Do You Need a Degree to be a Music Producer?

Picture of a music producer studio including a mixing board, headphones, and a computer.

It’s one thing to sit at home and dream of producing the next great record; it’s another thing entirely to take the necessary steps and make producing music your career. Some people who succeed at music production underwent some type of formal training to receive a music producer degree.

So, when all is considered, is it worth it to pursue your audio production dreams in an academic setting? The short answer is, yes; read on to find out why, so you can decide for yourself.

Do You Need a Degree to be a Music Producer?

While it may not be a requirement, it’s certainly something that experienced professionals working in the industry would recommend. Most, if not all, would agree that you’d be doing yourself a huge favor by putting in the time and work to complete an academic course in music production.

Like many other jobs related to the arts, a person’s ability to succeed in the role comes down to their level of experience and the quality of work that they’re able to produce. With only that in mind, it might seem like you shouldn’t have to acquire any sort of credentials at all.

It is true, some people can succeed in music production without a formal education. However, virtually everyone who does choose to pursue their music production degree comes away with valuable knowledge and experience that helps them along their career path in a multitude of ways.

Just like any specialized field, music production is full of industry terms and standards that you can’t guarantee you’ll pick up when studying all on your own. It’s essential to be on the same page as your colleagues, and if you’re unfamiliar with the most fundamental concepts that everyone who went to college studied and learned, you’ll be lagging the rest. Some unique-minded music producers have their own way of doing things, but for those that work collaboratively, speaking the same technical language is a critical starting point.

What are the Benefits of Taking a Formal Audio Production Program?

People who hone their music production skills in an academic setting are set up with a plethora of opportunities that can be difficult to find when setting out solely on your own. You’ll have the chance to work with all the latest equipment and become comfortable with how it all works. You’ll try out a vast range of software that real industry professionals use to do their jobs every day. All this takes place in an environment where you can easily ask questions and receive the right guidance to push you in the right direction, instead of fumbling in the dark for all the answers by yourself.

Industry Experienced Instructors

Industry experienced educators with years of practice in the real world make your educational journey an extremely engaging and valuable experience. These teachers are exceedingly well trained in their areas of expertise, and they know how to make each concept as clear and relatable as possible. You’ll get a real sense of what it’s like to go to work in this industry based on the presentation of lessons organized by your instructors, and you’ll have the chance to build strong student-mentor relationships that take the learning experience to a far deeper level than independent study can give you.

Like-Minded Classmates

Moreover, students who attend a production program find themselves in an environment where everyone is looking for the same thing they are. When you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals, it inevitably pushes you to work harder towards your goals and helps you become even more passionate about your interests. When you’re not in class, you’ll find yourself discussing lessons and studying with friends, simultaneously reinforcing the concepts you’ve learned and building lasting friendships that can turn into professional networking connections as you all progress into your chosen careers.

It’s Who You Know

Something else that students leaving these programs value are the real-world opportunities that they are set up with. When trying to make it in an industry that’s as competitive and selective as music, every foot in the door is a precious resource that might mean the difference between getting a job or not. Although talent and skill are always important, the competition element also inevitably makes it about who you know, for better or for worse. When you have connections that come from an accredited school, it becomes possible to find your way into the inner circles that you might have never been able to find otherwise.


Externships are an excellent chance to show other industry professionals what you’re made of and what you have to offer. It’s also an environment where you can see others doing the jobs you dream of one day taking on, letting you take an in-depth look at how a professional studio is run. This can not only give you clarification, if this is something you truly want to do as a career, but it also makes it easy to fill whatever role comes your way confidently and competently when the opportunities start rolling in after graduation.

What Can You Learn on Your Own?

As the technology to produce music becomes more affordable and thus readily available to anyone who wants to use it, the opportunity to create from your own home becomes even more possible. Just because it’s highly recommended that you receive professional training and formal education in music production is no reason to wait around before building up your knowledge and experience. There are numerous ways that you can get started right now, and the little tricks you pick up along the way will make your transition into a music production course smoother and manageable.

Try Out Free Tools

Depending on what type of music production you want to explore, many different free tools are available online that put the power right in your hands. If you have a computer with enough processing power and other necessary hardware to support your creative projects, you can explore every free tool that’s out there. You can learn which types of software are best suited for your type of creations; sometimes it simply comes down to a matter of personal preference, such as the user interface that makes the most sense to you.

Trial and Error

Experimentation is a key element of any artist’s creative journey. You can start playing around with sounds the moment you get your hands on a DAW, whether it is an open-source software or a more heavy-duty program, if you find one you’re particularly fond of and willing to pay for. It’s not necessary to always have a teacher looking over your shoulder to tell you what sounds good. You don’t have to worry about understanding the whole history of music or every detail of music theory to decide what your favorite sounds are. This is the segment of a music producer’s development that is entirely based on taste and personal style.

Learn From Music Greats

After that, though, an aspiring music producer will benefit from understanding how their idea of a novel sound or beat fits into the grander scheme of music. You might find that what you thought was a brand-new idea has been explored in depth by many other music producers and musicians. Discovering this can be discouraging, but it can also be taken as an opportunity to learn from the work of others to push your creative idea even further.

Many artistic-minded individuals would agree, though, that starting with what you love and what you want to create is extremely valuable to explore before getting lost in academia. If you focus on your passions first, it will inevitably guide you through your studies and make you want to work even harder to bring that irresistible sound from your imagination into reality.

What Do You Learn During a Formal Audio Production Program?

On the pathway to earning their degree, you will gain all the skills necessary to bring your creative and entrepreneurial goals to fruition. What you walk away with is not just a degree but the knowledge and agency to make successful business decisions while creating the type of aural art that’s in your heart.

Learning in a hands-on, fast-paced, exceedingly engaging environment, you learn the basics of how acoustics work, the ins and outs of various electronics, as well as lighting and video techniques. This well-rounded approach gives you the chance to explore whatever you might be interested in and develop a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the industry as a whole.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the world of a music producer, there is often no better teacher than experience. That’s exactly why a core component of earning your audio production degree involves working on real music and recording projects with a team comprised of both fellow students and working industry professionals. Participation in these types of projects allow you to walk away with the feeling that you truly know what the life of a music producer is like.

Covering everything from post-production, live sound, A&R, marketing and distribution, composition, and sound design, there are countless factions to dive into. No matter what type of music producer you hope to become, getting a degree is a huge step in making that dream come true.

Audio Production Program

Ready to get an audio production degree and start creating your own music? The Audio Production and Engineering Program  at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.

At the end of the audio production and engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production programs and starting a rewarding career.