This week’s Ask Joe question is an intriguing one. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic, so be sure to leave a comment!

Photo by rockmixer

Photo by rockmixer

Stephen wrote:

Hey Joe,

I was wondering if it was worth the money to take the classes for Pro Tools Certification and if you did would that help out your chances to find work in this diminishing market? Thanks.

Stephen

This is a really good question, Stephen, and I would imagine there are many Pro Tools engineers out there who are asking themselves the same thing.

Let me preface my response with this – I am not a Pro Tools Certified Engineer. I did earn my bachelor’s degree in recording and production technology, but I have not gone through a Digidesign Pro Tools certification course.

At the heart of Stephen’s question is an underlying issue, which he refers to as “this diminishing market.” Are there jobs to be found as a recording engineer? Yes, there are. Are there a ton of jobs? Nope.

Stephen’s facing this reality. Several big studios are closing their doors. Record labels are floundering under the reality that records don’t sell like they used to (and that may never change). So in one sense, finding a job as a staff engineer is a tough venture. If that’s what you’re going for, I’d say go ahead and pony up for the Pro Tools certification. It may be enough to cause you to get noticed over somebody else.

However, it seems to me that the likelihood of finding, let alone landing, a studio job is pretty low. Does that discourage you? It shouldn’t. The big record labels and studios are having trouble. They’re rethinking the whole big-budget album business model. In the meantime, independent artists and recording studios (i.e. home studios) are presented with an opportunity to make some serious headway.

The mere fact that you can produce a great-sounding recording from your bedroom for less than $10,000 should excite you. So you may not work in a huge recording facility, but you may still be able to get work and make a living. How? Two ways:

  1. Be good at what you do. You’ve got to be a good engineer. You’ve got to be able to make the artist’s music sound amazing.
  2. Be good with people. You don’t have to be a little social butterfly, but you do need to know how to market yourself, your business, to prospective clients.

With that in mind, you have to ask yourself, “Will getting my Pro Tools certification help me do these two things well?”

The answer will be different for everyone. For me, I know my way around Pro Tools. The limiting factor in my abilities as an engineer is me. No amount of extra head-knowledge about Pro Tools will give me better ears. That’s something I must learn through doing.

Perhaps you don’t know Pro Tools very well. Perhaps you’re not as fast as you’d like to be. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable running a recording project from start to finish. If so, a Pro Tools certification course might be the perfect thing for you.

One thing to keep in mind, though. Be a PT-Certified engineer won’t help you with #2 above. You could be the most amazing engineer this world has ever known, but if no one knows you, if no one hears your work, then you’ll never get anywhere.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment. Also, here are some additional articles I’ve posted that provide some excellent further reading:

  • Philip Rudy

    Yeah and there are tons of places to learn pro tools as well. If you are looking to learn fast, certification might not be the way. Check out these options

    http://protoolstutorial.org/blog/places-to-learn-pro-tools-online-2015-version/

  • Chris

    From my experience owning a local recording studio, i have employed staff with all these certifications but they have had absolutley no idea about the practicality of actually doing a recording i.e setting up mics, customer service etc. I started with no experience or certification and im still making a living so i agree with Joe above really, if your good at what you do then there is nothing stopping you from getting the right work(any work) for yourself without certification.

    • NICE. Thanks for sharing, Chris!

      • Chris

        I don’t disagree with certification but when someone says they can mix a whole track and i come back after 10mins and they say they have finished, 100% of the time it is going to be wrong/not satifactory.
        Excuses have come along the lines of: Not having enough studio time in College/Uni. SHOCKING at this day and age that these entities are not giving students enough time in their studios.

        • Yeah, when I got my recording degree, I came out with a lot of head knowledge, but not a ton of recording experience. I had a good deal of experience, but it was only over the next few years of DOING it a LOT that I really got somewhere. Knowledge was just one piece of the puzzle.

  • jim

    If I my chime in here. Closing in on 53 I might have a bit more OJT then some. A certification, degree, work shops, and the likes absolutely make a difference in the employment field. This really is not that complicated. It’s a door opener, the rest is up to you. The easy road is don’t go and wait until someone notices you, there are plenty waiting on that same road. In this extremely saturated field of some stunning talent where do you really think you will fit in? There is always someone better then you standing right behind you. Waiting to be discovered or heard is waiting. Keep it real, you need a door opener, you have a BS so you clearly have the brains and talent, keep piling up the rest of the education and that will lead you to the door. Hard work is and always will be returned. You already know what you needed to do. Your on the right path, keep climbing, your almost there….

