Starting a career in audio... Advice? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 03-24-2014, 08:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello, I would like to pursue a career in sound but I am not exactly sure of a direction to go in... So I was wondering if anyone had any advice.

I am currently a senior in high school, 18 years old, and will be going off to college this fall. I will try to be as specific as I can...

My dream would be to work for IMAX, unfortunately they are a Canadian based company and I would prefer to stay here in the United States. I have reached out to them though, I am suppose to be calling them tomorrow to talk to someone from the HR department... I know they have a few "branches" here in the United States so I will look more into them. If I could actually specialize to work with the Private IMAX program, I'd be ecstatic but I don't know how to go about it. Hopefully tomorrow they will give me more direction. Anyways I want to reach out to a few other companies, I have been thinking maybe Christie, VIA, and local companies. The only bad part is... I am not exactly sure what part of sound I want to be in.. I would love to do the installs and make everything come alive. I am not interested in designing the speakers/amps/equipment themselves. I am more interested in the design of the room, the system going in the room, and creating that aspect of it..

I am currently the sound tech for my high school auditorium, I know that is probably not the greatest start but I absolutely love what I do... I mix events, I mic people, I setup the stage monitors etc pretty much everything audio related we need, I do... The school I attend is a um.. well off school. I really hate to come off as arrogant or stuck up but we compete with the top 2-3 schools in the state (public schools speaking)... We have a good, well off auditorium. The only reason I say that is because some schools don't have an auditorium or not a very great program. I currently use a Allen and Heath GL2800 48 channel console, 22 Sennheiser G3 mics, Countrymen B3 lavs, QSC K monitors, various dynamic and condenser mics. The auditorium holds 1,250 people.. My first time mixing in front of that many people was exciting to say the least... Our house system.. is ...tragic but we are getting a remodel this summer. Overall it is roughly $450K but audio is just a small portion at $142K. Not that, that helps me at all.

I have read various books about sound and live sound, I have just started the "Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook". It is difficult at times because there is no one at my school that can teach me anymore about sound... Our manger isn't an audio person, our lighting student knows the basics of how to turn everything on. I mostly annoy/confuse them when I try to go in depth about audio... So I am stuck for the time being. I only have 9 weeks left though.

I am waiting to see when our board approves the renovation, when that happens, I am going to contact the company doing the sound portion of the install and ask if I can possibly come in from time to time and observe and ask questions...

I am completely open to going to colleges like Purdue, Ball State, IU etc. My first three years of college are paid for by the state so that rules out colleges that are out of state. I have read some people recommend electrical engineering with an emphasis in acoustics.

So right now, I come from live sound but I want to transition more into cinema... which probably means my foundation at the school won't really help me... but it is better than nothing.. I may stay in live but right now my focus is in a cinema direction...

I know going from being the only sound guy that does everything to going to the bottom doing the "grunt" work will suck but I should be able to learn more.

Any advice on what college to attend for what program and any other pointers would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Austin
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post #2 of 19 Old 03-24-2014, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
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post #3 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Aus1095 View Post

Hello, I would like to pursue a career in sound but I am not exactly sure of a direction to go in... So I was wondering if anyone had any advice.

My best advice:

Being an exceptionally good operator of a live sound system is IME right up there with being a guitar player when it comes to making your fortune or even get minimum wage for a full work week.

Its a lot of fun but if you want to raise a family and have a stable job get a degree in something like $Engineering, Finance, Medical Technology or IT and plan on making that your life's work.
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post #4 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 08:22 AM
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Actually, the guitar player has a one in a thousand chance of making a lot of money...maybe.

Working as a sound technician or in a recording studio is pretty iffy from a career standpoint.

Most of the guys I know of who work in that field have other jobs to pay the bills and work in the music field intermittently, when something comes along.

If you can work at something with flexible hours, like real estate or selling cars, or painting houses, and then do the sound man thing on the side, that can work.

I am reminded of the title of a record album..."Don't Give Up Your Day Job".
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post #5 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 11:18 AM
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My career as a professional musician and running sound for various groups (some fairly big name) made me into the engineer I am today... smile.gif It is a better hobby than career. That said, if you are passionate about it, there are schools dedicated to teaching you the art and science of audio, from mixing to mastering to acoustic design. Pick up a few pro audio magazines and look at the adverts. Some colleges also have good programs though I can't recall them off-hand.

