What is a Sound Engineering Degree?

Sound engineers, also known as audio engineers, are part technician, part artist. They are the masters of clarity and quality behind recordings and live performances. They are crucial to many fields in the entertainment, broadcasting, and live event sectors.

Degree programs in sound engineering teach students the fundamentals of sound design – recording, mixing, reproducing, and manipulating the equalization and electronic effects of sound.

Program Options

Certificate in Sound Engineering – Six Month to One Year Duration
Certificate programs teach only subjects in the major. They are focused exclusively on the various aspects of sound engineering.

Associate Degree in Sound Engineering – One to Two Year Duration
A sound engineering associate program combines courses in the major with some liberal arts classes in subjects such as English literature and composition and the social sciences.

Bachelor’s Degree in Sound Engineering – Three to Four Year Duration
At the bachelor’s level, the sound engineering curriculum is a comprehensive hybrid of courses in the major and the liberal arts, as well as core classes in musical instrument performance, arranging, conducting, music history, and the impact of music on society.

Despite the differences described above, sound engineering courses like the following are at the heart of all of these programs:

  • Introduction to Sound Engineering – the fundamental principles of sound, how sound travels, units of measurement, sound in relation to music, harmonic content, and wave form changes
  • Hearing and Music – how to interpret sounds in the environment, recognizing and applying those elements to audio projects, anatomy of the ear, hearing ranges, frequencies in relation to music, listening environments, transducers, ear training, and basic music theory
  • Audio Electronics – basic electronic components within audio processing equipment, electricity, impedance, circuitry, soldering, equipment maintenance and repair, and electronic signal flow
  • Signal Flow and Processing – signal flow and the devices used to process sound, cables, connectors, amplification, and processing devices
  • Microphone Techniques – mic-ing techniques, different types of microphones, placement, phase, stereo, and surround sound
  • Mixing and Mastering – techniques and tools used to create final sound projects, equalization, panning, balancing, depth of field, dynamics, and mastering
  • Audio Engineering and Music Production Industry Standards – audio / music industry positions, roles and responsibilities; first impressions, teamwork, listening skills, networking, presentation techniques, self-employment, and time management
  • Live Sound Engineering – fundamentals of live sound and the duties required of a live sound engineer, PA equipment, set up, ringing out, live mixing, feedback, and troubleshooting
  • Analog Processing and Recording – analog processing and recording equipment, analog recording mediums, analog recording techniques, analog processors, the history of recording practices
  • MIDI Music Programming – hands-on music programming using MIDI (music instrument digital interface); MIDI routing, parameters, synchronization, messages, sampling, hardware and software, music production, step-time and real-time sequencing, and electronic music
  • Digital Audio Recording – techniques and practices used in the modern music industry, digital audio work stations, digital recording, hybrid recording, digital processing devices, DJing hardware and hardware requirements, digital music creation and amplification, analog to digital conversion, and multimedia synchronization
  • Applied Audio Engineering and Production – music production skills and techniques, pre-production and production, music theory, copyright, fees, and royalties

Degrees Similar to Sound Engineering

Broadcast Technology
Degree programs in broadcast technology prepare students for careers in radio and television production. Topics covered include video editing, digital imaging, software use, field production, and the operation of technical equipment such as cameras, lighting tools, and sound equipment.

Film and Photographic Technology
Students of film and photographic technology study the equipment, techniques, and processes used in the production of films and photographs.

Depending on the level of degree, programs in this discipline may include courses in music history, theory, composition, ear training, and performance, as well as production techniques and methods and the business of music.

Music Theory and Composition
The typical music theory and composition curriculum is focused on the process of creating music through the elements of sound (overtone, timbre, pitch, amplitude, and duration), melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, structure/form, and expression (dynamics, tempo, and articulation).

Skills You’ll Learn

Sound engineering is a multidimensional art and science. It therefore leaves its graduates with a considerable skillset:

  • Communication and collaboration – sound engineers need to be able to work closely with other professionals
  • Creativity and attention to detail – sound production is meticulous, often trial-and-error, and creative work
  • Manual dexterity – the work involves setting up equipment, connecting wires, and using controls to make sound adjustments
  • Monitoring – a large part of the job is continuously monitoring sound quality and volume levels
  • Multitasking – the work of is multifaceted
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking – when equipment malfunctions, solutions need to be found
  • Self-discipline and flexibility – the work can demand long hours and willingness to push through unexpected technical challenges

What Can You Do with a Sound Engineering Degree?

Career options for sound engineers exist in music, film, broadcasting, gaming and interactive media, events, and theater. Here are some possible roles in each of these fields:

Music Production

Recording Studio

  • Recording Engineer
  • Producer
  • Mixer
  • Assistant Engineer
  • Pro Tools Editor
  • Programmer
  • Studio Owner
  • Studio Technician
  • Mastering Assistant
  • Mastering Engineer


Post Production Sound

  • Music Producer
  • Music Recordist
  • Music Editor
  • Music Mixer
  • Music Supervisor
  • Music Contractor
  • Transfer Engineer
  • Duplication Engineer
  • ADR Recordist
  • Music Composer
  • Dialogue/Music Editor
  • ADR Mixer
  • SFX Recordist
  • SFX Editor
  • Foley Recordist (‘foley’ is the reproduction of everyday sounds like footsteps, doors opening and closing, wind blowing, and other ambient noise)
  • Foley Editor
  • Foley Mixer
  • Live Sound Engineer
  • Supervising Sound Editor
  • Re-Recording Mixer

Live Sound and Event Production

Music / Concerts

  • Front of House Mixer
  • Monitor Mixer
  • Backline Support
  • System Designer
  • System Installer
  • System Technician
  • House Manager
  • Road Manager

Theater, Cruise Ships, and Resorts

  • Cruise Ship Audio Technician
  • Hotel/Resort AV Technician
  • Theater Sound Designer

Audio for Visual Media

Film and Television

  • Utility Cable
  • Location Trainee
  • Playback Operator
  • Boom Operator
  • Location Recordist
  • Transfer Engineer
  • Duplication Engineer
  • ADR Recordist
  • Music Composer
  • Dialogue/Music Editor
  • ADR Mixer
  • Music Producer
  • Music Recordist
  • Music Editor
  • Music Mixer
  • Music Supervisor
  • Music Contractor
  • SFX Recordist
  • SFX Editor
  • Foley Recordist
  • Foley Editor
  • Foley Mixer
  • Sound Designer
  • Supervising Sound Editor
  • Re-Recording Mixer


  • Video Game QA/Tester
  • SFX Editor
  • Dialogue Editor
  • Junior Sound Designer
  • Video Game Sound Designer
  • Video Game Producer
  • Audio Lead


  • Interactive Audio Designer
  • Webcaster


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