Recording Schools in California with Degree Program Overviews

California has more than 30 schools that offer recording programs. Learn about the degree and certificate programs, tuition information, and program options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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Recording Certificate and Degree Programs in California

Recording arts, audio technology, and sound engineering programs are offered at over 30 schools throughout California. This field of study does not require state certification, but some understanding of music theory and experience using the tools of the trade can be beneficial when seeking employment in the music industry. Within the 10 largest schools in California offering recording programs, course requirements, transferability of college credit, and access to equipment varies.

Cypress College

Located in Valley View, Cypress College is a 2-year public college with more than 15,000 students. This school offers a Certificate of Achievement in Recording Arts. To earn this certificate, students must complete 17 units, which include classes in the music business, digital music technology, audio production in film, and songwriting. A related certificate program that includes classes in recording arts is the Lighting/Audio Design Certificate. Students pursuing this field of study take classes in lighting design as well as theater sound and recording. This program is composed of 14-15 units.

Diablo Valley College

Diablo Valley College, a 2-year public college, is located in Pleasant Hill, a large suburb northeast of Oakland and San Francisco. This school offers a Vocational Education Certificate in Music Industry Studies, and it requires a minimum of 24 units. Students pursuing this field of study at Diablo Valley College are required to takes classes in Pro Tools, electronic music, and the music industry. Additional courses include songwriting, music production, and multi-track recording. The recording studio on campus includes equipment for CD mastering, digital sound editing, voice recording, audio production, live music mixing and recording, sound design, and audio restoration.

Foothill College

Foothilll College, located in Los Altos Hills, offers two certificate programs and one A.A. degree in the field of recording. It is a 2-year public school. The A.A. in Music Technology, Certificate of Achievement in Pro Tools, and the Certificate of Achievement in Music Technology include a series of core courses that can be supplemented by other courses in related departments, which allows students to design an individual course of study. Other departments in which music technology students take courses typically include graphic design, radio broadcasting, or video arts. Courses in this program are transferable to schools in the California State University system, and many credits transfer to University of California schools as well.

Fullerton College

Fullerton College is located in Fullerton, which is a mid-sized city in Southern California. This 2-year public school offers a Certificate of Achievement in Music Recording/Production requiring a total of 39 units. Many of these units are fulfilled by classes in recording, music theory and technology, piano, electronic music, the music business, and music history. One additional unit can be earned through an elective in voice, rock guitar, intermediate piano, or pop/commercial piano. This certificate program gears students towards a career in the recording industry or in music production. The A.A in Commercial Music is designed for students who are not interested in pursuing transfer to a 4-year university and seek a career as a professional arranger, composer, or performer. This degree requires 22 units in classes that include recording, arranging, jazz improvisation, vocal styling, and the history of rock music.

Long Beach City College

Long Beach, located south of Los Angeles, is home to Long Beach City College. This school offers an A.A in Commercial Music and four related certificates programs. Students pursuing an Associate of Arts in Commercial Music can choose a record producer or recording engineer emphasis. Certificates are also offered in both of these areas. Additionally, certificates of achievement are offered in the fields of Pro Tools assistant or studio assistant. All programs require students to take courses in Pro Tools, music mastering, studio mix-down techniques, record production, and advanced recording techniques. The six commercial music faculty members at this school specialize in sound engineering, commercial music, and both instrumental and vocal jazz.

Los Angeles Valley College

Los Angeles Valley College is located in Valley Glen, which is north of downtown Los Angeles. This large community college, with more than 18,000 students, offers a Certificate of Accomplishment in Recording and an A.A. in Commercial Music. Both programs provide a fundamental understanding of the skills needed to work in the music industry or to transfer to a university program in commercial music. The A.A. in Commercial Music program requires students to complete 38-40 units including classes in commercial music techniques, music notation and copying, performance ensemble, and general education requirements. Meanwhile, the certificate program in recording requires 28 units and is geared for students who have less time to pursue formal education but who want to specialize in an employment-oriented program. Students in both programs must complete more than 30 units and, upon successfully finishing the program, will know how to record music, dialogue, and sound effects; how to edit, dub, and mix; and how to maintain audio recording equipment.