"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #6 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 11:31 AM
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A lot of really good advice here. You could become very successful at pro sound and mixing, but any job that is that much fun is very desirable - the more desirable the job the harder it is to get paid for it or to be good enough to make it an actual career. Not as glamorous as a rock star, a professional athlete, or an actor where the odds are 10,000 : 1 of making it, but still the odds are against you. Education is one way that you could differentiate yourself from all the others - why would they hire a new sound guy with no experience when they could hire you with a background in electronics or engineering.

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post #7 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

My best advice:

Being an exceptionally good operator of a live sound system is IME right up there with being a guitar player when it comes to making your fortune or even get minimum wage for a full work week.

Its a lot of fun but if you want to raise a family and have a stable job get a degree in something like $Engineering, Finance, Medical Technology or IT and plan on making that your life's work.

I have heard that a lot with doing live sound and even studio work.. The work is inconsistent and simply not stable. That is why I have been trying to look more at companies like IMAX, Christie, and VIA. I really don't think I will stay with live sound though. Even if you find something consistent, the pay is just well generally low. Unfortunately there is not much money in live theater.
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Actually, the guitar player has a one in a thousand chance of making a lot of money...maybe.

Working as a sound technician or in a recording studio is pretty iffy from a career standpoint.

Most of the guys I know of who work in that field have other jobs to pay the bills and work in the music field intermittently, when something comes along.

If you can work at something with flexible hours, like real estate or selling cars, or painting houses, and then do the sound man thing on the side, that can work.

I am reminded of the title of a record album..."Don't Give Up Your Day Job".

I haven't thought about that.. My brother is starting his company up, I could work with that and do little sound events on the side more as a hobby. It seems doing sound as your career is very um sketchy...
Quote:
Originally Posted by DonH50 View Post

My career as a professional musician and running sound for various groups (some fairly big name) made me into the engineer I am today... smile.gif It is a better hobby than career. That said, if you are passionate about it, there are schools dedicated to teaching you the art and science of audio, from mixing to mastering to acoustic design. Pick up a few pro audio magazines and look at the adverts. Some colleges also have good programs though I can't recall them off-hand.

I know Full Sail has been pushing a lot of advertisements recently. My old manager went to Full Sail but he doesn't recommend it... I was hoping to transition into more of a cinema field than live field... I love live but A its unstable and B it doesn't pay much... If it does, I haven't seen the jobs where it does.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtn-tech View Post

A lot of really good advice here. You could become very successful at pro sound and mixing, but any job that is that much fun is very desirable - the more desirable the job the harder it is to get paid for it or to be good enough to make it an actual career. Not as glamorous as a rock star, a professional athlete, or an actor where the odds are 10,000 : 1 of making it, but still the odds are against you. Education is one way that you could differentiate yourself from all the others - why would they hire a new sound guy with no experience when they could hire you with a background in electronics or engineering.

Well I wouldn't want to get a degree in engineering and then not make any money... That would be my only concern with that...

I spoke with IMAX today, they mostly said Mechanical or Electrical engineering. Most of the sound guys live in Toronto Canada... I can call back in the summer if I want to talk to the actual sound guys, not just the HR department.
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post #8 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 01:40 PM
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My interest in electronics and audio was the reason that I got my degree in Electrical Engineering - though my interests (and the job market) ended up steering me away from analog electronics and toward digital electronics and firmware / software. But that has been a good thing as those are high demand jobs with good prospects and if you work hard you are going to do well - no luck involved. I hate steering people toward careers that are difficult to get and have very limited opportunity because success is often a matter of luck or "who you know" to get into the business.

Get your education and continue your interest and side jobs in pro audio, but have a backup plan of other interests and professional pursuits. If you get that dream job you will be happy, but if it never happens you will still have a great career path and can use your pro audio interests as a side job, volunteer work, at school or church, or maybe all of the above. Good Luck.
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post #9 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 06:55 PM
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I was exactly in your shoes 12 years ago (wow, time flies!) and currently work as an audio circuitry engineer for a big microphone company....

