Audio engineers experience unique career opportunities as they often help live performers sound their best. However, they also work in the television, film, radio, and gaming industries. These engineers operate mixing, sound, and recording equipment for live shows and video, often specializing in a specific field — for example, audio production, sound engineering, or audio engineering.
Whether you are considering a career as an audio engineer or already have some work experience, getting a Master’s in Audio Engineering degree can open up many doors. The career outlook for this industry is also excellent, so investing in a master’s degree in engineering today is an investment in your future. Once you become a qualified audio engineer, you’ll gain access to competitive salaries and flexible work environments.
This guide covers everything you need to know about getting your education and building a successful career as an audio engineer. There are even options to earn your degree online.
What Is Audio Engineering?
When working as an audio engineer, you will play a pivotal role in all things related to capturing sound. Whether you focus on voiceovers, musical performances, sound effects, or all of the above, audio engineering requires the use of specialized equipment and operating it to manipulate the way sound is projected or recorded.
To succeed in this industry, audio engineers must have a deep technical understanding of how recording tools work to optimize the sound — either for musical instruments or voices. This understanding will develop while working towards an Audio Engineering major, leading to many career opportunities.
Once you earn a Master’s in audio engineering, you may specialize in one of several niches, ranging from live shows to video games. Depending on your work environment, your duties will include some or all of the following.
- Minimizing unwanted sounds to reduce interference
- Regulating sound quality and volume levels
- Setting up microphones and other equipment to optimize sound
- Collaborating with performers, producers, actors, etc.
- Offering insight and support during live performances
- Maintaining and repairing equipment
Why Get a Master’s Audio Engineering Degree?
Audio engineers often come from unique backgrounds. However, they all have one key thing in common — a passion for sound. They aim to use technical decisions and industry techniques to achieve the best sound possible. This ability takes a high level of training and experience, but once you land a job within this industry, you’ll enjoy various perks and benefits.
One major reason audio engineers seek a career in this industry is that they can express their creativity. This creativity is elevated by working with others who are passionate about your work, whether it be music, film, or gaming. The people you meet along the way can inspire your work and push you to achieve more — which leads to the benefit of continuous learning. Each new gig or job will expose you to new experiences, challenges, and situations. This exposure will allow you to diversify your skills and build upon new techniques that drive greater confidence, personal pride, and professional achievements.
Whether you seek a flexible work schedule, crave a change of scenery, or want to build multiple specialties, it all begins with a Master’s in Audio Engineering degree. Participating in an Audio Engineering program will give you access to training and education that encourages your musical and technical creativity. Throughout such programs, you’ll develop hands-on skills and real-world experience that you can apply to your career.
Many programs require students to create an audio engineering portfolio so that they’re able to present their best work. This portfolio acts as an excellent demo reel for potential clients or employers. It’s the first stepping stone toward a rewarding career in audio engineering. A degree will also lead to higher audio engineering salary opportunities, more flexible work environments, and more opportunities to work on exciting projects within a specific niche.
How Much Does an Audio Engineering Degree Cost?
The cost of an Audio Engineering degree depends on many variables, including the school you attend, available funding, and the length of study.
The most common degree for audio engineers is a bachelor’s degree, which is often a four-year program. However, those who get a Master’s in Audio Engineering often access more job opportunities and higher pay. Some schools now offer online programs, resulting in the same qualifications. These programs can help students significantly cut the cost of post-secondary education, especially those who would need to move away from home. The cost of living as a student can be high when factoring in housing, transportation, and food.
Some schools will charge tuition for the semester, whereas others charge a fee per credit — for example, the School of Art Institute of Chicago charges per semester or academic year. For 30 credit hours, students can expect to pay $53,550, which covers the academic year. When factoring in estimated living expenses, such as room allowance, health insurance, and lap requirements, the total is $68,700. This cost is relatively high, but this Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sound and Master of Fine Arts in Sound program is known to be one of the best.
In comparison, there are highly respected schools that offer more affordable degree programs, such as The Associate of Applied Science Degree in Recording Arts Program from MediaTech Institute in Dallas, Texas. This 60-week program is $35,200, and several payment options are available.
For those who require financial assistance, several schools offer support. For example, Berklee offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Production and Engineering program, with scholarship and financial aid options.
If you’re interested in schools that offer 100% online degrees, there are several options, including Full Sail University. The Music Production Bachelor of Science Degree Online program costs $59,900. Of the students who complete the program, the typical graduate leaves with $34,537 in debt. Music Business and Recording Arts degrees are also offered online. Benefit from an accelerated curriculum, completing your degree in as little as 29 months.
Audio Engineering Degree Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the future for sound technicians looks bright. From 2020 to 2030, employment in this field is expected to grow by 21%, much faster than the average for all occupations. Several reasons for this growth include recovery from the COVID-19 recession and greater digitalization across various industries. Audio technicians will be in high demand as companies increase their audio and video budgets.
However, sound engineering technicians is more of a niche occupation and will remain fairly competitive. For example, it is anticipated that around 19,400 new jobs will be available for audio and video technicians over the next decade. Still, just 2,400 new jobs will open up for sound engineering technicians. For this reason, receiving a quality education is imperative.
According to 2021 data from the BLS, the average national estimate for a sound engineer’s annual wage is $60,500. This wage ranges from $29,110 per year to $124,690. The mean hourly wage is $32.38.
However, several industries are influencing audio engineering salary ranges. For example, those who work in the motion picture and video industries receive an annual mean wage of $85,020, whereas those who work in radio and television broadcasting make an annual mean wage of $58,580. The top paying industries for sound engineering technicians are advertising and public relations, scientific research, and computer systems design.
Geographical location also matters. New York and California are the top two states with the highest employment level and annual mean wages.
Common Courses in Audio Engineering Degree Programs
Many courses are available depending on the school you attend and your area of interest. Some are required to get a degree, and others are classified as electives based on your desired specialization.
For example, core curriculum courses may include:
- Studio Audio Engineering
- Music Fundamentals
- Desktop Production
- Audio Production
- The Media Industry Landscape
- Principles of Design
- Law of Intellectual Property
- Business Management
- Sonic Experience
- Sound and Image
- Multitrack Recording Techniques
- Music Theory for Audio Professionals
- Analog & Digital Recording
- Live Sound Production
- Audio Post-Production for Film
Elective courses may include anything from World Music to Creative Writing.
Other FAQs About Audio Engineering Degrees and Programs
What is the job outlook for Audio Engineering graduates?
Those interested in becoming sound technicians can expect a significant influx of jobs over the next decade. Between 2020 and 2030, employment change will be around 28,600, according to BLS. This change is based on approximately 18,000 new openings each year as retirees leave the industry. Overall employment is anticipated to grow 21% during this period, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
What can you do with an Audio Engineering degree?
One of the most common questions when seeking education is, what can you do with an audio engineering degree? When you receive an Audio Engineering degree, there are many exciting career options, including sound engineer, broadcast technician, production assistant, audio equipment technician, mastering engineer, live sound engineer, and acoustic consultant.
How long does it take to get an Audio Engineering degree?
Program lengths significantly vary, depending on what program you select and the school you attend. How you receive your education also matters. For example, online courses can often be completed in as little as two years, whereas other on-campus degrees take a minimum of four years. If you attend summer semesters, you may be able to complete your degree in three years.