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  • Tuition Fee:
  • Local: $ 58.8k / 1 year
  • Foreign: $ 58.8k / 1 year
  • Languages of instruction:
  • English
  • Deadline:
  • 17 January 2017
  • StudyQA ranking:
  • 736pts.
  • Duration:
  • 1 year

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    The Northwestern master's degree in Sound Arts and Industries (SA&I) creates a new kind of sound professional, one with a wide range of knowledge and skills that can be applied to any number of growing sound-based industries and forms of artistic expression.

    The sound professionals who emerge from our program have an understanding of the sonic world that encompasses cutting-edge approaches to sound art, the neurophysiology of hearing, and the social and cultural history of the sonic world. They have hands-on experience with the latest audio production technologies, and an up-to-date awareness of multiple sound industries. They are conversant in Sound Studies – a vital area of academic study at the crossroads of the humanities and sciences – and they are ready to add their voice to a new wave of sound art that is echoing across media industry sectors from podcasting to Hollywood sound design to major museum exhibits.

    The MA in Sound Arts and Industries offers a unique opportunity to become that kind of well-rounded sound professional through an innovative approach to interdisciplinary teaching, learning, research and development. The program draws upon Northwestern’s world-class faculty and stimulating creative environment. Students take courses in sound creation and design, sound studies, the science of sound and other many other topics with faculty in departments such as Radio-TV-Film, Performance Studies, Music Theory and Cognition, Communication Sciences and Disorders, African-American Studies, Linguistics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Our students thus sit in a sonic sweet spot that integrates the arts, humanities and sciences. They become members of an intimate community of sound storytellers, scholars, designers and innovators.

    No matter what your specific interests or background, Northwestern has the tools you need to become a sound professional in the arts and the academy, programming and the sciences, media and entertainment. Students take advantage of Northwestern’s state-of-the-art sound facilities, which include a newly renovated sound production lab, multiple sound editing stations, cutting-edge audiology facilities, and one of the best student radio stations in the country. Our students take advantage of a vibrant artistic and academic culture that is sustained through yearly conferences on emerging topics related to sound, as well as regular visits from world-famous professionals in sound science, sound studies, sound art, aural health and a range of sound industries.

    The creative environment at Northwestern gives our sound professionals the opportunity to develop as innovators and collaborators. The MA in Sound Arts and Industries is part of a suite of professional programs at Northwestern, and our students interact and collaborate with writers, filmmakers, artists, and performers in the MFA in Documentary Media, the MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage and the MS in Creative Enterprises. The booming culture of sound extends to nearby Chicago, a historical hub of radio production and home of major podcast producers as well as the Third Coast International Audio Festival, a vibrant theater and comedy scene, students and practitioners of acoustic ecology, and a world-renowned music scene.

    4 Core Courses (1 credit each)
    5 Elective Courses (1 credit each)
    1 Study in Sound
    1 Summer Internship (3 credits)
    TOTAL: 12 credits

    Students are expected to maintain a B average.


    The four core courses of the MA curriculum – in sound studies, sound production, sound science and sound industries – embody the innovative approach to sound that is only available at Northwestern. You will work with artists and designers to develop skills at recording and mixing audio. You will acquire deep knowledge of the culture and politics of sound from scholars and historians. You will study with researchers to understand the neurophysiology of hearing. You will learn about the workings of the sound industries from Northwestern faculty as well as visiting artists and executives.

    When you leave the program, you will have an understanding of sound that extends from the neurons in your brain, to the waves in the air, to performances that convene audiences, to the technologies and industries that carry those sounds around the world.

    Core courses (4) - Each course is 1 credit
    SAI 500 – Introduction to Sound Studies A grounding in Sound Studies designed for sound professionals, bringing together research that analyzes sound as a creative practice, a powerful form of cultural expression, and as a sensory mode integral to our lives. Students take this course at the same time as the production course SAI 501. As a result, students are prompted to simultaneously learn how sound works and how sound means, an interplay that is unique to our program. Students will be introduced to a range of sound-based industries and learn how they work together.
    SAI 501 – Introduction to Sound Production Covers the central skills used by sound professionals working across a variety of audio-related professions. The class will be divided into three main sections: 1) fundamentals of sound (from the production standpoint), 2) analog audio technology, and 3) digital audio technology. In each section, learning will be reinforced by hands-on demonstrations in the studio and the classroom.
    SAI 502 – Introduction to Sound Science Explores how speech and music are processed by the nervous system. Auditory learning and the brain’s ability to change with sonic experience will be explored through a range of case studies related to vocal learning (birdsong), auditory expertise (bilinguals and musicians), and training and remediation strategies for the treatment of communication difficulties. Students are shown the vital social implications of sound science through discussions of hearing health, music education, and clinical approaches to communication disorders.
    One of several Sound Industries courses These courses provide an overview of and orientation to one or more sound-based industries.