Along the way, I received several offers to do live sound professionally, but turned them down in favor of the pay and stability of an engineering gig. I bring it up because if you're good, the doors will open in the venues you're pursuing. The important thing is taking every audio opportunity that comes your way and put yourself in position to become known. And if you suck, then you have a solid degree to fall back on....but make sure you get the degree first.

Btw, good electrical engineers with a solid audio background are actually quite rare. Probably because nobody is ever looking to change jobs - ya, it's that fun wink.gif

One other bit of advice: the best live sound engineers are the most humble fun to be around people. It's hard when you're a young punk high school kid, haha, but try to get out of the mode of proving yourself. smile.gif Be that cool kid that asks a lot of intelligent questions and tries to make everyone around you look good. People (including profs) will think you're smarter when you let them tell you how smart they are wink.gif
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post #10 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 06:59 PM
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I also wanted to echo mtn-tech in that you can always keep audio as a hobby, and it can quite easily pay for itself too. I think it makes it more fun when your livelihood doesn't depend on it either.
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post #11 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aus1095 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

My best advice:

Being an exceptionally good operator of a live sound system is IME right up there with being a guitar player when it comes to making your fortune or even get minimum wage for a full work week.

Its a lot of fun but if you want to raise a family and have a stable job get a degree in something like $Engineering, Finance, Medical Technology or IT and plan on making that your life's work.

I have heard that a lot with doing live sound and even studio work.. The work is inconsistent and simply not stable. That is why I have been trying to look more at companies like IMAX, Christie, and VIA. I really don't think I will stay with live sound though. Even if you find something consistent, the pay is just well generally low. Unfortunately there is not much money in live theater.

I have a friend who ended up going that route sorta. He dropped out of an engineering program at the University of Michigan. became a roady, moved up to being a motion picture equipment install and repair guy, a non-degreed engineer ("designer") at a place that made recording consoles, and became one of the two top tech guys at Motown when they were in Detroit but maybe not quite in that order. To make ends meet his wife worked full time as a school teacher all along, including through two pregnancies. He eventually went back to school, got his Engineering degree, and hooked up with several professional organizations and then opened a fairly successful audio consulting firm. Owning a business like that needs an end game which he swung by becoming an executive with an speaker manufacturer and then an OEM car audio field engineering group. Obviously there was a fair amount of right time and right place in this story. I don't think he could come close to doing as well if he started out today.

I quickly grasped that audio was a much better avocation than a day job, obtained my degree ASAP, did a lot of fun things as part time gigs, made a little money, but paid the bills with IT.
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post #12 of 19 Old 03-25-2014, 10:04 PM
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If one is interested in an Electrical Engineering career, it's possible to obtain a deep insight into modern audio signal processing by studying in the field of Digital Signal Processing (DSP). This area has a very broad range of applicability both inside and outside of audio and likely won't be going away anytime soon. You can see some audio-centric treatment of this subject at this Stanford professor's web site. I missed a great opportunity to study in this area when I was younger. I still regret that. The DSP area should be a fertile one for a variety of employment opportunities for many years, although you'd almost surely be working outside of audio in this role.
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post #13 of 19 Old 03-26-2014, 10:10 AM
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Send a PM to member "Roger Dressler" he's @ Dolby now and could give you "sound advice" - besides the great advice given already.

Google him + Dolby, do some research before you contact him.

If audio is your passion, and you are truly driven by it, go for it.
Money should NEVER be a driving factor for your career, rather what motivates you should decide your career direction.
Money is a side benefit of having a successful career, and people recognizing your contributions fueled by your passion.
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post #14 of 19 Old 03-28-2014, 11:46 AM
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Money should NEVER be a driving factor for your career, rather what motivates you should decide your career direction.

I think there needs to be some balance to that statement....

I absolutely agree that you should guide your decisions by what motivates you, but any decision must be based on a lucrative option. Being able to meet your current and future needs is a minimum requirement before pursuing more enjoyable occupations.

To put that in perspective, I had job offers for double what I started as an audio engineer - I could make that decision because the audio engineer position was enough to meet my current and future needs.

There is also a lot of merit to having a degree to fall back on for the time when you inevitably get laid off. The audio industry is small and there is no guarantee that another audio job will be available when you're looking for work. A degree gives you more options in other fields so that you're not starving in the meantime.

