If you plan on working in the entertainment industry and intend to go to college first (this wasn't always necessary, but most jobs do require a degree now), the good news is you have far more choices than existed even when I began college. What was once a very rare degree usually only available at private colleges that could afford to build recording studios, has become fairly commonplace at countless institutes of higher learning. Even my local community college offers courses related to the entertainment business. The bad news is, endless options makes it far more difficult to decide where to apply and ultimately which program to choose. So, what the heck should you look for when it comes to choosing a music or entertainment industry degree program? We'll start with a few basics today and keep updating the list in the future.
Location, Location, Location
This adage isn't just about real estate. You probably think it's important to go to the best school or degree program you can afford so that when you graduate your resume will list a well respected institution. That may be true to an extent, but you may be better off changing that theory to the best school you can afford in the location you like the most. What exactly does that mean? Well, let's say you know you really want to live New York City someday. You apply to schools in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York but you don't get into your first choice in New York. You do get accepeted into a lesser known program in New York but those schools that accepeted you in Philadelphia and Chicago are far more prestigious. You should go to one of them, right? Well, only you can decide what is right for you and which school will make you happy. However, you should take into account that the school you choose to attend is also the place you will spend the next 4-5 years of your life. It is where you will make amazing new friends, build relationships with professors, discover great restaurants and hangouts, and make new contacts in your industry. It won't just be hard emotionally to leave these connections behind at graduation, it will also be more difficult to find a job many miles away from your main network. That being said, it doesn't mean it is impossible to go to school in Chicago and move to another city later, or even to do summer internships in another city. You just have to be willing to put in the extra time and effort it will likely take to make it happen.
Internships and Co-ops
Internships are by far one of the most powerful tools when it comes to networking, learning, building your resume, and gaining invaluable skills and experience. You should do as many as you possibly can and start as early as you can. Ideally, you will be able to have several solid internship experiences by the time you graduate to help you qualify for you dream job (not to mention help you pinpoint exactly what that dream job is). In many cases though, internship programs require you get some sort of schol credit in the form of a required internship or co-op or course credit, which means your school likely needs to be on board and supporting you in your endeavors. There are some schools though that will limit the number of internships you can do or have set rules about when you can do them. For example, they may say you cannot begin interning until your junior year. The trouble here is that internships are absolutely essential for learning about the industry, building a network, learning about yourself, and building skills and experience. The more you intern, the better your chances will be of getting a job when you graduate. Don't believe me? Check out this infographic based on several studies.
Real World Opportunities
Real world learning doesn't have to take place solely at an internship. These days, many colleges have their own venues, student-run record labels, concert series or festivals, radio stations, and many other ways to learn by doing. Many schools also have a local chapter of MEISA and many major cities offer GRAMMY U memberships for students. Additionally, you can find opportunities off campus by joining a street team for a local venue or performing at a nearby open mic night. When you go take a tour of campus, don't just ask about dorm life and food (though those things are very important too). Find out what kind of opportunities are available for real-world learning and networking both on and off campus. These activies allow you to build your knowledge, network, and resume without actually completing an internship.