"I want to be an audio engineer, I want to work in a recording studio."
Famous last words said by me in early 1991. Then came my immediate deviation from the promise of a respectable career (I was considering law school). Still with me? Because for some reason you're "cursed" with a similar desire? Poor soul. But, there is hope....
Back in the "old days" if you were struck with the affliction (or strong, burning desire) to mess with recording sound or producing music (or tinkering with stuff that had blinking lights and made noise), you would most likely head to the nearest studio where you would probably beg your way into the glamorous job of cleaning toilets and making coffee - an unpaid job, of course. Assuming you were actually fortunate enough to beg your way into such a prestigious position, you would more than likely put in untold long hours at any and all times of the day and night - for years (could be months, if you were lucky) - before getting promoted to "gopher". At least you'd be getting paid then, right?
Along the way, you'd be watching, learning, reading manuals, and hoping every day that for some reason, the assistant (or tape op) would be a "no show". Then, you'd get your chance. Kind of like that old episode of Star Trek (circa 1968) where in the "altered universe" people were promoted when they killed their superior officers - except without the killing, hopefully. Your lucky day would be when your "superior" was a no-show. Now you get your chance. And so on. Or you could bypass the whole process... if you knew someone on the "inside". Such was "how to be an audio engineer and work in a recording studio" in the old days. Some people think it still works that way today. It doesn't, and this doesn't sound all that hopeful, I know, but it gets better.
Do you still want to do this as your career? Yes, I said "career". You could do this as a hobby, and that's fine. But, I get email and phone calls all the time from people who are looking for jobs - or want to work in this field. I consider those people to be career minded, and that's who I'm addressing this article to. So, you're still with me? Good. Now, ask yourself "Why?". Why do you want to do this? If it's "for the chicks" or because you want to "get lots of money (see far below for some real fun!) and be famous", think again. It better be something much more substantial.
If you said that you wanted to be a brain surgeon, I'd suggest that you go to college and then medical school. Because, though I know very little about being a doctor, I can assure you that you won't be able to talk your way into an operating room and get some "scalpel time" right off the streets. Doing that, however, might land you in a nice, cozy padded cell. I know, college and medical schools are expensive. But, I bet you'd want the person operating on you to have completed medical school. What's this have to do with recording? Guess....
There are recording schools and recording programs out there. So, the first thing I'd suggest is that if you're really interested in having a career in this field is to look into several recording schools. Yes, they are expensive - some of them are very expensive - though not nearly as much as law school or medical school. Fortunately, we have our friend the internet (thanks Mr. Gore!). Doing an online search for "recording school" will bring up thousands of pages. You want to work in this field? Prove it. Get into a program and learn recording. Here's the deal... your competition is in (or has already graduated from) a recording school of some kind (though there are still "old schoolers" out there who never went through a program - but those things didn't exist or were very rare in the "old days"). What, you thought you were the only one who wanted to do this?
If you really want a career in this field, then you're going to have to invest in yourself. In addition to enrolling in some kind of recording program, you need to immerse yourself in this field (outside of your class time). Books, websites, forums, blogs, anything "recording". And this all happens WAY before you consider that magic word "internship".
You need to become a "sponge" taking in all this information and then putting that into action. Consider all of this to be an investment in yourself. You want specifics? I won't recommend any single book, school, or website because everyone's needs are different. Those are things that you're going to have to figure out on your own. But, the key to success in this field (and any other one too) is to not let anything stop you. So, you have to create your own path (here's a hint - don't try to re-create my path or anyone else's). So, you have to take out a student loan(s) to pay for it. So, your parents think you're crazy. Keep going. Rinse, repeat.
How to make more money than being a recording engineer:
Ready for some real fun? Here's where I show you how to make more money than a recording engineer.... First, get a job at a "fast food" joint. Make sure that you live beneath your means (you MUST have money left over from every paycheck - 15% - don't skip even one). Put that money in a savings account. Once you have a couple of thousand dollars saved, take that money and invest in a "no load index fund". Then, with each subsequent paycheck take your extra money and add it to your no load index fund. Now time has passed and more than likely, you've gotten a few raises and possibly even a promotion or two - you're making more money and INVESTING more money with each paycheck. Not only that, your "no load index fund" has been growing along with the market as a whole. And, of course, you're reinvesting your index fund returns back into the fund as well.
By now, a couple of years have passed. You've been promoted to manager, making an even larger paycheck and INVESTING more of that check every pay period. Yes, you're working long hours (just like if you were in a recording studio), but unlike the "recording" track, you have no student loan debt, yay! You're still following the same formula that you started with when you first became the "fry guy (or girl)". Rinse, repeat.
More time passes. Now, you're the general manager - making bigger bucks. Still following the same formula - living below your means AND habitually investing. Guess, what? After some more time passes you, as general manager, not only are making good money and investing at the same time, but you've now gotten great experience at running a fast food operation! Who cares? Well, do you have any idea what the OWNER of a McDonald's or Burger King franchise makes? Well, I don't know exactly, but it's probably more than 99% of the recording engineers out there.
Even more time passes, because guess what, that's what time does. You're the determined type, so you're still following your tried and true formula, taking your income and INVESTING that, oh and buying more franchises too. Now you own several. Oh, look, is that me at your drive thru? Yes, and that folks is how being the "fry guy (or girl)" can make you more money than a recording engineer. If you're still with me, and you still want to be a recording engineer, then more than likely, you'll succeed!
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, doctor, or a financial advisor. I don't even play one of those on TV (and I can't guarantee that someone wont put me in one of those "cozy, padded cells down the road). So, before investing in specific funds or stocks, please consult with a real financial advisor. Oh, and don't attempt to things that plug into the wall outlet either.