    Elective courses (5) - Each course is 1 credit
    Sample electives (the following courses are not always offered each year):
    Aural Storytelling
    Field Recording
    Sound and Vision: Narrative
    Sound and Ethnography
    Sound in Science Fiction Film
    Sound Art
    Multichannel Sound
    Sound in Animation
    Theatre Sound
    Contemporary Podcasting
    Documentary Sound
    Sound and the Clinic
    History of Recording
    Queer Musicality
    Game Sound
    Speech Perception
    Electronic Dance Music
    Sound Cultures

    Other Requirements

    Students are required to present a “Study in Sound” consisting of work completed during coursework at a Spring Symposium. These can take the form of an installation, soundtrack, podcast, documentary, performance piece, research essay, or a variety of other formats and genres.

    Students are required to complete a Summer internship (3 credits) in conjunction with the satisfactory completion of an online course. Our program has a dedicated staff member to help find an internship at a corporation, radio station, production house or community organization, working with our alumni networks and industry and community partners to find the right fit. Where an internship may not be feasible for a student, a thesis option is available.

    A typical student schedule might appear as follows:

    Quarter Courses


    Intro to Sound Studies [Required]
    Intro to Sound Production [Required]


    Advanced Sound Production or Elective
    Intro to Sound Science [Required]


    Seminar in Sound Production or Elective
    Topics in Sound Industries [Required]



    USA requirements for international students

    Each university in the Unites States of America sets its own admission standards so there isn't the same criteria for all the students and the university can decide which applicants meet those standards. The fee for each application is between $35 to $100. 

    After the selections of the universities you want to attend, the best of all would be to contact each university for an application form and more admission information for the international students. Moreover, for a graduate or postgraduate program it's necessary to verify the admission requirements. Some programs require that you send your application directly to their department. 

    Admissions decisions are based on students's academic record and different test scores, such as TOEFL, the SAT or ACT (for undergraduate programs) and GRE or GMAT (for graduate programs). Admission decision is based on your academic results and motivation.

    University requirements

    Program requirements


    • Completed online application, including a statement of purpose, resume, and $40 application fee.
    • The names and addresses of three (3) persons who will submit recommendations for you. Recommenders should be familiar with your professional or academic work and should be able to comment meaningfully on your potential for success in a graduate course of study.
    • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. An unofficial copy of each transcript should be included with the online application. Once admitted, official transcripts must be submitted before the first day of classes.
      • Official transcripts must be sent in envelopes sealed by the issuing colleges or universities. PDF files originating from the issuing college or university are acceptable when sent directly to the Admissions Office at Transcripts not received in this manner are not considered official and will not be accepted.
      • Applicants who earned or will earn their bachelor’s degree outside of the U.S. must submit all transcripts to Educational Credential Evaluators ( or World Education Services ( for a course-by-course verification. Applications will not be reviewed without the degree verification. Note that many departments at Northwestern University use these services, so please be sure to select the MA in Sound Arts and Industries program as the recipient of your evaluation.  Foreign transcripts sent directly to our office will not be accepted.
    • TOEFL score for international applicants
      • A minimum overall score of 100 is required with a minimum score of 26 on the “Speaking” section. Students with TOEFL scores below these standards will not be accepted. The test must have been administered no more than two years prior to the application date. The program does not accept the IELTS test.
      • The TOEFL may be waived for applicants who earned their bachelor’s or graduate degree from a university where English was the primary language of instruction.


    • Program-based Funding. Merit-based grants are available from the MASA&I program. If the applicant is selected for a grant, it will be included in the admission offer letter. Scholarships are not currently available for international applicants.
    • University-based Funding
    • Global Education
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