Deciding a career path is a huge life decision we all face. For the next generation of sound professionals, there's a multitude of choices and decisions to take into account in this early stage. One of the big questions is whether pursuing a sound design degree is the key to unlock success. Sound like a tough call? Well, fear not! Today on the 344 Audio blog we'll weigh the pros and cons of various pathways into the industry so you can navigate this decision with confidence.
Sound Design Degree
Aside from the possibility of student finance to cover the bulk of the upfront costs, one of the primary advantages of pursuing a sound design degree is the structured learning environment it provides. A University program offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers the technical aspects of sound engineering and digital audio production (some even include a number of Pro Tools Courses), along with more practical elements such as Foley artistry, mixing and more. Having tutors still active within the industry to analyse your work and feedback can be an incredibly powerful early-stage tool. Through hands-on experiences you can learn the fundamentals of sound manipulation and gain expertise in industry-standard software and equipment all while networking with fellow students and creatives within your local community to get those crucial first projects. This incredibly in depth style and technical approach to learning is not the best path for everyone, the sound design degree path does bring with it some disadvantages. One of the most prominent is the huge time investment associated with the academic route. Usually taking 3 years (Sometimes 4) to complete, having to work along side studying can be problematic for some mature sound enthusiasts. Not to mention upon completion the obligation of repaying any student finance could begin. Personal preference to learning styles is a big part of whether this is the right choice for you. You may want to specialise in a certain job role within the industry and find spending time researching relevant information more efficient.
A degree isn't the only path to sound design greatness. Many successful sound designers have crafted their careers through alternative means. Industry Courses are becoming increasingly popular (and is the route I personally took) for young professionals. Mostly based around hands-on experience within active workplaces and sometimes including Pro Tools lessons too, these can equip you with a huge array of practical skills and a strong portfolio in a much shorter timescale with much less of a long-term financial investment. Having a heavy focus on practical skills and learning, Industry Courses do a great job at preparing you to navigate the often intimidating first steps in Freelancing and give you a more realistic view of what working in the industry entails. Another huge advantage to the Industry pathway is the opportunities that can come out of them. Most of these courses will take place with tutors who still actively work in audio post, and will be delivered in educational institutions.
The course we offer at 344 Audio has students learning in an active UK Audio Post workplace. Which means that students learn along side actual projects taking place.
For more information on our Audio Post Essentials Course, book a free call here. As a heavily practical based career path, the biggest downside of an Industry sound design course is arguably be the inability to get as in depth with the theoretical side of learning. While some of the scientific information isnt crucial to fulfil audio post roles, there is some level of understanding needed. An easy fix for this could be plugging theoretical gaps with some self-education and online research.
The internet has not only revolutionised how we live and work, it's also evolved how we learn and absorb information. In todays digital era, the wealth of online resources available is incredible once you've done a bit of digging. Including videos, Podcasts, Blogs/Articles and much more in-between there's a way of taking in the information which will work for you at a time and pace suitable for you. Putting yourself out there speaks for itself in 2023, it can be time consuming but consistently updating your social media and online presence through Show reels etc will offer opportunities to showcase your talent and catch the attention of employers.
As mentioned, the sheer amount of information available leads into one of the biggest downsides with this option...timescale. Now, to get to a place where you can deliver projects to a professional standard will take the longest amount of time out of all the options we discuss today and bring with it the most risks. Having no tutor or mentor to discuss things with can lead to bad habits and inconsistent workflows.
Work Placements/Finding A Mentor:
The final path is for those who may think an audio design course is not the right option for them. This may seem like a rare opportunity compared to 10 years ago, but there are still opportunities and people who are passionate about passing on their knowledge to the next generation of sound designers. It will take some level of prior commitment and knowledge to be able to hold your own in professional environments but working as part of a team is a skill that remains relevant for personal creative growth and learning how to do so in active workplaces with mentors invested in you can make a huge difference. At 344 Audio we noticed that mentorship seemed to be missing from most available courses, so we kept this at the forefront of our mind when designing the Audio Post Essentials course. Our Course Leader, Alex offers unlimited guidance to students along with one-to-one mentoring sessions outside of scheduled lessons.
We spoke to a student currently studying a degree whilst completing a placement with us here at 344 Audio about his journey so far, here's what he had to say about the Degree vs Experience debate:
"Studying at University means I have access to great quality facilities and a huge amount of networking opportunities to take advantage of...But I've learnt a lot more practical skills and techniques to improve my workflows efficiency through my placement which is great to put to use in day to day tasks."
So, should you follow the degree path? Ultimately, It's a personal decision. A degree program offers a well-rounded education, providing you with a strong foundation to pursue a career in sound design. But it can also be a hefty long-term investment in terms of time and money. Whilst the Industry course path can give you a stronger practical skillset, with the trade off of less academic understanding. Overall, remember you should carve out your sound design journey with your long term goals in mind. There is no one size fits all approach, your end goal and learning style will determine the best path for you. The only thing you will need no matter the path you choose, is passion, and investment in yourself.
If you enjoyed this post please check out our ultimate guide to audio post-production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.
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