Guys, hi there! How do you think, what is the probability of successful getting into industry if I'm a bit late? .)))

The fact is that I'm a PhD in robotics, which means that I've got a decent background in math, both analog and digital signal processing, physics (acoustics included) — and if I don't know something, I can always read — but I don't have that magical "Graduated from * in Sound Engineering/Sound Design" in my CV.

Moreover. I think sounds. I feel sounds, I smell sounds and I see sounds. (Well, I'm hyperbolizing a bit :D) What I want to say is that I'm crazy about them. (That's not limited to sound design, of course, but that's not the subject to dicuss on this board.)

After I realised that, from educational standpoint, I don't miss much, I started practical self-training: programming synth sounds from scratch, studying DAW workflow, and all those basic things of operating with sounds "in the box", recording and mixing techniques.

I can't say that I'm supercool, not at all, and there's always room for improvement, but I feel confident about my practical skills now. So, I've started to think, is it even possible for me to move to more serious things, like contributing to real projects, but without college education in this field?

Especially given the fact that the best thing you get in college is a professional network, and I've got none.

So, any thoughts? (Discouraging comments are Ok too .))))


  • 4
    I've gotta say, I'm hopeful that age has nothing to do with it. I'm 28 and just starting out. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:03
  • Yay for that! Good imagination means more than the date in your birth certificate ^^ Good luck, Dave!
    – solipse
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 23:00
  • Age has less to do with it than where you're at re: responsibilities. I'm 27. I've got friends in their 30s who only started a few years ago.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 0:45
  • Thumb up, similar profile there. Good Luck Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 7:46

10 Answers 10


In this biz college means very very little in comparison to your actual proven abilities. this is not science, architecture, medicine or law. No one cares who taught you. Everyone cares what you can actually do.

This is not to say that college can't be a productive, positive thing. Its just to say that a degree is not a requirement for success.

skills are a requirement for success. skills are THE requirement for success.

If you show up with a knockout showreel and no diploma then you'll get hired for a gig every time over someone with a degree from UCLA who's reel sucks.

You seem to be doing the right thing if you want in. Now that your practical skills are servicable start finding short films and other projects to work on. You'll learn tons doing that as well, and in the process you'll be building a network and a showreel.

Once your network and showreel are sufficiently robust, the paying work will begin working itself out for you. You'll have to become a strong businessperson at that point, but really not until then (even if you end up hired on in a staff position, being sensible at business will end up being very important)

alternatively I hear there's pretty good money in robotics. :)


I was thinking about this thread again, and a book i read a while back popped into my head.

check out this book, and check out the comments in the amazon section for a good summary of really great advice.


  • Thank you :) That's exactly how I hoped things are :) PS Naaah. You know well that it's not just about the money .)
    – solipse
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:54
  • The golden phrase I was taught me a colleague is "you're only as good as your last project". That has been quite true in my experience, both personal and outside observation.... and it all owes itself exactly to Rene's wonderful response. Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 3:19
  • I was about to buy the book, but then I remembered the title, so I decided to ignore it.
    – Miles B.
    Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 19:09

LATE TO THE PARTY - This advice will be feature film-centric. I'll start by telling you that I don't know a single person who got a gig because of a degree ... twenty weeks of Junior College here buddy. It's about your creativity.

I started at 30 and have been doing it for close to thirty years now with some success. When I started I was a film geek and a music freak working in a completely different industry and decided to make the leap. What I feel you do need is a love and knowledge of film. Technical knowledge and skill with the machines alone are not enough. You gotta have an ear and you gotta be able to talk the talk with filmmakers and co-workers. When someone references other films or filmmakers styles you need to know what they are talking about. You have to have a sense of what makes a scene work and how it fits in with the film as a whole. You gotta know when to go big and when to go small. You have to be able to tell what feels real. I've found that some have a natural ear for what works and some no matter how brilliant or technically skilled they are just don't have the knack. "Oh that sounds cool" ain't enough. This ability to pick the right sound seems to be something that can't be taught.

