My experience at the Art Institute was like anything, full of its share of positives and negatives. In my year there, I quickly learned unfortunately, that the negatives would far outweigh the positives. It has generally changed my view on my profession and schools of this nature. I would like to provide those of you who are considering the Art Institute with specific reasons why I would not recommend the school, and hopefully make you think twice about the decisions you’re making.
The Reality of the Program
The first thing anyone will notice when attending AI is the tuition costs. It can run from anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000 for an audio program there. The biggest flaw in charging this much is that you get no freedom or flexibility with courses. You must take every single course in the program, whether or not you would benefit from them. I found a large number of courses to be completely irrelevant, or could have been easily condensed.
The courses themselves were also structured in ways that didn’t allow for maximum lab or studio time. Any classes that did involve lab or studio time required individual practical exams with an instructor. So for the final 3 weeks of each class while these exams were administered, we were not allowed to be in the lab/studio and were not being taught anything new. Yet, we were still paying for it.
I can say that there were less than 3 projects assigned that had the potential to be portfolio worthy work.
The audio industry obviously revolves around good work. While I was there, I can say that there were less than 3 projects assigned that had the potential to be portfolio worthy work, as opposed to the plethora of practical exams that were given. The classes where I did get to work on projects of this calibre were by far the ones where I learned the most, but these courses were few and far in between.
Another hit or miss at AI were the teachers. There were a few teachers whom I absolutely adored, and taught me so much by sharing their experiences about the industry in a positive and professional manner. But then again there were the others…those who literally threw microphone stands through windows when things didn’t function properly.
Struggling To Keep Up-To-Date
The Art Institute boasts up-to-date software and hardware, but while I was there, the equipment was seriously lacking. Things like RAM for computers, upgrades to software, plug-ins for ProTools, and other such industry standards were not being implemented, and if they were, it wasn’t in a timely manner.
I recall spending countless sessions with a ProTools HD system, one of the most expensive pieces of digital audio hardware you can buy, running on a MAC with less than 1 GB of ram. Watching audio plug-ins render for 10 minutes before finally being processed was brutal. We had access to other audio programs widely used in the industry, such as Logic, but the amount of time we spent learning these programs was minimal at best, nothing sufficient enough to warrant being able to work in a studio.
In all these cases, save for maybe some of the teachers, AI falls short.
Overall, when choosing a school, one must consider the program’s structure, its resources, teachers, and price. In all these cases, save for maybe some of the teachers, AI falls short. The structure of the program is inflexible with many unneeded courses. Its equipment is all faulty and struggling to stay up-to-date. The teachers are hit and miss. And the price is suffice to say, ridiculously expensive.
In my opinion, if you truly wish to become an audio engineer, buy a book on signal flow, and try intern at a studio and possibly apply to work at a live sound company. You will learn far more in the field than you would ever at this school. If they do try to convince you by saying that they have a great job placement program, well…I can’t name a single person I’ve graduated with who found a job through the career resources department.
I hope this review was helpful and that my own experience has given you a little more insight into the program. For those of you who are planning to attend AI, my advice is that you try to talk to some students who are currently there, and find out straight from them how the program is currently run. After that, make your decision whether the school is right for you.