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University After Karaoke?

Maybe you've had success as a karaoke singer or a disc jockey, or you've had some success playing in a band. Or perhaps the camera and documentary films intrigue you. You are leaning towards a career in the entertainment industry.

Where do you go from here?

Popular Music Production

For the popular music industry, a few colleges are beginning to offer courses in music production and music business. Such schools include public colleges and universities such as Long Beach City College, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Massachusetts, Middle Tennessee State University, and some campuses of California State University.

Two private schools stand out for their diverse offerings including four-year programs and a curriculum that is available both online as well as on campus.

  • the regionally accredited Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; and
  • the non-regionally accredited Full Sail University, in Orlando, Florida, a "career university" which accepts 100% of applicants, and offers two-year and four-year courses.

These colleges offer practical courses in music production, and related technologies in the popular entertainment field. You will be amazed at the diversity of course offerings if you visit their course catalogs online.

If you are not yet ready for the financial or time commitment and focus of Berklee or Full Sail, you may wish to consider a two-year program or course-by-course practical education.

Try a (public) community/city/junior college, if you can identify one which offers music production courses. Although a music production course may not count towards an Associate of Arts academic degree transferable to a four-year university, you can grow technically by taking these career courses while still advancing your academic education.

Alternatively, two private schools offer practical experience:

  • the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) which provides on-site training at approximately 50 locations worldwide, as well as no-credit online courses, and a masters program for qualified individuals; and
  • the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR), in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which offers an Associate in Applied Science (Media arts) two-year degree in music business, audio engineering, and sound art and related fields, and certification in two Apple software applications.

Both of these schools are accredited at least for purposes of financial aid. In general, the practical coursework is not transferable to an academic four-year university, although occasionally a four-year university may allow some credit.

Regional Academic Accreditation versus National/Career Accreditation

But when evaluating colleges, if you don't already have your bachelor's degree, you should have a clear understanding that all bachelor's degrees are not equal. A technical school curriculum, unless regionally accredited, is not transferable to a regionally accredited, academic university. A Bachelor of Arts degree from a career college is not equivalent to a B. A. from a regionally accredited school which emphasizes academic, rather than technical, achievement.

To keep your courses transferable to another university, consider completing academic requirements at a regionally accredited university or community college, while your online or summer course keeps you inspired. You won't wake up some day to find, after four years, that in the eyes of a regionally accredited school, you are still a freshman. Nor will you wake up, after four years, to find that you still have not met your technological goals in music production.

Online versus On-Campus

Berklee College of Music

If the private school offerings intrigue you, with the online option or unique course offerings, you should realize that the online program at Berklee offers certificates, but does not offer a four-year degree. For the on-campus four-year degree, you must go through the whole music program with a specific instrument, so if you do not play an instrument, the on-campus regionally accredited program at Berklee is not for you (unless you want to start now).

As to the online program, two BerkleeMusic.com online courses may be transferred to the on-campus college degree program as electives which count towards a bachelor's degree, and other universities may also accept some online courses as transferable. The online Music Production course is pricey but includes mainstream offerings such as orchestration and film scoring, along with intensive work with software, a selection of courses in songwriting, and courses focusing on instruments such as guitar.

Full Sail University

Full Sail University, in Orlando, Florida, for students who already have a B.A., or undergraduates who do not plan to use Full Sail coursework for transferable credits to another university, offers unique courses and hands-on opportunities. It is accredited only as a "career college," and for the purpose of qualifying for student loan programs.

Full Sail course titles seem to represent a more technical approach than the music- and software-oriented approach of Berklee. (Hover over "Programs," top left, to see the program offerings. In "Online" go to "Music Production;" at the Music Production screen, click at right on "Courses" to see course titles.)

There are on-campus offerings of an Associate of Arts degree in "Recording Engineering" and a Bachelor of Arts in "Recording Arts" and "Music Business," although without regional accreditation these are not considered equivalent to academic degrees. Similarly, these career-focused, non-academic degrees are offered for online courses of study.

Visiting the Website Provides Insight

Education is costly. But the greater cost may be to let a talent lapse that a student wishes to develop.

Matching the right school with the right person is not easy. It takes research and an assessment of numerous paths. Visiting a college's web site is the first step in identifying what is possible.