You need to know how dialogue is cut and how it fits with what you do, when production sound will play and when it won't. Are the sounds you are providing gonna glue to that production or are they gonna sound separate and floating in space. You need to understand what foley can and cannot do and how it's gears mesh with yours. What's music doing here and am I going to step on it? It's a team sport baby.

You also at times need a thick skin. When someone tells you it isn't working it can be like an arrow to the heart (at least for me). Something you've poured your heart and soul into can get flushed in the blink of an eye and believe it or not there are some in our industry that can be kinda harsh with their criticism, imagine that.

Another discipline you'll have to learn is the dreaded change pass. I think any working sound person will tell you that they spend as much time (and sometimes more) updating for picture changes (recutting the film) and visual fx updates as they do creating the sound in the first place. This is not really a complaint as it keeps us working. Learning how to update pre-dubs and stems is essential.

You also need to be prepared for down time. A gig can last anywhere from weeks to months. I'm lucky in that I'm frequently the "stage guy", meaning I am on the dub stage through the end of the mix where the rest of the crew has been let go weeks before. A film can also "push" going away for weeks or months for recutting or reshooting just when you were going to pay for that new whatever the hell it is. I've seen good editors/designers go for months without work depending on what's going on in the industry.

So in a nutshell (oops too late for that) if you want to earn a living doing this be aware that the feature film sound community is relatively small with people competing for jobs on crews that are getting smaller and smaller, be ready to be the "new guy" at the bottom of the ladder who has to prove himself. Your first gig will not be cutting that cool spaceship or that end of the world sequence. In my opinion you should learn all the disciplines, be low maintenance, be easy to get along with, be dependable, be freaking weirdly creative, always be nice to ALL assistants, accept the fact that your vision isn't always the same as the vision of the powers that be, educate yourself about film and it never hurts to know somebody ...

... or I could be full of shit.

Good luck. Best, Chris Assells

P.S. - I have no clue if any of this applies to the video game industry. P.P.S. - Just found this place, very cool.

  • Thanks for that Chris! That was definitely encouraging from my point of view anyway ;) welcome to SSD too! Looking forward to hearing more from you too :)
    – Andy Lewis
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 9:55
  • Hey Chris, can I know you? Haha! Welcome to SSD. Glad to see you here.
    – Utopia
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 1:25
  • Bah VFX conforms ;) Actually awaiting some right now ironically enough. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 8:06
  • Thanks for a great post! Terrific breakdown of the essentials. Regarding the video game industry, yes, your post absolutely does apply with two very minor exceptions (no need to figure out whether the [nonexistent] production dialogue is useable or not, and gigs may last for weeks to years depending upon the project). Aside from that, every word of your post fits games just as well as film.
    – Tyler
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 6:56

A part of the point of going to school is to prove that you have the ability to put all your effort into one thing and see that something through to the end. You've got/are doing a PhD. Pretty sure you've got that one covered.

Put half the amount of effort into your business as you did/are doing for your doctorate, and you'll be fine.

Plus, you'll get to be that guy who says, "Yeah I can build robots, but whatever. Robots are stupid. Sound is SO much cooler."

  • 1
    What I'd give to have tons of robots to record in my studio! :)
    – Utopia
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:23
  • 1
    Degrees also open doors, but they're just a key -- you still have to decide what you want to do once you're through the door, and prove that you're capable of doing it. In some fields, you can still open the door by brute force alone. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:59
  • 4
    @Solipse, how about starting by making an independent sound library out of your lab?! designingsound.org/sfx-independence Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 23:20
  • 1
    @Filipe - I think you've got a winner there.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 0:43
  • 1
    @Filipe, awesome idea!
    – solipse
    Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 1:01

The remaining 40ish years of your working life is a long time to be wishing you'd taken that other fork in the road.