    • I definitely agree that you need to get out there and make connections, but it’s not like certification courses and workshops are the ONLY way to make connections. Some of the best connections I’ve made weren’t through “formal” activities, but rather simply being out there, meeting people, helping people, etc.

      Workshops and certifications are great, but they’re not the only way to meet people and make real connections.

  • I think certifications are important in any field regardless of if you obtained a degree or not. The Certifications shows that you have very specific knowledge and know how to put it to use but nothing compares to actual on the job training.

  • Andrewsolomon

    Hi Joe,

    I’m new around here, found you via YouTube after searching for some online resources for my A Level Music Technology students here in England. Great site by the way, loads o fuseful info for my students, presented in a very accessable fashion.

    Re Pro Tools Certification, I agree with what you say; it will never on its own land you a job………..but it may raise your profile above the next candidate. I am an Avid Certified Pro Tools 9 Operator and Instructor, but i got this through my work who paid for the qualification for me to enable the best teaching on the software. Would I shell out the money out of my own pocket for it? Doubt it; it’s a lot of money! If I had the money? Absolutely.

    The courses do introduce you to many new workflows and features and under-the-hood stuff you wouldn’t always get from fumbling around at home. Also take into account that you will be on the courses with many like minded people and it ends up being a useful fews days.

    I have now integrated the 101 into the course my students take in order to help them onto university courses, as annything extra is always a bonus!

    Great site, keep up the good work,

    Regards – Andy

  • Christopher

    Thanks, for your comments. I am a musicians and I desire to put my ideas in songs that are recorded, mixed and mastered correctly. Learning Pro Tools is where I am at. I thought getting certified would be the answer for me. However, I beleive learning pro tools and how to apply plug-in and mastering will get me over the top. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

  • Abhijit

    Joe,
    I have a question, recently i was waitching “mix it like a record” dvd, by charles dye. There charles mentions using mcdsp ac1 on his master fader or buss mix, but he says its better to put the plugin in the begining of the mix, rather than at the end of the mix. What does he man by that, whats the difference between the two? How does one get that in pro tools?
    Thanks,
    Abhijit

    • Whenever you’re doing any compression or limiting on a mix, you don’t want to slap the compressor on right at the end, before you do your bounce. Compression will change the balance between the instruments, and may very well ruin the mix you’ve already crafted. The reason is that compression will make the louder things quieter and the quiet things louder.

      • Abhijit

        Thanks Joe…
        Abhijit

  • Wow Joe, you nailed it once again. I was having the exact same question. What I thought was “why am I going to spend so much money if I’m not that good yet?” I have always thought that you should learn a bit or a lot before you get certified on anything. For instance, I’m a computer, website design, and SEO specialist. I have worked on tons of sites and computers. One day long time ago I had the same question “should I certify myself in Microsoft, Adobe, and other stuff?” My answer was “no way.” Why? Well, many times certified people are those behind the money, not the passion (not who I am). Also, people quickly realized that I am good, just like Joe is good as a recording engineering. What do you need? You need material to show; a portfolio. A certification will take you so far. And to that I add: what do you think about a non-certified, successful r. engineering, and a certified but non-experienced engineering?

    EXCELLENT post.

    • Thanks Krem! Great analogy, too.

      • You are welcome. It is all about helping others out there just like you are doing.

  • I think your right Joe, the Pro-Tools training programs can be a good way of getting training on Pro Tools if you have never used it before or are a musician looking to posh up your skills to allow you to record your work quicker and more efficiently but it won’t teach you how to be a good sound engineer. It also I don’t think will open many extra doors for you except those in education or maybe sales. No sound engineer I know has ever got a job on the basis of a piece of paper saying he can do that job. The breaks come from making personal contacts with people and from having a portfolio of work behind you to back up your sales pitch. If doing the training program allows you to build on that portfolio then it may be worth looking at but otherwise I’d use online resources to teach yourself and concentrate on building up the show reel.

    • All very good points, Andy. Thanks! I think you really need to look at it like any other profession. The degree may be important, but it won’t be the thing that lands you the job.