This is the time of year when many of us think about what to do with our careers. Students are planning for college (or are nearly done – we’re a bit late!), and those of us in the real world know that Spring is the time to think about career changes.
Thankfully, Mix Magazine has updated their master list of schools that offer college degrees in Recording, Production, Orchestration, or other music and audio engineering fields.
Note: Mix Magazine is the reference magazine for the Recording Industry, comparable to Guitar Player for guitarists. There are others which have different specific specialties, but the first one to get is Mix. I also like OnStage magazine for their coverage of real-world live-on-stage sound engineering.
Some things to consider:
Size and Facilities: Some schools have very small Production departments, attached to their Theater or Music schools. Some schools have limited equipment. However, look closely, as small can be good. For example, the Hartt School at University of Hartford (CT), only has 30 students in their Production program, but they have 6 state-of-the-art studios, and they interact with the Yale theater department. These students spend a lot of time doing live and studio recordings.
Solo vs. University:
Some schools are dedicated to Music and Video Production (ex FullSail), while others are part of a bigger campus. If you are positive that Production Engineering is your only option in life, then the dedicated schools may be best for you. However, if you are a musician first, looking to augment your career with Production skills, then going to a respected Music school that also has a good Production department may be better.
Alternately, you might want to get a degree in Economics or Marketing, just in case you ever need a “real” job. In this case, look for a Production school that is part of a bigger university.
It used to be that you had to be in New York or Los Angeles to get anywhere in the Music, TV, or Movie business. This is no longer strictly true, as Chicago and Memphis and other cities have built strong reputations for the work they do, and many people don’t like being a small fish in a big pond. So long as the school offers many chances for real world experience and has a good job-placement program, the specific location shouldn’t matter.
When all else is equal, a degree from a better school is worth more. However, rarely are things equal, and this “tie-breaker” is used less and less. So long as the school you attend has excellent equipment and staff, lots of hands-on class work, and good opportunities for summer jobs and internships, you should be fine.
Your resume and personal demo discs will determine how employable you are. And of course, who you know (or who knows about the school) will weigh heavily. Check the alumni lists for those who have”made it.”