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.


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: