If music school isn't for you maybe a music certificate is.
In the age of computers, the job market is more competitive than ever and at the breakneck pace of the music industry, four years can mean four years too late. A musical mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also sometimes be a tough thing to put in the conventional structure of a school, even if that school is a music school. Music certificates allow those interested in specific focuses to work on their core competencies without having to the deal with the leg work of general studies.
Though I wouldn’t trade my years at Full Sail for anything, especially because it gave me time to gestate as an artist, I did often wonder “would it be better if I wasn’t here this long?” With the elite programs below, you can find out for yourself if you think a music certificate in audio engineering is right for you. This lists spans from pre-college certifications all the way to graduate level music certifications for those who want to continue their music education far beyond the certificate and undergraduate levels.
Tisch’s Summer High School at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
When it comes to educational powerhouses with a strong grasp on the creative sectors NYU is the watermark to meet. Not only does NYU cater to musicians who would like to work in the arts, but they cater to audio engineers, producers, and artists in the pursuit of audio technology excellence.
A program unique to NYU in a partnership with the man with the aging “Golden Ears”, Clive Davis. Known for his business acumen and truly astonishing ears for hits while not ever being a musician, Clive Davis discovered Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana and hand picked Baby, One More Time for TLC, which eventually made it to a burgeoning Britney Spears.
NYU’s Tisch school already houses some of the university’s most prolific art programs, but the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is a music business and production school all its own that has had Artists-in-Residence such as Pharrell, Jay-Z, Pete Wentz, Mark Ronson and more grace the lecture rooms, studios and hallways with some of tomorrow’s most promising graduates.
The Summer High School program is specifically geared towards high school juniors and sophomores that want to get a leg up on the competition, and possibly even move to New York upon their graduation. This isn’t your normal audio engineering certificate, all of these credits are transferable to any music school in the world because it’s NYU and their reach knows no bounds.
- Learn from the best: There isn’t a program that is comparable to this, because it was the first of its kind in a globally accredited setting.
- Find a major: Because this program is geared towards high school students it takes participants down one of three paths: Music Production, Music Business or the Art and Culture of New York City. These three fundamentally different pathways have a great intersection for making the tough choice of which road to take in furthering your education.
- There’s a Scholarship: The pricey program was originally created to bring people of different walks of life together, especially with its free weekly counterpart that focuses more heavily on the business side of the industry. So if you have to decide between going and eating, you’re not out of luck.
- Too big, too late: This program is specifically for high school students, so many people reading this will be either too late to go or too late to apply.
- New York is Expensive: This is a four-week course that participants have to stay in the dorms for. This is college life before you actually get to college, and it comes with all of the costs that are associated with that including Room & Board and a full blown Meal Plan.
Full Sail’s Audio Production Certificate
So you’ve missed out on the Tisch Summer High School, that’s alright because Full Sail has you covered with their Audio Production Certificate. This is the first official music certificate of the bunch. Like all things Full Sail there is a heavy emphasis on technology. In the Audio Production certificate program, you will learn the fundamentals of music, recording, sequencing and the use of audio workstations.
This online music certificates a true 101 and walks you through everything you need to know to start producing music. As with the Summer High School from NYU, this certificate can work towards Full Sail’s Audio Production Bachelor’s degree, but it is not a must because this will get you going for everything you generally need.
- Work at Your Own Pace: Full Sail’s online classes allow students more time to work at their own pace due to students being able to consume content in a Netflix-like bundle.
- Full Sail-lite: The Full Sail certificate program is a much more streamlined package than the full course-load needed to achieve a degree, which puts students in the driver set of really diving into the parts of a class they find most interesting without losing the fundamentals they need to pass the course itself.
- No Realtime Collaboration: Gone is the comradery of working with other people in the music industry. If Full Sail taught me one thing, it was that I was going to have to be able to successfully work with people from a varying set of walks from life.
- Project Launchbox is ⅓ of Your Cost: Though this can be waived if you have the appropriate equipment, 3k of the cost of this program is a MacBook Pro with a (amazing) software bundle.
- It’s Online: Part of the reason people go to Full Sail is because they have access to the best, with the online certificate program you really only have access to the knowledge, but not necessarily everything you need to work with to put it into real-life practice.
Berklee’s Advanced Music Production Specialist Certificate
Berklee Online’s Advanced Music Production certificate at the specialists level is the perfect music certificate for someone who isn’t just stepping into music but hasn’t waded that deeply into the pool. The collection of courses in this program is the perfect alignment for an audio engineering certificate with all of the fundamentals being represented.
Microphone Techniques will walk you through choosing the right types and placements for your recording session. Vocal Production moves to the next key component of really getting the best from a vocalist whether you’re the producer or the person who will be mixing them. With the Art of Mixing bringing up the rear, you will learn where everything should sit to bring the sum of its parts to a stereo mixdown.
- Key Fundamentals Unpacked: This course is a great educational starting point for someone who has been a hobbyist or prosumer for a while.
- Affordable: As one of the longest programs on the list, it is by far one of the least expensive options.
- Credits Apply: In the case you want to move these over to Berklee’s physical campus these credits apply.
