|The Educated Audio Engineer: A Life-Long Learner by Roy Pritts
Roy Pritts, Past Chairman of the Audio Engineering Society Education CommitteeThe education of a practitioner of audio goes through at least three stages: the initial period of vocabulary, basic skill, and technical development; a work or field experience where this fundamental knowledge is applied; and a continuing education where advanced practices, new developments in technology, or career shifts are investigated and folded into the person's abilities.
The AES has been influential in promoting innovation, change, standardization, and education. Local section meetings, regional conferences, and international conventions provide forums for presentation of technical sessions and demonstrations of new advances in hardware, systems, and applications. Publication of the only reviewed scholarly Journal dedicated to audio engineering and of preprints of presentations made at international conventions by the leaders of the industry has made the AES the first place that practitioners look for timely information on relevant topics to audio. Topical anthologies of these scholarly papers are gathered and printed periodically and this Directory of Educational Programs are all efforts of the Society to inform a broad and diverse membership of the opportunities to participate in a lifelong learning experience.
A definition of an educated person would be in order here. Try this one of mine: An educated person is one who knows where to find the answers. No one can know everything, and it would be a useless effort to spend your life trying to know everything. The dynamics of change in our industry would find the rate of change faster than the rate of learning. The true challenge is to be in touch with the forces of change, evaluate those elements of which you must gain further knowledge, and place the rest just out of reach where you can turn quickly and acquire the necessary information when required. It is the difference between saying "yes" when you know how, saying "yes" then finding out how, or saying "no" and being left behind.
We all should feel comfortable saying yes to a challenge when we have confidence in our acquired skills and abilities and are certain that we can undertake the task, seeing it through to its successful completion. Saying no to a challenge or new situation means that we are not comfortable with our skills or knowledge in this area and have no idea how to gather the necessary elements required to be a participant. One of the risks you run when you say no is that you will not be asked again even if you have prepared yourself at a later time.
The tough one is saying yes then finding out how. If your education has provided you with a clear understanding of your primary skills, then it should also provide you with a clear path for inquiry, with secondary resources and with information bases. There will always be surprises, elements of the unknown, breakdowns in complex systems that rely on one another for completion of the task. What you are really saying when you say yes to a project related to your field of specialty is I am comfortable with the tasks that you and I agree are normal to the completion of the project, and if anything goes wrong I know where to go for answers. Even in cases where you think you are repeating a previously successful act, there are unknowns surprises and insignificant differences that become significant. You need to discover how far into the margins you can run, what level of risk you can take, and how resourceful you are. When you go investigating, you also broaden your support network. You are saying I am a problem solver. The attributes of a problem solver include:
Some other attributes that most employers will agree are also important to a successful career include:
- Ability to work with delayed rewards
- Knowing when to work alone and when to work with others
- Knowing more than one path that will lead to completion of a task
- Knowing logical benchmarks and knowing how to evaluate progress
- Ability to establish a broad and reliable network
The audio engineer is similar in these attributes to a contractor, a conductor or engineer. This person will prescribe the operating condition and situation of a complex technical environment for the purpose of successful completion or performance of an audio product. Not all of this product is by any means music, although some of the most challenging projects are music projects, but also includes voice, sound, and acoustic and electronic complex systems, etc. The distribution chain for such a product must meet technical requirements of a very demanding industry that uses records, cassettes, film, tape, radio, television, computers, compact discs, telephone, mechanicaVmagnetic/optical, and future systems we cannot yet imagine. The audio technician is one who takes the prescription or design of an engineer and implements it. Many engineers continue in a project beyond the design stage to participate in the implementation, but at this stage they become their own technicians. As with any professional engineer or designer, a basic education should include the technical skills and practical experiences of implementation. Careful consideration needs to be made when selecting an educational product to understand whether it is an engineering study or a technical study. They are different in content, one is for design and the other for implementation. Confounding this educational process is the understanding that most engineers and technicians are also trained in or are accountable for the calibration and maintenance of the equipment that they use.
- Social (people) skills
- Pleasant personality, courteous, and cheerful
- Does not have to be the "hero"
- Instills confidence in clients and fellow workers
- In one's skills, not cockiness
- Shows conviction, certainty, and loyalty
- A work ethic that endorses punctuality, trust, stability, efficiency, capability, and capacity
To meet this diverse mix of knowledge and skills, there are several different and complementary paths that a student of audio should consider. Depending on the previous education of a prospective student, there should be an appropriate offering in the educational industry to provide the next level of study.
Short Courses and Seminars:
The specific studies necessary to the trade.
One to Two-Year School Programs:
- The Beginning Program for the first-time introduction to a topic to create a basic knowledge. Continuing Education where additional topics are studied to broaden the base knowledge.
Collections of courses into complementary diploma or certificate areas.
Four-Year College/University Programs:
- Trade Programs will assemble courses necessary for licensing or union recognition.
- Career changes or shifts may require this training.
Collection of area studies from participating schools into a bacheloriate degree in a discipline.
University Graduate Programs:
- Comprehensive degree programs where a core curriculum in liberal arts is coordinated with professional studies.
Postbacheloriate studies and graduate degrees of the master and doctorate.
- Advanced professional studies:
For the purpose of this directory, the following will be stipulated:
- A Course is instruction in a specific subject.
- A Program is a prescription of courses that embrace a discipline.
- A School offers a collection of complementary programs in a discipline.
- A College is a collection of complementary schools.
- A University is a collection of complementary colleges.
A good plan for an educational shopping tour should include a supervised self-evaluation. You must understand your present position in the audio work force. By specifying your intention to move within this industry, you can gather information about the technical education you need to position yourself for a change. Interviews with people who occupy the position you want to work toward are good for starters. Once you know the scope of the program requirements for a job, you begin gathering information from education providers to see how close you can get to a fit. Your need may be for a specialized course on a specific topic, or it may be for a series of courses that will prepare you for a career change.
It is the sincere hope of the Education Committee that this directory will encourage you to contact those programs which offer instruction in your special area. By contacting the programs that are apparently of benefit to your educational needs, you can correspond with responsible program advisors and request more comprehensive publications concerning these programs. Your ultimate goal should be to discover the right program for your needs and to prepare yourself for that next level of progress in a career in audio. You will also discover that your needs for continuing growth and development are continuous throughout your career. The audio industry is constantly going through change, and the educated practitioner directs and participates in this change.