Mount San Jacinto Community College

Mount San Jacinto Community College is located in San Jacinto, a midsize suburb southeast of Los Angeles. Recording programs at this school include two certificates and two non-transfer associate's degrees. Audio technology and advanced audio technology are the areas of emphasis for these programs. Career preparation in the field of music is the goal of the department, but some elements of the program may complement some of the transfer-oriented degree programs at this school. Students in this program gain experience in the school's radio station, television studio, and three recording studios. Classes in the department include theory-based courses as well as hands-on courses in audio technology, including Pro Tools.

Sacramento City College

Sacramento City College is located in California's state capital, Sacramento, which is a large city in the northern part of this large state. The recording program offerings at this school include a certificate of achievement and an A.A. in commercial music. These are part of a music program that offers five associate's degree and eight certificate programs in various areas of music and aims to provide students with the skills and experience to either work in the music industry or pursue higher levels of education in this field. The music department faculty at Sacramento City College consists of more than 20 professors.

San Diego City College

San Diego City College takes its name from the city in which it is located: San Diego, a large city in Southern California. This school offers a 21-unit Certificate of Achievement in Recording Arts, which includes courses in recording arts, computer music, audio production, basic musicianship, electronic music, and digital audio post-production. Some of these courses can also be applied to the A.A. in Digital Music Technology. General education requirements must also be completed to earn the associate's degree, for a total of 60 units.

Southwestern College

Located in Chula Vista, a large suburb south of San Diego only miles from the Mexican border, Southwestern College offers both a certificate and an A.S. in Audio Production. This school is home to four state-of-the-art recording studios that give students experience in professional recording and mixing environments. Additionally, these studios are equipped with Mac Pro Desktop computers on which Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Reason, and other programs are used to familiarize students with both the hardware and software they may find when working in the music industry.

School Comparison Table

School Name School Type & Setting Recording Degree Programs and Certificates Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
Cypress College 2-year, public; large suburb* Recording Arts Certificate $1,136 in-state; $5,984 out-of-state*
Diablo Valley College 2-year, public; large suburb* Recording Arts Certificate $1,298 in-state; $6,758 out-of-state*
Foothill College 2-year, public; large suburb* Certificate in Music Technology,
Certificate in Pro Tools,
A.A. in Music Technology
$1,536 in-state; $6,351 out-of-state*
Fullerton College 2-year, public; mid-size city* Certificate in Recording/ Production,
A.A. in Commercial Music
$1,138 in-state; $6,010 out-of-state*
Long Beach City College 2-year, public; large city* Certificate in Pro-Tools,
Certificate in Studio Assistant,
Certificate in Commercial Music,
Certificate in Commercial Music,
A.A. in Commercial Music
$1,366 in-state; $7,218 out-of-state*
Los Angeles Valley College 2-year, public; large city* Certificate in Recording,
A.A. in Commercial Music
$1,220 in-state; $6,160 out-of-state*
Mt. San Jacinto Community College District 2-year, public; mid-size suburb* Certificate in Audio Technology,
Certificate in Advanced Audio Technology,
A.A in Audio Technology,
A.A. in Advanced Audio Technology
$1,386 in-state; $6,936 out-of-state*
Sacramento City College 2-year, public; large city* Certificate in Commercial Music with emphasis in audio production,
A.A. in Commercial Music, audio production emphasis
$1,104 in-state; $7,200 out-of-state*
San Diego City College 2-year, public; large city* Certificate in Recording Arts,
A.A. in Digital Music Technology
$1,140 in-state; $5,532 out-of-state*
Southwestern College 2-year, public; large suburb* Certificate in Audio Production,
A.S. in Audio Production
$1,334 in-state; $6,654 out-of-state*

Sources: *NCES College Navigator.

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