- It’s Online: If only because Microphone Techniques is included in this syllabus I don’t quite grasp the concept of learning this online without being able to absolutely dive in and hear the differences in person.
- Time: As with the whole Berklee online structure, courses are really lenient with pacing, which means you will learn the ins-and-outs of something while your peers are all out on the job market.
Musician Institute’s Audio Engineering Music Certificate
Hollywood Boulevard’s Musician’s Institute has been a mainstay of the LA scene. It is geared to prepare people for working in the studio or on the stage. It houses multiple full realized studios and is located in the heart of California’s entertainment epicenter.
MI’s Audio Engineering program goes over the fundamentals of making a record from mic setup to mastering. The Musician’s Institute has the full range of gear that you need to know to step into almost any studio in the world with their in-house SSL, API, ICON D and Neve consoles all as centerpieces of the school’s main studios. As an added bonus, within the Audio Engineering music certificate program students also have the opportunity to get a Logic or Pro Tools Certification at the culmination of their studies.
- Hands-on Experience: MI has everything that a student could want to get their hands on from digital software to analog hardware.
- Classes are small: There is a 12 student maximum for each core and elective class which means you know your classmates.
- Operator Level Pro Tools Certifications: Depending on the course a student would like their career to take, MI offers the full range of Avid Pro Tools Certification for all things Operator.
- Logic Pro Certifications: The curriculum for MI’s Audio Engineering certificate also allows students to test for Logic certifications to be listed as certified experts by Apple.
- Amazing Faculty & Guests: The head faculty of MI have Grammys, Emmys and are regular guest to Masterclass instructors on some of the newest tech.
- Room & Board: Like SAE, when factoring in cost, you should realize that housing is on you.
SAE’s Audio Technology Music Certificates
9 – 12 Months (Based on Campus and Diploma)
SAE’s Audio and Audio Technology certificates are both based on the fundamentals of their larger A.S. and B.S. degrees of the same name but geared toward getting students into the job market as quickly as possible. While the Audio Diploma leans more in the direction of audio engineering and the Audio Technology Diploma leans towards production, the two at first glance look pretty much identical with a few buzzwords missing from each other’s descriptions.
- Learn Where You Want: Being an SAE student gives participants the opportunity to learn where they want to in a hands-on environment. The Audio Technology music certificate program can be taken in Nashville, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago to name a few major music hubs in the US that you can further your learning.
- Know Your Classmates: Each school generally has no less than 2 studios and 10 workstations, which means classes are more intimate and more one-on-one time with instructors.
- Timing: This program will either take you 3/4ths of a year or a full year, if timing is a reason that you’re going for a music certificate as opposed to a full-blown degree, this is something to heavily take into consideration.
- Limited Technologies: Due to SAE spreading out its campuses, not ever campus is created equally, so if there are specific pieces of gear you want access to, you should really read up on campuses’ facilities and then choose the most appropriate location.
- Notable Alumni: It’s not that SAE has no notable alumni, it’s that SAE doesn’t seem to create “stars” of the industry, even some of the smaller schools have an array of Grammy-winning artists, producers and mixing engineers that have been on the tips of the tongues of the industry and student hopefuls for years.
- Housing: As one of the only things on this list that doesn’t inherently include housing or allows you to work from the comfort of your own home, housing and food are on you, so you might want to bump that price up by another 10 to 15k.
Carnegie Mellon’s Audio Recording and Production Certificate
2 “Intensive” Semesters
The most daunting of any of the music certificates on the list comes from the world famous Carnegie Mellon. The Carnegie Mellon School of Music offers an array of Advanced Music Studies Certificates, in short, graduate degrees. Just as you might think it wouldn’t be an easy road to get to as a musician at Carnegie Mellon, the tasks for their graduate certificate as an audio engineer is just as strenuous while also possibly being more physically demanding.
In the Audio Recording and Production, you will take 72 units over the span of 2 “intensive” semesters. During this time you will hold sessions in-studio and full blown concert halls, all while acting as a recording engineer, editor and mastering engineer over the period of your course. On top of class projects, you will also work on sound reinforcement projects for sessions that are recorded in the concert hall, and go on to record live off-campus ensembles at an array of venues with one of the school’s audio engineers and recording crew.
To round out the whole program your support courses will be selected for you to enhance everything that you’ve learned which will likely put you squarely in a live broadcasting scenario.
- It’s Carnegie Mellon: As one of the most prestigious names in the Arts, vocational training from Carnegie Mellon gives an unparalleled focus on the art of recording full orchestras and ensembles in rooms that emit a tone all their own.
- Prepare for Live: Unlike most other programs that focus on where technology is going and how everything can be fixed on the backend, Carnegie’s Audio Recording and Production certificate really focuses on what happens in real time.
- Graduate Level: This degree is not for the faint of heart, this is the next level in someone furthering their education, and getting ready to do something spectacular. This is not at all for beginners.
- Geared Heavily Towards Radio: Though you could truly go anywhere from this jumping point, this degree does have an extremely heavy focus on broadcast ready music, which is not necessarily the same thought process as “radio-ready” music