When you’re in high school, sound design can seem so simple. There’s nothing too complicated, after all, about plugging an iPod or computer into a mixing board and cranking up the volume; even if you’re using a program like QLab, it’s still mostly press and play. But that’s not really sound design, of course, any more than high school acting is really acting. The training involved to do it on a professional level involves learning about music, science, script analysis, and even social skills.
While educators at both undergraduate and graduate levels agree that going through an official sound design training program isn’t the only way to make it in the industry, training can definitely allow for a smoother entrance into an already difficult field. Those who hope to make a living as a sound designer may find themselves working on anywhere from 10 to 20 shows in a year, if they can get the gigs. Chicago-based sound designer Victoria Deiorio, who runs a sound design program she helped create at DePaul University in Chicago, offered a general disclaimer: Sound design is a tough career, and, like many creative jobs, should be something you really want to do if you’re going to pursue it. Deiorio added that the difference between going to school or learning on the job depends on where a young sound designer wants to put their “safety net.”