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post #15 of 19 Old 03-29-2014, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MBentz View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Money should NEVER be a driving factor for your career, rather what motivates you should decide your career direction.

I think there needs to be some balance to that statement....

I absolutely agree that you should guide your decisions by what motivates you, but any decision must be based on a lucrative option. Being able to meet your current and future needs is a minimum requirement before pursuing more enjoyable occupations.

To put that in perspective, I had job offers for double what I started as an audio engineer - I could make that decision because the audio engineer position was enough to meet my current and future needs.

There is also a lot of merit to having a degree to fall back on for the time when you inevitably get laid off. The audio industry is small and there is no guarantee that another audio job will be available when you're looking for work. A degree gives you more options in other fields so that you're not starving in the meantime.

I agree MBentz your feedback, my statement is too black/white, of course everything in balance, a more appropriate worded statement would have been:
"Money should never be the main factor for your career choice, rather what motivates you should be one of the primary factors that decide your career direction.
Then, you need to do research and see what level of education/experience is needed to have a 'good standard' of living"

This will make clear if coming directly from undergrad, Grad, or tech school what salary to expect, and then after 5 years possible salary.
Thereby allowing one to have upfront mindset how much college/trade school is req'd, and plan how to finance that thru graduation/etc.

Of course then that leaves 'good standard' of living open to interpretation.....but that's really OT this thread.

fwiw: I was on my college Alumni Board of Directors for 5 years, served as secretary and vice president, of course I'm pro education, as much as each student can accomplish, that is something people can never take away from you. I always encourage my staff to take more education, get their advanced degree(s).

Btw, a search on "career" for all AVS forum, title only:
http://www.avsforum.com/newsearch?Search=SEARCH&action=disp&advanced=1&byuser=&containingforum[]=203&newer=1&numupdates=&order=descending&output=all&replycompare=gt&resultSortingPreference=recency&sdate=0&search=career&sort=relevance&titleonly=1

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post #16 of 19 Old 03-30-2014, 07:13 PM
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There is some great advise here. - MBentz, mtbdudex, AndyC56, mtn-tech.

One very generalized way to divide the different AV vocations is the following:

A. Live sound (no formal education required). These jobs can be with a particular theatre or theater (although you want the theatre), dedicated to a group, or with a sound company. The job with the sound company include roadies, mixers, set-up, tear-down, general maintenance.

B. Studio sound (no formal education required) These are usually independent sound jobs or you work for a studio - engineer, 2nd, tech, etc. Note that producer is typically NOT included in this, unless a producer owns his own studio.

C. Audio contractor - get a job with an AV contractor (no formal education required, but if you have a PE, business degree, or PMP, you are a VERY attractive candidate). These are jobs where you will perform the physical installation and include, installation technician, project management, designer, and control system programmer. (this and manufacturing may be the most stable of audio careers)

D. Manufacturing (no formal education required for sales positions, but technical and business positions almost a must). Jobs include, R&D, manufacturing, assembly, sales, reps, business types.

E. Consulting (formal education almost a must). This is purely design of AV systems and acoustics. PE is very common, either electrical or acoustics.

F. Movie and TV (no formal education required). Field recording, SFX, re-recording, mixing, mastering.

 

Audio Resources:

General audio -The Yamaha, which is a great starting point - for a long time considered the bible of sound reinforcement. There is a JBL one out now that takes things a bit further - mainly sound reinforcement, but touches on a lot of other aspects of sound.

Acoustics - If you want to explore acoustics, F Alton Everest's Master Handbook of Acoustics is a great intro. After that, the math gets quite hairy and in depth.

Electrical engineering - If you are interested in the PE side of electrical engineering for audio then Davis and Petronis Sound Engineering Handbook is a must.

TV and film - There are some mixing books for TV and film which introduce good aspects of terminology and general ideas about production and post-production audio.

Audio installation - Certified Technology Specialist book and certification program. I highly recommend it if you are looking to get into the AV business at any level. They have some online resources as well as classes for general, design and installation (the classes can be a bit pricey) 

There are a slew of books on DSP design - this is going to be bigger than the electronic component engineering in the future years. The way sound it going, the electronics are becoming more agnostic making the software the most important aspect. As mentioned above, Stanford has a phenomenal program.

