How To Select The Right Audio Engineering School For You

How to Select the Right Audio Engineering School

So, you’re looking into selecting the right audio engineering or music production school for you. It’s tough. We’ve all been there. There are many different schools to peruse through, and multiple questions you should ask for each one. Maybe you’re a recent high school graduate wanting to pick a trade school over the standard four-year degree program, or perhaps you’ve graduated college, and you want to master your technique. Whatever the reason is, we will do our best to give you tips on how you should go about searching for the right Audio Engineering schools for you.

Why pick a trade school over a four-year college?

Trade School vs. College | What You Want (and Don’t Want) to Hear

Here’s the thing about going to a trade school over a four-year degree. If you have the money upfront, then go. You benefit from going into the workforce early for a few key reasons:

  • You’ll be getting into the workforce at a much quicker rate, with qualifications and certifications specifically catered to the business you’re looking to enter.
  • You won’t have to spend your first two years studying general education courses that you may never use throughout your career.
  • Trade schools have smaller class sizes, so you can count on being listened to and learn from industry professionals.
  • Typically you get hands-on experience on your first day. Which can be a far cry more than what students get while partaking in a four-year degree.
  • The average cost for an audio engineering program is anywhere between $17,000 – $50,000 per year, whereas attending a private school can be upwards of $100,000 for all four years, excluding the cost of living.
  • According to Forbes magazine, more than 70% of college graduates carried a debt of $37,000. So while those students are still in school getting their general courses done. You can already be on your way to getting paid.

Why it’s important to attend an audio engineering school?

Are Audio Engineering Schools Worth the Cost?

There are several reasons why it would be beneficial to attend an audio engineering program. Sure, you don’t have to, but you would be missing out on gaining valuable insights and knowledge from leading professionals while simultaneously accelerating your career.

  1. Experiencing a fully immersive hands-on experience that you otherwise may not get while attending a four-year college.
  2. Allowing you to discover the multitude of jobs you can pursue within audio engineering. There are many career paths to consider, such as audio recording, sound design, or live sound.
  3. You’ll be working with top-of-the-line music technology while also being taught by professors that have valuable insights into the industry.
  4. It will teach you the skills you need to meet deadlines, interact with a variety of people, work within timeframes, and start a project from beginning to end.
  5. Becoming industry certified.
  6. The most coveted asset, building relationships with your classmates and teachers. These relationships you form will become invaluable later on down the road in your career.

What are some essential questions to ask yourself when researching a good audio engineering program?

Can I work while I do my program?

School can be expensive, so you might want to find a part-time job while you attend, but will you have the time? For the most part, the answer is yes. Most audio engineering programs allow you plenty of time to have a day or night job, depending on the hours that you signed up for.

How long does the program last?

Audio engineering programs can range from 12 weeks to 22 months.

What do I get when I graduate?

You will usually accrue studio time, recommendations, job coaching, and a certification of completion of the program.

How old do I have to be to attend?

Typically, around 18+.

Do they provide student housing?

Most Audio Engineering programs offer rental discounts of nearby apartments, but typically not on-campus housing.

Do they accept international students?

The top schools around the country do.

What is your desired cost?

If we are going off of our previous blog post, then we can take a look at the places you’d want to attend school, and places where you would earn the most.

Take a look at using a 2019 Cost of Living Calculator to determine how much you’ll need to make the move.

What are some important things you should look out for?

What should be your main criteria when scouting out different schools?

  • Make sure the desired school offers plenty of time to work with real equipment.
  • You want to make sure you aren’t competing with other students over equipment use.
  • What kind of equipment is the school using? Is it up-to-date, or is it lagging behind the competition?
  • Make sure the school you select offers opportunities to get a job outside of their programs.
  • Research who the teachers are and who they’ve worked with.
  • Will the school help prep you for interviews and give support post-grad?
  • Will they allow you to work on your own projects alongside their curriculum?
  • You’ll also want to research student testimonials for each school.

A few examples of schools and quick facts about them.

Dark Horse Institute

Location: Franklin, TN

Estimated Average cost: $17k

Length: 17 weeks

Alumni: Crystal Burks, Paul Rossett, Max Moon

Full Sail University

Location: Orlando, FL

Estimated Average Cost: $84k

Length: 20 months

Alumni: Gary Rizzo, Sebastion Krys, Phil Tan, Marcella Araic, Ryan Connolly

CRAS University

Location: Tempe, AZ

Estimated Average Cost: $21k

Length: 42 Weeks

Alumni: Robert Venable, Clinton Welander, Doug Fenske

Belmont University

Location: Nashville, TN

Estimated Average Cost: $142k

Length: 4 Years

Alumni: Brad Paisley, Steven Curtis Chapman, Trisha Yearwood

BlackBird Academy

Location: Nashville, TN

Estimated Average Cost: $23,100

Length: 6 months

Alumni: David Loy, Javonnii Curry, Gabe Gallucci


Locations: Nashville, TN | Atlanta, GA | Chicago, IL | Emeryville, CA | Miami, FL | New York, NY

Estimated Average Cost: $23k

Length: 12 months

Alumni: Mark Paterson, Rob Swire, Habib Wahid

Recording Connection

Location: Nashville, TN

Estimated Average cost: $14k

Length: 5-7 months

Alumni: Jones Nelson, Dez Ward, Jordan Robertson

Musicians Institute

Location: Nashville, TN

Estimated Average cost: $16k

Length: 2 months

Alumni: Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson, Paul Gilbert

What should you look forward to after graduating from Dark Horse Institute?

You’ve put the time and effort into researching which school to attend, but what will happen upon graduation?

Well, when you receive that certificate of completion, your world will open up to a plethora of opportunities. Since you took that extra step to get certified, you now differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition entering the job pool every year. You have the hands-on experience, the recommendations, and the support of the school aiming to land you a job.

On average, it will take one to two years of consistently working on your craft, along with networking and building relationships. This is why we, at Dark Horse Institute, allow our graduates to record a full year at Dark Horse Recording for free after graduation, and that’s why we currently have a 78% in-field placement rate that is far beyond the industry standard.

How can Dark Horse Institute Help?

Like so many industries, it’s who you know and what you know in the field of music and entertainment. DHI has an aggressive career assistance program that prepares both students and graduates to search for various job opportunities. Career assistance is not just a department – it’s a class with reading materials and workbooks.

In the career assistance class, you learn how to write a memorable cover letter and comprehensive resume. You will learn interviewing skills, etiquette, and decorum as well as follow-up methods you can utilize after your job interview.

While we can’t guarantee a job, our career services department can be a valuable resource throughout your career development. We know securing a job encompasses so many factors, including educational training, level of experience, networking abilities, and presentation skills. We hone in on these elements in our training classes to give you every advantage to learn how to present yourself professionally and optimize networking opportunities.


Finally, you’ve done the research, you have an idea of the schools that interest you, now you’re ready to make a decision, but which one. Ultimately, that’s up to you, but before you make that call, I’ll leave you with three things to keep in mind while making your choice on which school is right for you:

  1. Industry-leading, hands-on education.
  2. Valuable real-world experience with internships and volunteer work.
  3. Industry connections that will extend your reach.

These three elements are the main reason why Audio Engineering school is certainly worth the time and investment. The best audio engineering schools will look past the education and help you strive in the music industry. We wish you the best of luck in making the first step of many in your Audio Engineering career.

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