In preparing yourself to succeed as a Music Producer, having top-notch professional and technical training will be important to learning the creative process and also the business of music. The best schools offer this, and more.
The Best Music Production Schools in the US
Are you interested in studying music production, or in starting your career as a Music Producer?
Producing music is a fascinating part of our industry, and there are many excellent training programs in music production to choose from. Not all music production programs require you to train as a musician, but most do.
In this article we will cover the different kinds of programs, why you should attend a music production school, the types of careers available to Music Producers, how to choose a school and program, plus the length of study and costs of some top programs nationwide. We will look at colleges and universities where you can earn your diploma and degree, and also at some certificate courses and other training programs offered by other types of institutions.
Here’s what you need to think about when considering music production schools:
- Why should you attend music production school?
- What to look for in a music production program
- How to choose a school
- Career options for after earning your degree
- Top 10 schools for music production
- Other kinds of training programs
Like any major decision, choosing to study music production and audio engineering will require you to carefully research all options available. Armed with knowledge, you’ll be in a better position to discover the best path forward as you prepare to enter the music industry.
Decades past, most musicians learned music production on the job, and an internship during and after school might still make sense for anyone looking to build their skills and network in order to break into a highly competitive profession. The fact that there are now so many excellent schools where you can study music production attests to the fact that there are terrific career opportunities for those who prepare themselves well.
Why Should You Attend Music Production School?
One reason people choose to attend a top school is for the network they can build there. The Professors, staff, clinicians, and the other students you meet will be crucial to your future career success, since they will become your collaborators. You will also certainly get referrals to amazing professional opportunities through your future network.
Another reason for choosing a school might be its location. Many of the schools on my top 10 list are located in urban areas close to where the music industry lives, such as Nashville, Los Angeles, New York City, or Miami. Studying in a place situated close to the industry will give you more potential opportunities to build your network, secure an internship, and get work when you finish school.
Besides building your network and being close to the music industry, the specialized training you receive should give you a distinct advantage as you enter the highly competitive and lucrative global music and entertainment sector.
To get to a decision about whether and where to go to school, it can be hard to know where to start. You will need to research as many programs as possible, and then consider how well they align with your own preferences, priorities, time frame, and budget.
Top 10 Schools for Music Production
It’s really tough to choose the top 10 schools for music production, as there are so many excellent programs in the US. I’ve focused on degree-granting institutions, since most students are seeking at least a bachelor’s degree, but there are also master’s degrees available and some schools offer shorter programs leading to a certificate or diploma. Plan to spend between 2-4 years at most schools. There are also some part-time online programs, such as the ones offered by ICON Collective.
While some good schools may not be not included here, all of the following have strong reputations for music production programs. Some are more focused on the technology, and might lead to a bachelor of science (B.S.) while others are more music-focused, or music business focused, leading to a bachelor of music (B.M.), a bachelor of arts (B.A.), or a bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.).
For graduate studies, you could earn a master of music (M.M.), a master of arts (M.A.), or a master of fine arts (M.F.A.). There aren’t many doctoral programs in music production, at least not yet.
Full-time college and university programs are extraordinarily expensive in the US, averaging between 40-80 thousand dollars per year, including living costs (yes, you read that right). Most schools offer financial aid, and there might be programs at a state school that will save you money, especially if you are a resident. Certificate programs, individual courses (in-person and online), and 2-year community colleges are much less expensive and also take less time to complete. For some people, a certificate might be enough.
Here are the top 10 music production schools:
(Okay, the Top 14. I couldn’t resist.)
Berklee College of Music
- Location: Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, and Valencia, Spain
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: Degree $73,471, Diploma $67,331
Berklee has one of the largest and most reputable programs in Music Production and Engineering. They also offer majors and minors in Sound Design, Film Scoring, Electronic Production, and Video Game Music. A four-year program leads to a Bachelor of Music in the Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) major. A strong background in math and physics is required for admission to the major.
Berklee has a Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation at their campuses in New York City and in Valencia, Spain. Berklee owns the legendary Power Station Studios in New York City where many famous albums and songs were recorded, and students run the studios there. Berklee also has online courses, certificates, and degrees in music production and audio engineering.
- Location: New York City
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $78,243
Programs in Music Technology at NYU/Steinhardt lead to the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Ph.D. in Music Technology. They also have a Tonmeister advanced certificate for graduate students. The facilities comprise thirteen studios, including the 7,500-square-foot James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio. NYU also has the Clive Davis Institute at Tisch, which is more focused on the business side of the music industry and production and offers many innovative courses for Producers and budding Music Executives.
NYU/Steinhardt is recognized as an industry leader in technology, teaching and research, and their programs are highly selective and competitive. The school offers more than forty courses in music technology and production, including audio engineering, multimedia production, and software development for sound engineering. Music students also study marketing and music business. Located in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, students benefit from proximity to top recording studios, music publishing houses, symphonies, jazz clubs, and Broadway theaters.
