Sound is one of the fastest growing and progressive design areas in theatre and the entertainment industries – and UCI is well poised to educate, guide and prepare students for a successful career after graduation. The program centers on finding the critical balance of theatrical aesthetic/process, audio engineering, music, and professional practice that is unique to each student. Combined with comprehensive training in and exposure to the latest in sound technology, the UCI Sound Design graduate will be ready for traditional theatre and the digital future.


At UCI Sound Design, we believe that a strong theatrical foundation can be a strong springboard into careers that expand out of theatrical sound design and into other areas. The career paths of our alumni bear this out: some have successful theatre sound design careers in theatre across the globe, but our alumni have also built careers in post-production for film and tv, sound design for theme parks, sound design for circuses, sound design for video games, sound design for immersive environments, sound design education, sound and acoustic consulting for construction projects, and sound consulting for large manufacturers (Meyer Sound Laboratories and L-Acoustics, to name two). 


Generally, only two graduate students are accepted at each year level with a maximum of 6 students in the program. The UCI Sound Grad will design 4 to 6 (or more) fully-supported productions during their tenure and will also likely engage in a number of smaller workshop, experimental, and non-Drama Department designs, both within the School of the Arts and campus-wide. Those majors who desire to specialize in musical theatre sound will work through a series of three steps from Production Sound Engineer to Assistant Designer, and then on to Sound Designer. UCI also has a series of undergraduate sound design courses supporting the Bachelor of Arts program and the sound grad will likely interact with and help mentor these students in-class and in the many student-produced projects each year. There is also the opportunity for graduate students to teach a section of an undergraduate sound design course. Each fully-supported sound design at UCI is critiqued by the Sound Design faculty and students, creating a consistent intellectual discussion and an opportunity for designers to discuss creative challenges and ideas in a real-world setting.


Although no student is guaranteed an award or scholarship, here is the typical package for our Sound Grads:

  • Tuition Waiver (year 1 - resident or out-of-state)
  • Tuition Waiver (years 2 and 3 - obtaining residency required in year 1)
  • Guaranteed acceptance in campus graduate housing. For more information about the 2023-24 Housing benefits click here.
  • Paid Teaching Assistantship (TA) supporting production sound, managing the sound design studios, and optionally for teaching.
  • TA includes partial healthcare benefits

For a more comprehensive look at the value of our MFA, please refer to this chart for the 2023-24 admission cycle.


There is no such thing as a 'typical' UCI Sound Design student. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we believe that the great breadth of their theatrical experience is as valuable as their depth of talent as sound designers. Some students have a background in music. Some, in composition. Some, in recording technology. Some, in musical theatre, media production, or sound art. Some come to us straight from their undergraduate programs; some do not. Some specialized in sound design as undergraduate students; some did not. The breadth of experience among the students can only make for a more dynamic and valuable creative environment. Truly, the only 'typical' characteristics of a UCI Sound student are a high level of aural creativity and a proven record of problem-solving in the theatre.

Our applicants come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and differences in access to resources and mentorship can create wide discrepancies in educational accomplishments and strength of portfolio. Because of that we are very careful to evaluate our applicants based on their potential for growth and success at UCI Sound, not their accomplishments before their applications.  

As we only accept two students each year, entrance to the program is competitive. Even so, we do not look specifically for students to come from a program specializing in sound design. Rather, we look for students who have a working understanding of technical theatre and a rounded theatrical education, possibly including history, acting, directing, design, criticism, or education.

Most importantly, we look for students who have a passion for all things sound!


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