It’s been a while since I’ve answered a reader question. I hope to do more of that in the coming weeks and months, either via blog posts or the podcast. If you have a question you’d like me to cover, click here.

Today’s question comes from Angela. She writes:

Hey Joe,

My mom can’t find a reason to sign my school loans for IPR. I want to get my Pro Tools Certification and my 2-year degree. How much on average does a person with those qualifications make?

This is a GREAT question. In fact, Fathomless Regression (a guest writer here on HSC) wrote about this in his article Do I Have to Go to College to Learn to Be a Recording Engineer? I’d recommend giving that a read. He makes some great points.

For a lot of aspiring engineers, going to college for engineering might not be a viable option. Some might opt for a Pro Tools Certification course. These can still cost quite a bit of money. I did some Googling, and it looks like it could potentially be a couple thousand dollars, depending on the school.

So, is it worth it? Well, I’m not a Pro Tools-Certified engineer, but I have some thoughts on the matter. (Also, see this interesting article I found: Pro Tools Certification – Is it Worth the Money?)

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

What are your goals?

This may seem obvious, but if you don’t know specifically what you’re wanting to do as an engineer, it’s hard to answer the question, “Should I get a Pro Tools Certification?”

Is this a hobby or a career?

Another fairly obvious question, but are you wanting to make a living at this, or are you simply wanting to have the coolest hobby in the world. 🙂

Do you want to work for yourself or someone else?

If you’re wanting to work for a major recording studio, TV station, movie studio, etc., then having a Pro Tools Certification might give you a certain edge over the 800 other engineers who are applying for that same job.

I would ask around. Call a few studios (or a place you want to work), and simply ask them, “Do you require/prefer that applicants have a Pro Tools Certification?” If they say yes, then there’s your answer.

Let’s pretend I’m hiring an assistant engineer. I’ve narrowed it down to two applicants. One has his PT certification. The other has a high school diploma and a portfolio of 20 different album projects he’s worked on independently. Who do you think I’m going to hire? The guy who takes initiative and gets things done.

It’s just like any other industry. If you’re an accounting firm, do you hire the CPA with a 4.0 GPA fresh out of college with no work experience? Or do you hire the one with a 2.4 GPA who took 6 years to graduate college because he was working full-time as an assistant at a local accounting firm?

It’s all about what you bring to the table. Whether or not you get a certificate is really irrelevant. That’s just ONE piece of the puzzle.

Let’s say you want to work for yourself as a freelance engineer. Well, in that case a PT certification may not make as much sense, but only if you are committed to learning Pro Tools on your own or through other means (such as tutorial videos like my Understanding Pro Tools series). You can’t just have a passing knowledge of Pro Tools and hope to impress clients.

Conversely, knowing every Pro Tools shortcut in the entire system won’t help you make better recordings or get more clients. As with most things, it’s a balancing act.

Be an Entrepreneur

Whether you want to work for someone or work for yourself, you need to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Read business books, make yourself a valuable commodity. Don’t just do the bare minimum. Get out there and start recording someone this weekend.

The best way I know to find the job you love is to already be doing the things you love (recording, mixing, etc.) on your own initiative.

Can I guarantee you’ll get a job? Nope. But the worst case scenario is that you become an awesome engineer while you’re looking for that dream job. Mission: accomplished.

To answer your question, Angela, “How much does the average engineer make?” It really depends on the engineer. Some never get a job as an engineer. Some make millions. In a lot of ways, it’s up to you.

[Photo by anyjazz65]