Mixing - this http://www.amazon.com/Mixing-Engineers-Handbook-Second-Edition/dp/1598632515 Mixing Engineers Handbook is the single best resource for mixing I have come across. 

 

I recommend, as almost everyone above, go and get a degree. If you love the "sound" aspect of sound than check out physics, with an emphasis in acoustics. If you like the electronics, go for an EE or DSP design degree. Regardless of if you actually use them, and end up as a surround re-recording mixer, you'll be glad you have them. I do not recommend a "mixing" or audio certificate program or "digital arts" degree. - maybe the digital arts one is okay depending on where its from. These degrees won't teach you much more than you can get from on-the-job experience. Find a university with a performing arts center or TV/film program. Take as many classes as you can, or work in these departments while getting your degree.

 

All of the above has been reduced at the disservice of what the vocations really are. I have generalized and lumped a lot of aspects together. I hope this helps - good luck.

Find something you love to do and do it the best you possibly can.

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post #17 of 19 Old 03-30-2014, 08:11 PM
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Quote:
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Money should NEVER be a driving factor for your career, rather what motivates you should decide your career direction.

I think there needs to be some balance to that statement....

Agreed. My father told me "Take the most lucrative job offer because after a while any job gets boring". Seems cynical, eh?

I've followed my father's advice and also not followed his advice. Some jobs are more boring than others, but many that seem exciting in the beginning do get old.

The big paycheck and what it can buy you and your family can mitigate a lot of boredom with a job. A too-small paycheck gets old pretty fast.

Most jobs aren't lifetime commitments, and many jobs end for reasons you have no control over. You'll probably have several options to reconsider your job strategy.
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post #18 of 19 Old 03-31-2014, 06:18 AM
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The old saying is "How do you make a million dollars in the audio business? You start with TWO million"

This can be a hard business to make a good career at.

I was lucky and had a wife that supported me-and it took 20 years before I started making a decent living wage in this business.

I would look for a job with an install company and learn from them.

There are all sorts-pro audio-home etc.

Of course what you learn greatly depends on the type of company and the quality of the company. There are LOTS of companies out there simply doing things wrong-but they get by with it. Not much to learn from there.

You will have to start at the bottom-pulling wire-hanging speakers and so forth.

How far you go GREATLY depends on YOUR willingness to learn-especially when not on the clock. Read lots of books-read forums like this (other good ones are http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php and http://soundforums.net/forum.php )

There is A LOT to learn-and the more you learn the more you realize how little you actually know.

Danley Sound Labs

Physics-not fads
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post #19 of 19 Old 03-31-2014, 07:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aus1095 View Post

If I could actually specialize to work with the Private IMAX program, I'd be ecstatic but I don't know how to go about it.
I don't know that the IMAX Private cinema will be a success. We were part of it prior to it being released in public and could not get customers interested. It is priced way too high ($3M in the initial program). We have a $300K theater at Madrona and customers would look at that and say they can't imagine wanting anything better. So if you want to go to IMAX, be sure you like everything else they do and not just this specific program.
Quote:
I have read various books about sound and live sound, I have just started the "Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook".
That is a superb book which teaches far more about general audio than the title indicates. A little story on that. When I bought my copy in 1990s, I took it to Japan with me to read while on a business trip. I had it with me on the long shuttle bus trip to the hotel from the airport. I read a bit and then got sleeping and put it in the pocket of the seat in front of me. Needless to say, I get off the bus and completely forget about it. The next day I went looking for it realizing that I had left it on the bus. I was sure that I would never see it again. Just in case, I told the hotel lobby about it. The next day I see this very nice envelop with my name on it on the bed. I open it and it is my book!
Quote:
I am completely open to going to colleges like Purdue, Ball State, IU etc. My first three years of college are paid for by the state so that rules out colleges that are out of state. I have read some people recommend electrical engineering with an emphasis in acoustics.
An electrical engineering degree from Purdue is highly prized so if it is mostly paid for, you should go for it. That said, they will not teach you hardly anything useful for your dream job. Sad to say but that is the state of affair in our educational system. Adding insult to injury, you will be subjected to some difficult topics like math. If you are weak in that,don't go that route. Instead, get some kind of technical BS degree. It is better to have that, than failing at electrical engineering. In parallel with that, you should continue working at places that are fun and educational.

Good luck there.

Amir
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