering are pretty rare; however, some schools have found a way to provide the curriculum in online form. There are also colleges that provide flexible access to their facilities, so that you can take most of your coursework online and still use the college recording studios and equipment. Although they're also rare, you can find online programs in closely related areas, such as music technology or music production.
Standing Out With This Degree
Because employers look for applicants with both education and experience, your best bet is to gain as much experience as you can while still in school. You can accomplish this by taking advantage of internship opportunities and making sure you have a sound portfolio that you can show to prospective employers.
It's important to make sure you have a handle on the most commonly used software as well. According the BLS, individuals in this field often take continuing education courses to keep up with the rapidly changing technology.
Bachelor's Degree in Music Engineering
Bachelor's degree programs in this field are offered at select public universities as well as private, non-profit music schools. They offer a much more comprehensive musical and technical education than associate degree programs. Schools vary their program structure; some schools offer music engineering degrees through their engineering departments, while others offer an audio engineering option as part of another major, like music. Admission to these programs can be highly competitive, and you may be required to begin the engineering part of the program only after you've gained a solid musical education.
Pros and Cons
- You'll gain a comprehensive musical education, including performance, music history and theory.
- More high-paying positions may be open to you, such as music producer ($52,000 median salary).*
- The comprehensive skill set you gain can lead to job satisfaction in creating and helping others create music.
- Some programs are highly competitive and require proof of previous musical and/or music recording experience (an audition or portfolio may be required).
- Music engineering is a very specific major that's not applicable to a wide variety of careers outside of the music recording industry.
- Accredited programs are not widely available across the country.**
Sources: *Payscale.com, September 2012, **National Center for Education Statistics, September 2012.
Courses and Requirements
Bachelor's degree programs in music engineering provide instruction in music and recording engineering. Much of your education will involve courses in music and performance. Some programs include instruction in electronic circuitry and software as part of the curriculum. Courses you might find in a music engineering bachelor's degree program include:
- Music history
- Ear training
- Music technology
- Music recording
- Computer programming
- Audio design
- Multitrack recording and mixing
You're likely to come away with experience in the form of an internship in this program as well. A portfolio course or capstone project may also be required. In addition to major courses, you'll complete general education requirements in history, English, math and other subjects.
Online Degree Options
Bachelor's degree programs in music engineering are not readily available. However, a few schools that offer the major provide individual courses online. You can find these online courses in areas like music production, audio mastering and live sound engineering. Although rare, you can also pursue online studies through related programs, such as music production majors. Similar to campus-based programs, you could also be able to develop a portfolio and engage in hands-on training.
Stand Out With This Degree
Getting employers to notice you after graduation can be easier if you have a sample of your work, such as recordings of your completed projects for your portfolio. An internship in a recording studio is an effective way to get on-the-job training and have some work experience to add to a resume. It's also important to keep up with industry software.
Although not required, you can also demonstrate your expertise by pursuing professional certification, which is available through organizations like the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). Pursuing the Certified Audio Engineer credential from SBE will require at least five years of related experience and passing an examination.