From creating musical scores in movies to orchestrating sound systems for live events to designing beats for songs, audio engineers focus on the science behind the art of music, many of which attend the best audio engineering schools. Possible career pathways include a recording engineer, sound designer, creating video game audio content, television show scoring, location recording, live sound reinforcement and audio system maintenance.
Most audio engineering programs consist of a four-year degree that combines general education requirements with music and production courses. Whether you earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Music (B.M.), you’ll study the fundamentals in acoustics, music theory, MIDI sequencing, Pro Tools, Ableton, Logic (and other software), and audio recording. Online courses are rare since this industry requires hands-on education. School considerations should include the access you have to sound studios and recording labs, student-run programs and labels, high-tech equipment and apprenticeships with renowned artists and organizations.
You can also enter a two-year audio engineering program to earn an associate’s degree that gets you an entry-level position in the industry or a master’s degree that enhances your career. Professional certifications in software programs, such as Pro Tools, typically require 12 weeks of study.
You can offset the tuition for every audio engineering program on this definitive list with financial aid, scholarships, loans and grants.
Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry is recognized as one of the largest and best audio engineering programs in the world. A B.S. in Audio Production and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Recording Arts & Technology are available. Undergraduates are encouraged to pursue a technical minor, such as Electro-Acoustics, Computer Science or Entertainment Technology. The campus offers six recording studios and separate lab spaces for mastering, cinema mixing, post production and MIDI.
New York University-Steinhardt, New York
While studying for your undergraduate, master’s or doctorate degree in Music Technology at NYU-Steinhardt, you are able to experiment in 13 studios, including the 7,500-square-foot James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio. An industry leader in technology, the facility supports recording, teaching and research projects. The internationally recognized program offers more than 40 diverse courses in music technology, including sound engineering, multimedia production and software development. Interns are placed with premier recording studios, music scoring houses, symphonies and theaters in the Big Apple.
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The prominent performing arts college added a Music & Technology degree program in 2009 to train students in the electrical engineering and computer science aspects of the industry. While earning your B.S. in Music Technology, you’ll study everything from calculus to harmonies to Pro Tools software skills. In the Master of Science in Music & Technology program, you direct your course of study by choosing an emphasis, such as technologically assisted composition or performance, computer music systems or instrument design.
Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts
A Music Production and Engineering degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music gives you access to award-winning mentors and premier recording studios that are filled with the industry’s latest equipment and open 21 hours every day. You gain hands-on experience in everything from synthesis technologies to digital audio editing to producing music compositions. Berklee Online also offers a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Electronic Music Production and Sound Design along with a variety of specialist, professional and master certification courses.
University of Massachusetts-Lowell
The Sound Recording Technology program is the largest division of the UMass Music Department. Notable recording, production and broadcasting professionals lead the bachelor’s and master’s degree curriculum. You train in a 1,200-seat concert venue, six recording studios, eight studio labs and 30 practice rooms. A musical entrance audition is required. A combo bachelor/master degree can be earned in five years and comes with a technical or production concentration.
The Los Angeles Film School, Los Angeles, California
Earn your A.A.S. in Recording Arts in the heart of Hollywood’s entertainment industry. This 18-month program covers everything from live show productions to mixing a record to post production for movies. Prominent industry insiders often stop by campus, and every student receives a loaded MacBook, professional mic and headphones. You also graduate with your Avid Pro Tools certification.
American University, Washington, D.C.
Earn your B.A. in Audio Production or B.S. in Audio Technology at the nationally recognized American University. Both programs concentrate on sound synthesis and studio management, but you specialize in music, communication, computer science or physics. The combination of art and science along with seven on-campus studios provide a well-rounded education for making your mark in the audio engineering industry. The school also offers graduate certificates and master’s degrees in audio technology and production.
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology offers master’s and doctoral degrees for innovative artistic and technological advancements. The research-centered department, which is part of the School of Music and the College of Architecture, provides industry-leading courses in robotic musicianship, music information retrieval, digital signal processing and music theory to train the next generation of audio technologists.
University of Denver, Colorado
One of the nation’s premier performance schools, the Lamont School of Music accepts only 300 students annually. Earning your B.M. in Recording and Production provides you with in-depth training in instruments, music theory, analog synthesis and digital audio work. Classroom instruction is equally balanced with time in the three electronic and production studios. Students participate in more than 300 performances each year on campus and at regional festivals.
