Audio Recording Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an audio recording degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Audio Recording: Degrees at a Glance

Audio recording professionals work in the entertainment, broadcasting and film sectors. Many postsecondary schools offer audio recording degree programs through colleges of radio, television and film, sound design, music or mass communications. An associate's degree in audio recording should provide the educational groundwork required to pursue entry-level opportunities at small television stations, university media centers or in the performing arts. A bachelor's degree can provide an in-depth education through advanced courses in sound design or technical engineering.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians as a group will increase 10% over the 2010-2020 decade, which is about average. In a competitive market, obtaining the appropriate level of experience and proving your technical skills are essential to gaining employment.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People who want entry-level positions as audio technicians, engineers or media collection specialists Individuals interested in multimedia design or audio production
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Foley artist (unavailable)
- Broadcast technician ($42,000)*
- Audio and video equipment technician ($46,000)*
- Audio-visual or multimedia collection specialist ($47,000)*
- Sound engineering technician ($56,000)*
- Film and video editor ($67,000)*
- Music director or composer ($54,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 2 years full-time with a transferable associate's degree, 4 years full-time without an associate's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- Internship
Roughly 120 credits in general education, core and advanced topics courses
- Portfolio, depending on the major
- Internship
- Capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Limited Limited

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Audio Recording

Colleges often provide this degree through a school of engineering, entertainment technology or music. Specific associate's degrees in the field might focus on digital audio, recording engineering or music recording technology. Schools usually structure programs to provide foundation courses through general education topics and introductory coursework in audio recording. The associate's degree should prepare you for entry-level opportunities in post-production, broadcasting, media mastering or sound design. Your program may require that you have access to a portable hard drive and a specialized set of headphones.

Pros and Cons


  • Some audio recording positions only require a high school diploma, which will make your degree marketable
  • Programs may offer internship or collaborative project opportunities to build experience
  • Some positions paid salaries comparable to those requiring a bachelor's degree ($9,000 difference for multimedia collection specialists vs. sound engineering technicians)*


  • Sound engineering technicians will experience little to no change (1%) in job growth**
  • Bachelor's degree holders will experience the best job prospects
  • Limited online degree options and possible requirement to purchase expensive equipment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (job growth projections over the 2010-2020 decade).

Common Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs offer an entry-level education, providing roughly 60 credits of general education and introductory audio recording courses. Programs incorporate hands-on training to prepare you to operate complex technologies. You will learn about audio theory and technology, sound design and digital recording through a number of technical and theoretical courses. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Fundamentals of digital audio
  • Music fundamentals
  • Music theory
  • Audio recording techniques
  • Acoustics
  • Recording engineering
  • Live sound production

Online Course Info

Some colleges offer the audio recording degree completely online, although you may find limited options. Some programs offer a hybrid experience and allow you to take general education courses online while taking hands-on courses on campus. Courses in these programs are often similar to those provided by campus-based programs. Distance-education programs may require that you purchase or have access to a hard drive, recording hardware or other related equipment.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Experience, proof of skills and industry connections are important to securing employment in this field. The BLS reveals that audio recording candidates with experience will often find the best opportunities. Taking advantage of programs that offer internships can provide this experience. In addition, you might consider seeking certification, if available, for your specialty. The Society of Broadcast Engineers offers the Certified Radio Operator credential, which validates your skills in audio processors, patching and routing, mixing and microphones. If you plan to seek employment in film, establishing connections through special networking programs offered by your school is essential to success after graduation.

Bachelor's Degree in Audio Recording

The bachelor's degree in audio recording offers an advanced curriculum coupled with general education courses. Programs provide training in the latest audio recording technologies and may provide access to modern recording facilities. Schools structure programs to provide a background in music, advanced recording technologies and legal concerns. Music-centered programs can prepare you for a career in music direction through coursework that focuses on music theory, composition and style.

Pros and Cons


  • Bachelor's degree holders will experience the best job prospects
  • Programs provide advanced courses and modern recording facilities
  • Programs may offer you a professional portfolio development course


  • Some salaries are similar to those earned by associate's degree holders
  • Job growth is on the slow to average side for related career opportunities
  • Access to advanced technology may not be offered by all programs

Common Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree requires roughly 120 credits of technical, auditory and general education coursework. Programs provide a well-rounded education that should help you develop auditory, sound synthesis and technical skills. Programs offer classes in introductory and advanced recording techniques, audio frequency communications, MIDI sequencing, copyright law, advanced engineering, visual audio synchronization and studio production. Many programs require the completion of a capstone project and internship. In addition, you may be required to complete a senior portfolio and a review of your work by an upper-level committee.

Online Course Info

Locating an online bachelor's degree program may prove difficult, but distance-education degree programs do exist. You may find programs under a school of digital media production that can prepare you for a career in sound design or audio editing. Online programs offer courses in audio production, media distribution and interactive media, to name a few. You can expect to participate in collaborative projects that develop your skills and provide material for a professional portfolio.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Development of a professional portfolio will enhance your application for employment for specific careers, such as foley artist. Taking internship opportunities throughout your college career will build a foundation of experience employers prefer. Once you have established a minimum of 5 years of experience, applying for the Certified Audio Engineer certification conferred by the Society of Broadcast Engineers will further boost your employment potential. Securing opportunities at small local broadcasting stations will lay the foundation for work at larger stations, which pay considerably more annual compensation.

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