USC Thornton School of Music
- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $79,063
Housed at the University of Southern California (USC), Thornton is a conservatory-style music school offering a Bachelor of Music in Music Production. Their Music Technology programs are designed for musicians who want to integrate digital music production with other industry disciplines such as composition, performing, arranging, and live recording of acoustic instruments.
Thornton has an innovative approach to blending music technology with cross-disciplinary art forms such as visual media and art. Their students benefit from stellar faculty who also work in the industry, proximity to film studios, and access to industry players.
Frost School of Music
- Location: Miami, Florida
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $73,712
Housed at the University of Miami, Frost offers a four-year Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Science, plus a Master of Science. Students in the undergraduate programs pursue traditional music studies in performance, history, and theory, while learning the art and science of recording, mixing, and signal processing.
In addition, students gain technical skills in areas such as electrical engineering and computer science. The Master of Science audio program only accepts students who have already completed an undergraduate degree in computer science or electrical engineering.
Middle Tennessee State University
- Location: Murfreesboro Tennessee (near Nashville)
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $43,936 (out-of-state), $24,250 (in-state)
MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry benefits from proximity to the recorded music industry and state-of-the-art facilities in Nashville, known as “Music City.” The program is frequently cited by Billboard Magazine as a top 10 U.S. school for audio engineering and music business.
One of the largest audio engineering programs in the country, they offer a Bachelor of Science in Audio Production and a Master of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technology. Undergraduates majoring in audio production also pursue a technical or industry minor, such as computer science, entrepreneurship, or video and film production.
- Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $70,457
Situated in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel offers a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies. Students can choose to focus on music technology and production within the recording arts and music production concentrate. With tracks for musicians and non-musicians, playing an instrument is not always a requirement.
Students get real-life experience working at Drexel’s independent record label, Mad Dragon Records. Drexel works very hard to place every graduate in a job or internship immediately after graduation.
- Location: Lowell, Massachusetts
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $49,054 (out-of-state), $31,128 (in-state), $42,668 (regional New England)
Twenty miles north of Boston, UMass Lowell’s highly-rated Sound Recording Technology program is housed in the Music Department and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Students must perform and audition on a musical instrument or voice. Students can earn a combined Bachelors and Master’s degree in five years. (Note: UMass has temporarily suspended admissions to the master’s degree while they revise the curriculum and program.)
Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)
- Location: Cleveland, Ohio
- Estimated annual tuition, fees: Varies according to family income, credits taken, and whether in-state or out-of-state. Tuition and fees only between $4,000-8,000 annually for in-state and $8,000-17,000 for out-of-state.
Tri-C’s Recording Arts and Technology program occupies the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts. This superb 75,000 square-foot facility is a jointly managed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and houses modern recording studios, a concert hall, and the archives of the Rock Hall. The Center also accommodates the media and recording arts programs, an animation laboratory, keyboard classrooms, dance and theater studios, plus multiple music technology and editing suites.
Tri-C’s programs lead to a Certificate or an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Recording Arts and Technology. Tri-C is one of the largest and best-rated community colleges in the country, and has an articulation agreement (2 + 2) with Berklee College of Music in Boston where students can complete their Bachelors at Berklee in just two years after transferring from Tri-C with their Associate’s.
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $51,670
Placed very close to the music industry in Nashville, Belmont University’s Entertainment and Music Business Department offers Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Audio Engineering Technology with an optional music production emphasis. Students take courses in audio engineering, physics, electronic circuitry, and other science-oriented subjects, and are also required to complete a minor in an industry-related discipline. Belmont University claims it is a “Christian Community” for learning and service.
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $67,694
Located in the nation’s capital, AU offers undergraduate programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts in Audio Production and the Bachelor of Science in Audio Technology, plus a Master of Arts in Audio Technology. Programs concentrate on sound synthesis and studio management, and students specialize in music, communication, computer science, or physics.
The Audio Technology Program blends the art and the science of audio with music technology. Core courses are in sound synthesis, audio production, electronics, physics, and using digital audio workstations. They have state-of-the-art recording studios, live performance spaces that can be used for recording, and even a synthesizer collection.
Following are a few bonus schools and other options for studying music production:
Full Sail University
- Location: Winter Park, Florida (near Orlando)
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $40,363
Full Sail started out in 1979 as a recording school offering courses in Audio Engineering. Their curriculum has expanded to include programs in many other technical and creative disciplines. Bachelor of Science degrees are available in Recording Arts, Audio Production, and Show Production. They also offer a Certificate in Audio Production which can be completed in as little as five months.
Some of their programs are online or campus only, while others are blended with both online and on-campus courses required. Their campus has numerous modern recording environments ranging from full recording studios to live venues.
- Location: Hollywood, California
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $47,088
Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music (known as M.I.) has an Audio Engineering program offering a Certificate in Production. They also offer Associate’s, Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Science, Arts, and Music. Students can focus on music business or songwriting along with sound engineering and music production.
MI has some online programs as well, such as the Artist Producer Entrepreneur, Electronic Music Production, and Studio Recording courses of study. Musicians Institute has many alumni working in the music industry worldwide.