McNally Smith College of Music, St. Paul, Minnesota
Gain technical skills in recording, editing and mixing with an A.A.S. in Recording Technology. The one-year Recording Engineering diploma program lets you skip the general education requirements for the associate’s degree. During this training program, which is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, you focus on either audio engineering, live sound or music production. The campus studio complex is equipped with the latest technology, including a Digidesign Icon worksurface. Admissions requirements include a demonstration of proficiency in technology.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
At the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, you can earn a general B.S. in Music Industry degree but specialize in music technology and production. Since the program focuses on the industry and not performance, students do not have to audition. Music composition and audio production technique courses are balanced with the business and legal sides of the industry. You have access to six recording studios and two audio labs as well as a student-run concert production company and award-winning record label. Every student completes two summer co-ops with music-focused organizations. You can opt to attend school for a fifth year to complete your master’s degree.
Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
A self-described “technological and creative playground,” Full Sail University supplies three audio engineering pathways that result in a B.S. in Recording Arts, Music Production or Show Production. The Central Florida campus provides more than 110 studio and production environments, including Full Sail Live, a high-tech music venue. Your training includes mixing on-stage sound for live bands, engineering artist recording sessions and editing audio for student-developed shows and games. Full Sail’s online Audio Production courses let you earn your A.A. in 20 months.
University of Hartford, Connecticut
The majority of UH students are working toward their B.M. in Music Production and Technology. The four-year curriculum emphasizes acoustical and electronics engineering. The school believes that “the ideal music production professional should be a musician first and technician second,” so students must audition with a classical or jazz piece. More than 400 performances are recorded each year in the professional Hartt Recording Studio on campus.
Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, Gilbert, Arizona
You graduate from this premier training program with proficiency certifications in 14 leading audio engineering hardware and software systems, including Logic Pro, Melodyne, Auto-Tune and Pro Tools. Graduates often gain entry-level employment with broadcast, film and video game companies. Tuition includes a MacBook Pro equipped with progressive track recording software. The 42 credit program runs for 48 weeks on campus and through internships.
International Academy of Design & Technology, 10 Campuses
IADT’s Media Art Program includes Audio Production associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The technology-driven campus concentrates on the latest trends in digital audio production, mixing techniques, sound reinforcement and live recordings. You can enroll in 10 accredited programs throughout the nation from Orlando and Michigan to Texas and Seattle. The school’s award-winning virtual campus also offers an online degree.
Institute of Production and Recording, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The IPR College of Creative Arts quickly trains you for a career in audio engineering. The A.A.S. in Audio Production and Engineering degree is centered on core musical concepts and technical skills with courses ranging from song arrangement and chord structure to advanced recording and editing techniques. A.A.S. degrees in Sound Design for Visual Media as well as Live Sound and Show Production are also available. The Minneapolis campus includes six labs and seven studios that are open 24 hours, which are available to new graduates for one year.
Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee
Nestled in the nation’s country music industry, the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business Department provides a B.S. and B.A. in Audio Engineering Technology. The science-slanted degree includes courses in circuit theory, hearing science and audio engineering physics. The program requires students to complete a minor in a career-related discipline.
The Art Institutes, 12 Campuses
You can enroll in the AI’s Audio Production program in a dozen states, including California, Texas and Virginia. Your studies in both the A.A.S. or B.A. degrees center on audio recording, live sound and broadcast production.
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
The School of Performing Arts Music Technology program has a 50-hour and 70-hour degree option. Both center on creative techniques in recording, production and audio technologies. Each student develops a personalized course of study that caters to their specific interests. An off-campus recording studio offers 3,500 square feet of space filled with high-tech equipment.
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
With the college’s Department of Recording Arts emphasis on hands-on production experience, only 15 students are admitted into the A.A.S. and B.S. programs annually. You will log more than 1,000 hours in the studio during your four years of study, work with the IU record label and intern with the Jacobs School of Music performances.
Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
TSU’s College of Fine Arts & Communication offers a B.S. in Sound Recording Technology. The 120 semester hour courses range from music literature to mixing techniques to electronic instrumentation. Most classes meet off campus at Fire Station Studios, a two-story space that includes a massive cutting room, video editing suite, isolation booth and control room. Students must audition for the competitive program with a musical instrument.
Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI
Your creativity and technically savvy are challenged in this B.A. in Audio Engineering Technology program. After learning the fundamentals, you’ll advance to operating and maintaining modern recording equipment, multimedia components and network systems. The off-campus recording studio and electronics lab equips you the skills needed to use Pro Tools and MIDI for mixing, producing and digital recording.
University of New Haven, Connecticut
UNH offers a B.A. and B.S. in Music and Sound Recording, which are both grounded in music theory, musicianship and sound recording technologies. The science components include electrical engineering, the physics of sound and calculus classes. Professional instructors guide the small classes as you learn how to run a computer-based studio. The three campus studios feature professional-grade equipment that cater to beginners and advanced learners.
The Virtual Training Company
VTC might be the solution for easily and affordably updating your professional skills. The interactive online Audio Professional Program focuses on developing applied engineering skills using Pro Tools, MIDI and Digidesign. You complete the program with official proficiency certificates.