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PhD Programs in Sound Design

Although it is not often required, a Ph.D. in Sound Design gives significant advantages to those pursuing a career in the competitive field of sound engineering, research, or design in a variety of different media, as well as in academia.

Possible Career Options for Sound Design Ph.D. Holders

Sound Designer For Film and TV

In filmmaking and television, sound designers are often the supervisors of the entire sound department during production. Because of their supervisory role, the sound designer needs to have knowledge of the entire process of making a soundtrack. They can sometimes hold a dual role as a sound editor or recording mixer as well. This is a job that requires an extensive background in production and the research of sounds.

Music Editor for Film

During a film production, the music editor has the responsibility of making all of the film's musical components come together. He or she gathers music in the form of pre-existing sources, original scores, and live performances. In collaboration with the film editor, the music editor will take this music and match it to the visuals of the film. The job of the music editor requires great attention to detail and a strong ability to conduct research.

Sound Editor

A sound editor has the responsibility of assembling the elements of sound that are featured in a film. He or she gathers various audio elements such as wild tracks, random bits of un-filmed dialogue, or sounds and noises taken from an audio library and creates a soundtrack for a film in collaboration with other members of the film's audio team and the director. Deep knowledge of acoustics, the process of recording sound, and sound equipment and post-production are a must.

Video Game Sound Designer

Like sound designers for film, sound designers for computer games are responsible for creating ambient noises and adding music to enliven the gaming experience. Where the job of sound design is different in this case is that for interactive games the sounds are not fixed. So, the designer's job becomes much more detailed as he/she has to create and match different layers of sound with a player's choice. Strong computer skills are called for in addition to good communication abilities.

Recording Engineer

Recording engineers have the ability to heavily influence the sound of a recorded piece of music. They are often in charge of everything that goes on in a music studio, from choosing which microphones to use, to setting the sound levels for recording and adding or changing the sounds that are recorded. This is a job that requires expert knowledge in the techniques and equipment used to record, plus an artistic touch.

Sound Mixer

During production of a film, the production sound mixer is responsible for the recording and processing of all of the sounds made during filming, the most important of which is the dialogue. Sometimes this position is also known as location sound engineer. The biggest job a sound mixer has on set is making sure that the actors' lines are clearly audible. Sound mixers are the crew members that must place all microphones, from boom mics to body mics, on set. This requires planning with microphone operators, set designers, and costumers. The job of a sound mixer requires extensive knowledge of sound recording equipment, as well as good communication skills and attention to detail.

Sound Designer for Theatre

In a theatrical production, the sound designer has the job of gathering whatever sound effects will be needed. The designer's job on a production begins with a reading of the script and a discussion with the director. During this discussion, a cue list is created along with the director's vision for which sounds, from music to sound effects, will be included in the overall design. Often, the sound designer is required to attend all pre-production events, including rehearsals, in order to find the precise timing needed for a successful production. A sound designer for the theatre should have a deep knowledge of acoustics and the use of electronic recording devices, plus strong management and communication skills.

Sound Design/Sound Engineering Instructor

Instructors of courses related to sound design will supervise students as they learn the technical and artistic aspects of the discipline. Responsibilities can change depending on the focus of a class and whether it is aimed at film, theatre, music, etc. Often, instructors will be required to have wide knowledge of all the recording arts and sciences as they will be called upon to teach across several different classes for both undergrad and graduate students. The job requires a passion for the subject and the patience to teach students new to equipment, technologies, and theories related to sound design.

Job Title Median Salary Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Sound Designer $51,425 (2019)** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Music Editor $41,252 (2019)** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Sound Editor $59,205 (2017)*** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Video Game Sound Designer $52,080 (2019)**** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Recording Engineer $44,796 (2019)*** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Sound Mixer $39,758 (2019)**** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Theatrical Sound Designer $53,950 (all live sound engineers; 2019)**** 8% (all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)
Sound Design Instructor $48,834 (theatre sound design instructors; 2009)*** 11% (all postsecondary teachers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com, ***Glassdoor.com ****ziprecruiter.com

Careers in the field of sound design can make extensive use of the strong technical, research, and artistic skills gained from completing a Ph.D. program. Most of the related jobs have a strong outlook for future growth.