Carnegie Mellon University
- Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $74,491
Carnegie Mellon offers a Music and Technology Bachelor of Science as a joint project between the School of Music, the School of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Undergraduates take courses in recording technology, audio engineering, computer music, music composition, music performance, music theory, and Pro-Tools.
There is also a Master of Science in music and technology, where students study technologically assisted composition or performance, computer music systems, or instrument design. They even have a class in musical robotics, where computers play electro-mechanical instruments.
- Location: Multiple U.S. locations, and overseas
- Estimated annual tuition, fees, & living costs: $47,739
With six campuses in the U.S. and fifty locations worldwide, SAE has offered Audio engineering programs since 1976. The accredited programs in Audio Technology and Audio Production lead to the Bachelor of Applied Science degree or the Audio Diploma. They also have courses in music business, game audio production, and film production.
In the U.S., SAE has locations in New York City, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, and Nashville. Additionally, SAE focuses on professional development for Producers and Engineers with their online courses.
ICON Collective offers shorter programs in music production at their school in Los Angeles and online. Students can choose from a single intro online 12-week course for $3,000, the 18-month online music production program for $15,000, the on campus 12-month “Flagship” music production program for $26,000, or the advanced music production program for 18 months at $39,000. (The on-campus versions have more weekly training hours than the online courses do.)
ICON claims to teach you “core technical skills while also unlocking your unique creative process.”
Located in San Francisco and online, Pyramind is an Ableton and Avid certified training center offering an intensive 1-year music, post-production, and sound for picture and games career-building course. The in-person course starts at about $21,000 and students have access to four great-sounding studio rooms where they can work with industry-standard gear, plus engage with their structured mentorship program.
Pyramind also hosts a record label, which they bill as an artist development and release platform for Pyramind SF student body, alumni, staff, and the greater community.
Online courses only, starting at $649. Soundfly is an interesting solution as they offer active customized learning under the guidance of an expert mentor. Their courses are affordable and flexible, and in addition to music production courses, they offer courses in songwriting, music theory, composition, performance, electronic music, music business, and music marketing.
What to Look for in a Music Production Program
First, take the time to consider your career goals and your preferences. There are many different types of Music Producers working in a seemingly endless number of different markets. It’s okay to not have a clear picture of where you want to end up, but at least make note of your likes and dislikes as you compare the programs on offer.
Some things you might want to consider while choosing a music production school:
- Who is on faculty?
- What are the facilities like?
- How many students are enrolled?
- What is the typical class size?
- Who are their successful graduates?
- How long does the program take?
- What is the cost and is there financial aid available?
Additionally, you might consider the climate, the industry focus (Los Angeles has a focus on film music, Miami has a big Latin music market), crime rates, proximity to cultural assets (like museums or theme parks), the school’s “vibe,” or anything else that might impact your decision. The goal at this point is to come up with a list of criteria you can apply to each school you are looking at.
How to Choose a Music Production School
Considering the above, I recommend you research a number of schools first, perhaps as many as 10 or 15. Make a list of the things you like or dislike about each school. As you narrow down your list, plan to visit the school, if possible, or at least take a virtual tour if offered.
You should also reach out to speak directly with current faculty, staff, and students. You want to get a realistic idea of what it’s like to study there, and to imagine what your day-to-day life would be like if you were to attend.
Also, take a look at the admissions process and what will be required to make an application. Your ultimate choice doesn’t need to be on any top 10 list, as long as it’s a great fit for you. Take enough time to evaluate each program.
Your final decision could be based on any number of things, such as notable alumni, experience of the Instructors, location, costs, or your interest in the coursework. Since every school is different, think carefully about your choice and consult with other trustworthy people about where might be the best place for you.
Career Options After Earning Your Degree
“The main role of the Producer is to create an overall vision of what the record will sound like, and to harness the efforts of the team to bring that vision to life. There are three areas, or levels, of being a Producer: an Executive Producer provides funding, the Creative Producer is what we usually think of when we use the word ‘Producer’ whose job is to set the artistic direction, and the Technical Engineer. The first two kinds of Producers are relatively straightforward, but the Technical Engineer can actually be divided into three realms: recording, mixing, and mastering. So, the Engineer is a part of the production team, and their role is highly technical. Most Engineers specialize, to some degree in one of those areas, especially Mastering Engineers.”
Charles points out that there are different types of Music Producers, and they may specialize in one or more areas. As a job description, “Producer” can mean many things. For example, some Producers might work in A&R (Artist and Repertoire) at a record label, be a Music Executive, work hands-on in the studio, or even do live sound for clubs, concerts, tours, or sporting events. Many Producers are also Music Arrangers and performers, or they could be Songwriters and Composers.
For the recent college graduate, securing an internship could lead to a job, or to working primarily as a Freelance Producer helping other Singers, Songwriters, Composers, bands, or musical performers to realize their own unique artistic vision.
As you see, there are many great choices out there if you are seeking to create your future career through training to be a Music Producer. Whether or not you see earning a degree as your main goal, there’s much to learn and many places to learn it. Invest the time to understand what each institution and program has to offer, and make your choice wisely.