Is learning at the SAE Institute worthwhile?

I’m big on education. The more you know the better your music will sound, the more jobs you will get, the more money you will be paid and the more fun you will have. Last week I was talking to a friend of mine in Spain and he was telling me about his experience at the SAE Insitute over there. First off, he told me he paid about 9000€. Immediately I let out a big gulp. Teachers should be paid yes. Equipment is expensive yes… but still. I give him “props” as he’s not a native Spanish speaker and all his classes are in Spanish. Because of this however his grades are low. This doesn’t reflect on his music or drive because his tracks are well produced and he’s involved with some decent commercial work already. However, he complains that he can never get studio time at the school except for early in the morning around 8:00AM. He also mentioned that he has several rotating substitute teachers, none of which he has confidence in. He doesn’t like that they gave him the cheapest Mac laptop (the white one). I guess he should have known which computer he was going to get before entering into the program.

I know this post could be seen as a little controversial but I got the notion it was a good topic because over at the Sound on Sound Magazine forums a new bloak asks what people think about SAE almost daily. Almost daily the reviews are mainly negative. Here’s an example: click here

“i’d do a cost analysis: student loans versus potential income. hmmmmmmm, let’s see… potential income = zero” – Sqye, Gearslutz Forum Member

So are any of you currently enrolled at SAE? What do you think? Any allumni want to chime? Is it worth it? I think a lot of people coming into the music business want to know.

Some forum threads on the subject at Gearslutz: click here and another one.

Published by

Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

448 thoughts on “Is learning at the SAE Institute worthwhile?”

  1. Has anyone attended SAE SF? I am enrolled and want to know how their audio engineering program is. Please leave a review of your experience?

    1. Keep in mind that people are rarely ever motivated to write anything positive about anything..The forces of negativity are way stronger

  2. SAE (Melbourne campus) is extremely unprofessional on so many levels.
    I’m not sure where to start, I’ll start by saying if people are wondering if this course is worth it, (and not just Film Production but I also know people who have done the Audio Course here too,)
    It isn’t worth it, whether you have HECS fees or not, this course is a waste of money, your classes will involve sitting in a classroom for 3 hours with a teacher that will not teach you things but instead talk about your homework for the entire time without teaching you anything, just telling you what you have to do for each assignment. Some of the lecturers are the office ladies, they are very young and VERY unprofessional, they dont know what they are doing most of the time and they giggle and mess around and let students yell out and interrupt them and they encourage it! If you’re over 18 years old you will find this extremely annoying!!
    A few times the classes have involved the teachers getting the students to log onto their facebook infront of the class and write a status on facebook (I kid you not!!) and see who comments on it from part of there friends list. This was some stupid way of them trying to make a point of who tries to get involved in your life! Please keep in mind these are classes are 3,000 dollars a year each! and only once a week. all this money to listen to unprofessional teachers act like teenagers and not teach you a single useful thing. Another time we have had to make a house out of tooth picks! Yes we are asked to do these things in class for both Film and friends have done it in Audio as well. We are paying alot for this school and i can honestly say I have been to every class this Trimester, with an open mind and have not learned anything worth while for film! You are honestly going to get more out of sitting at home on google.
    The Counselor at this school is a young girl probably about 27-30 who is meant to help you out with things such as stress with homework, life at home ect. Well EVERYTHING I have heard about her is that she is extremely hard to talk to, and very immature and doesn’t help out at all! I don’t know how she has this job.

    The lady on the front desk name is Nikki, she stuffed up my partners enrolment about 3 times by ‘losing’ paper work and then forgetting to call him back when he got accepted into the course, he had to call the school the day before school started and lucky he did because she answered the phone and told him “oh you got in!” and told him she had misplaced he’s paperwork and he had to fill things out again.
    To some people this may sound REALLY unprofessional, almost like its made up, but its not and people at this school just get used to this kind of thing happening on a regular basis. That is what this school is like! (or campus, i’m not sure what the other campuses are like)
    We have seen her sitting at the front desk giggling at her computer on a number of occasions and heard the instant message noise you get from facebook when someone talks to you, back and forth. She is also extremely rude and never smiles at students even when you smile at her first.

    There is a person at this school who is disabled and has told me once that she has been at this school for almost two years and is still repeating trimester 1! (A TRIMESTER IS USUALLY COMPLETED IN 3 MONTHS!) This is a clear example of them taking money off people, letting someone with an extreme disability come to this school and not be able to pass 1 trimester, she also told me they haven’t done anything to help her!!
    All this school cares about is taking money off people.

  3. There is a 50 year old student at SAE melbourne who stinks out the entire common room, one time she got up from a couch in the student lounge and the seat was soaked. me and my friends assumed (or hoped) that she had spilt her drink or something and just left it there. but the other night me and some other students saw her running out of a classroom holding the back of her pants peeing herself, yes peeing herself all over the corridor carpet. The worst part is this lady has been at SAE for 2 years, so i dont believe we are the first people to complain to the staff about the smell and the pee she leaves everywhere, and they don’t even clean it? So disgusting.

  4. Our main lecturer at the campus in Oxford is a very well rounded audio type. He knows his circuits, theory and practical applications very, very well. He is not stumped by more advanced questions and will go an extra step to help you understand a concept.
    The supervisors are all active in the industry. Two of them own a studio together and the third works in film. I guess that having to work half-time as a supervisor says something about the general state of the industry but that’s another topic. They do their job well and also know their stuff.

    A lot of people will usually say “use that 18k to make your own studio” etc.
    These people are really misunderstanding one major thing: the SAE doesn’t educate you for the music business, they educate you for the audio business. Lot’s of people are not interested in working in studios. Film and more recently video games are a larger industry than music. Much, much larger in fact, so that both industries make many times over what the music industry does.
    Others are more interested in doing live sound.