My boss got into sound post something like 10 years ago, after 30ish years in the music industry.

My dad was a photographer for more than 30 years before getting into web design.

My girlfriend is, in her late 20s, embarking on a degree in psychology.

At the school where i did my MA in sound design, 2 out of the 4 screen composition students were over 35.

I'd go so far as saying that, in this industry, maturity is definitely a bonus. And, as i'm sure you saw in other comments, just mentioning your background in robotics will make you the life of the soundparty and get you bonus points in an interview.

I studied with some awesome people, and they are great contacts to have, but that's because i worked with them. When you work with people, and they see that you're dead keen on sound, you'll have the same thing before too long.

Keep us updated!


Don't delay it more please! I completed my BA on Linguistics and Literature, but sound has been in my mind for about 9 years. First I didn't have the money and social environment to develop skills, then started working, I had the money but no time, then by the time I was 25, 26, I had some money and time but thought I was old for it and lots of discouraging comments such as its being very risky to change career after that age and its being mostly a men-dominated business, blurred my mind. I'm also a dj and video editor and did some short courses on sound and music in the meantime, even appointed as a studio recording assistant at a very good uni when I was doing a short course by the very much amazing and successful tutor and also worked in one of his experimental projects about "feeling sound" (I'm absolute ear, so that helped too) but never dared to take it very seriously to get very technical and didn't even use it as an advantage afterwards because of age-related fears. Now I'm 30, though feeling much younger than 10 years before hehe, regret losing all that valuable time, but I have realized I'll be a very unhappy linguist if I don't try, so, while working part-time, firstly I'm enrolling a technical course covering sound production and music tech, 12 hours a week for about 1,5 years, as I need structure and push for catching-up and I find it more difficult to self-study probably because of daily life-work events interfering.. I still have some fears, worries esp. due to money-related issues, not surprisingly, but I guess they wouldn't kill me..

I think your background would help a lot and you would comprehend lots of technical things easier/quicker than most people. Please don't even think that it is late for it, firstly because it never is & it just slows one down, and secondly it is not helping me to hear about such worries from a 25 year-old when at 30 hehe. I hope it is going well and the motivation is there!


Hi solipse!

I've just read Tim Nielsen's fantastic articles at DesigningSound.


He told about his career pass and if I understood everything right (my English is not yet so good) then he began his career when he was 28 year old. What about such example? :)

I think everything in this world are relatively. Some people can spend several years so that to understand the things which others can feel instinctively. And if you feel that this is yours then nothing can stop you.


You're not too late at all; I started out as a composer/sound designer at 24, and started in my current career in video game audio when I was 26. I think your experience with academia and working on large/complex problems will serve you well. The only other suggestion I have would be to get some work experience in the private sector- especially with clients. There's nothing like having an art director critique you over your shoulder as you work to help develop people and sound design chops :).


like has already been mention, in the audio buisiness education has little to do with your chances of success in the industry. I work in the computer game industry and this applies all the discaplines bar maybe programming at an entry level - basically experience and talent are the keys to success. My favourite example of this are the lead vehicle modeller who is a trained chef (actually- come to think about it I used to have a chef on my team too a few years ago;)) - and I have known a creative director and a couple of designer with the same background as you. As for age 25 that's not really very old, I retrained and started in the games industry when I was 27, and never looked back ;) Follow your instincts and be true to yourself and everything will work out fine.


I would say go for it, buy all the gear and plugins you can, dive right in and it's sink or swim from there


I'm 28, so I hope that age won't count much =). I asked myself that question a dozen times the last few years but I soon realized that it would be stupid to stop trying.

Of course I would love to do high quality stuff and earn a lot of money....but money is not my goal. I accepted the fact that I probably won't earn much money in the near future, but sound stuff has been my hobby since the age of 16 and I can't think of anything else being my future job. Maybe I am a bit too optimistic...but you have to take risks sometimes.

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