Sound Design Degrees

Table of Contents

Sound Design is an area of specialty in the audio engineering and production industry that focuses on the creation of realistic and captivating sounds for movies, TV, games, theatre and live sound.

This form of audio creation/capture is accomplished by way of foley, the art of recording and/or recreating everyday noises like footsteps, doors opening, traffic, wind blowing, your significant other snoring, and pretty much anything else you can possibly conjure up. In addition, Sound Designers create original sound effects from studio libraries, and field recordings; some examples are explosions, gunshots, laser cannons/guns (think Star Wars), shrieking alien noises (gaming/sci-fi movies) and the list goes on. After the required sounds are caught, they are then synchronized to film or games, giving them all those life-like qualities necessary for a visceral experience.

This field is one that blends art and tech into a single, fancy, bow-tied package.Those looking to enter this occupation should have a solid grasp of, or interest in learning coding/programming and a curiosity toward other technical elements of the job like learning mic placement, mixing and mastering techniques, as well as gaining in depth knowledge of recording programs like ProTools 12.

Degrees Awarded

  • Diploma
  • Certificate: CCL
  • Associates: AS, AAS
  • Bachelors: BA, BS, BFA
  • Masters: MA, MS, MFA

Classes and Prerequisites

The demands for each degree, certification and school varies, but most require similar recommended courses or prerequisites. Core classes will differ in name from school-to-school, however, they generally cover a similar spectrum of principles and practices. Below are a list of classes you will commonly be need to take:

  • Music Theory
  • Aural Training
  • DAW (digital audio workstation) classes
  • Studio engineering concepts
  • Wwise (Wave Works Interactive Sound Engine) programming
  • C#, Java, Smalltalk and other coding languages
  • Four year schools typically make students fulfill general coursework in humanities, science, foreign language, English and mathematics.

Salary Info

According to Payscale.com, the median income for a Sound Designer is $49,705 a year.

Possible Careers

  • Foley Artist
  • Sound Designer
  • Audio Engineer
  • Sound Technician
  • Recording Engineer
  • Audio Production Editor
  • Composer
  • Musician

Schools

There are dozens upon dozens of schools that offer a specialized course of study in this discipline, and with new ones popping up all the time, it’s hard to pin them all down. We’ve focused on compiling a list of colleges that offer programs specific to Sound Design, in different corners of the U.S (‘Mercia!!…….and Canada, you cool, dawg, you can come too) that aims at catering to a broad range of budgets and completion times, all the while, yielding a valuable education.

Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD, as the locals call it, offers three degrees in Sound Design, an MFA, MA and BFA.

Curriculum:
  1. The BFA in Sound Design gives way to a well rounded education, completable in four years and focuses on:
    • 30 quarter hours of foundational studies in visual design
    • 60 general education quarter hours
    • 80 quarter hours toward the major incorporates coursework in sound editing, sound for film and gaming, mixing, dialogue editing, voice-over and more.
  2. Their MA in Sound Design opens a path for those looking to put their undergrad in a different area of expertise, or of the same field to use. This option is able to be completed in two years and hones in on the most basic skills and is a very cut and dry rendition of its related degrees (BFA and MFA). Those choosing this path will study 45 quarter hours in these specific areas (quoted from SCAD’s website):
    • Research Methodology in Cinema Studies
    • Production Mixing
    • Theory and Practice in Sound Design
    • Scoring to Picture
    • ADR and Foley Mixing
    • Game Audio Design
    • Post Production Methodologies
    • Sound Design M.A. Final Project
  3. For you gluttons of artistic educational punishment, a third avenue is given…the MFA. With this choice, you can expect to study an outline similar to SCAD’s MA, but will go into much greater depths and literally double the workload at 90 quarter hours
    • Research Methodology in Cinema Studies
    • Production Mixing
    • Theory and Practice in Sound Design
    • Scoring to Picture
    • ADR and Foley Mixing
    • Game Audio Design
    • Sound Effects and Dialogue Editing
    • Post Production Methodologies
    • Sound Design M.F.A. Studio
    • Sound Art and Installation
    • Audio Signal Processing
    • Surround Sound for Media
    • Graduate Internship
    • Sound Design M.F.A. Thesis
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Tuition & Fees:

I hope you have a rich daddy, for real tho. This is going to run you a pretty penny, $11,730 per quarter, or $35,190 per year (3 quarters) to be precise. However, students who have attended this school give it shining reviews, it’s accredited and you’ll get what many say, is the best Sound Design education in the country


Michigan Tech

This college offers multiple degrees aimed toward the recording arts, but trims the fat by offering only one undergraduate degree in Sound Design:

Curriculum:
  1. Michigan Tech gets right to the point by making available only one route through their school, a BA in Sound design. This allows them to hone in on everything you’ll need to know to get a well rounded education and be ready to enter the workforce as an entry level designer upon graduation. An overview of what you’ll gain from this program are:
    • The Physics of Music
    • Mixing
    • Intro to Lighting and Sound Technology
    • Recording
    • Transducer Theory and Lab
    • Music Theory and Music History
    • Theatre and Film courses
    • Business and Communication classes
    • Career and Portfolio Development coursework
Tuition & Fees:

When compared to a private school, state schools are always much more affordable. At this institution, Michigan residents can expect to pay $14,334 per year and non-residents, $30,668.


Vancouver Film School

Do you want a sound education? (Get it, sound? Because that also doubles as ‘strong’….) then VFS might be the place for you. Aside from pumping out imponderable amounts of poutine, being the nicest people on Earth, and ending every question with an adorable, ‘eh,’ Canadians absolutely crush it in the film industry; that legacy has rubbed off quite favorably in its influence on this school. VFS has state of the art recording facilities and has turned out graduates who have gone to work on projects like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Halo 4 and many other games, movies and TV shows.

Curriculum:
  1. Vancouver Film School offers one, in-house, diploma for their graduates and the coursework encompasses all the principles you’d expect to learn in such a specialized program:
    • Indepth Pro Tools instruction
    • Audio Editing, Foley, Dialogue and Sound Effects
    • Pre/Post Production for Game Audio
    • Wwise software for gaming
    • Mixing techniques
Tuition & Fees:

VFS is very guarded when it comes to displaying tuition and fees information, so it took some digging. The cost for Canadian students to attend is $35,250CDN, which really isn’t that bad when putting it back-to-back with some other four-year schools in the US that charge as much for a single year.


UC Irvine

The University of California-Irvine gives way to completing an MFA at a reasonable price, while keeping you soaked in the vitamin-D infused rays of Southern California.

Curriculum:
  1. UC Irvine offers an MFA in Sound Design through their Drama Department. The program is 41 credits, covers all the necessities to gain a solid grasp on the field and also offers the possibility of tuition waivers for students entering the program. An overview of the UCI curriculum:
    • Digital Audio Systems & Digital Sound Manipulation
    • Conceptual Sound Design, Musical Theatre and Concert Sound
    • Sound for Film, Internet, TV and Gaming
    • Recording Techniques
Tuition & Fees:

California residents can expect to pay $16,984.50 per year for tuition and fees, and non-residents will be charged $32.086.50 (these figures are for the 2016-2017 school year)


Mesa Community College

This community college located in Arizona cuts to the chase and grants a no frills CCL in Sound Design. It is a great choice for people trying to enter the field without spending years in school and wanting to graduate with very little student loan debt.

Curriculum:
  1. The certificate can be completed in one year and covers these topics:
    • Music Theory
    • Music Business
    • Electronic Music series
    • Sound Design series
    • Advanced Sound Design for Film and Video
    • DAW series
    • Studio Recording series
    • Music Business
    • Internship
Tuition & Fees:

Turns out Mesa falls under the Maricopa Community Colleges group and have eight different rates they calculate tuition off of. So, for the sake of keeping this simple, we’ll stick with the Maricopa County Resident rate: a full-time student is $1,032.00 per semester; the non-resident, living in Arizona rate is $3,924.00–Both figures are based off a 12 credit course load.