    Of course, if you have the connections, you can intern in some great studios or places and get massive hands-on experience. However, 99.9% of the population does not have a relative in the audio business and most studios only give away internships very rarily and even then, mostly to people they know and their relatives OR people from a trusted education facility. It’s up to the specific owner of the business to determine if he trusts the SAE or similar.

    I know people who never did a thing with their education from the SAE and others who now work in the industry. Some at the BBC, some in live venues, a few that went for their own studios…
    It’s definitely not a fool proof decision to go an SAE. If you are already short on cash, I might recommend a different path.

  5. i am but probably not for much longer! basically there is very little extra help for there for people that need the extra help, nobody that works there can tell their arse from their elbow and the classes and information progress at such a fast speed that it is no wonder that i have been left behind and failed my sound theory because i have absolutely no idea what the shit the lecturer was talking about when we were preparing for it. also it seems to be a very arrogant place and the quieter students among campus life get forgotten about. all of this lovely experience sets you back the princely sum of 9000 pounds and id rather go and busk outside aldi’s with a kalimba, a kick drum and a badly behaved capuchin monkey than continue to study here. its killing my buzz for making music but i won’t let it bury the buzz because i love it.

  6. I had a similar experience with the SAE institute in Capetown, South Africa. And surprisingly enough it doesn’t seem that there is a international headquarter of SAE that is giving an opportunity to address criticism. The institute loves to put itself on such a outstanding level of professionalism, but the delivrance is so so poor. Let me tell you: It’s not worth it. Neither for the contacts (most of the teachers are not experienced in the practical field themselves and the other students are often just spoiled or childish kids that think beeing a filmmaker sounds just so cool..) nor for what you learn. some teachers use youtube to teach – so rather youtube yourself or pay a person that is known in the field for some extra private lessons: you will learn way more. even equipement wise it will be difficult to profit: if people looking after the equipement are not skilled you will not even get a tripod that is working…

    1. We take the content of your post seriously (SAE capetown, posted 25 February 2015 at 11:322) and would like to connect with you for an open conversation, to allow the campus an opportunity to address your current dissatisfaction. This conversation would be in the spirit of ensuring we can deliver the experience you were seeking when you enrolled with us in Cape Town. We pride ourselves in superb delivery to our students so your comments come as a shock to us and we would like to address them.

      This conversation would of course be without any risk for you, and is an open and warm invitation. Please feel free to contact me

  7. hey,

    been to SAE London and Sae Amsterdam, i can tell you that it is not a good choice for film, just go to a regular University even if it has been listed as not the best uni it will still be better than SAE.
    Half the time teachers change lesson times which makes it hard to plan around SAE, the equipment is poor and the teachers are unprepared to teach (excluding using youtube videos).
    I have had a hard time trying to get my degree there and have not even finished yet, hope too but the future is uncertain with SAE.

    Stay away from SAE INSTITUTE!!!!

  8. I’m currently studying an MSc., but I’ve decided to take the plunge into music/sound. I was thinking about applying to SAE (in one of the campuses in England) for an audio engineering course. How good are they really? I really want to develop an expertise in the field and from what I see, at least of the other campuses, it is not very special. I have also applied to Berklee with the aim of majoring in MPE. Can someone help out? Are there any other good options out there?

  9. They only care about your money. The only time they’ve shown true passion is when I was late for fees, then they start threatening your stay there. I’m at my major project stage and after getting the all clear on my proposal and having 4 weeks for them to say wether or not it was approved they finally told me it wasn’t, and I was supposed to start this week. The lecturers are extremely difficult to get any decent answers from or any feedback, my class still haven’t had results from 2 modules ago. Ridiculous management and not worth the money, do yourself a favour and try somewhere else, this is a money scam.

  10. I have studied both audio engineering and music business in SAE Madrid and it literally is a waste of time the audio engineering course wasnt that bad apart from trying to reserve the stuido was nearly impossible and the mentor didnt really seem to care much about what you did. The secatary at the school had lost my bank details and i had to pay them for the month i missed and then realised they had changed their bank details without telling me and made it out to be my fault! As for the music business course its an absoulte waste of time and many some of the teacher dont turn up to class, some of them dont have a clue what they are talking about as for example we were led to believe that there is never a contract between an artist and a manager. Most of the teachers are very unprofessional and have made in my opinion very irrational and unprofessional comments about certain artists (they were trying to be funny). There is absoultly no help at all all they seem to care about is getting your money. I have left the school and since all i get is emails saying i am not attending class and they are going to drop me from the course because i wasnt paying them, no care for my wellbeing whatsoever! I could go on but i would be here forever, just dont go, you’ll learn so much more from a book i know i did.

    1. Totally agree!! i finished audio engineering in SAE too, but it was the biggest dissapointment in my life. You learn much better with books and youtube.

  11. Thanks to everybody for commenting and reviewing. I wanted to go to SAE but I wasn’t sure of the level of education because private schools in general aren’t quite reliable. Don’t get me wrong, I know a couple of private uni’s that are better than the public ones but unfortunately most of them are a scam. After all the negative opinions I am now sure that I don’t want’t to do to this school. I feel sorry for the people who made that mistake and wasted their time and money. I agree with the comments saying that the best way to learn is by working and practising. Universities are only preferable for a few certain careers. Once again, thank you guys for your reviews as they were really helpful! Cheers!

  12. Hey, I currently attend SAE institute in NYC for Audio Engineering. Almost all the teachers are very professional and have worked with HUGE artists through out the world. Then again, I’m in NYC lol. I live in NJ though. If you’re passionate about music and creating it then its worth it “almost” the enrollment fee here is around 25,000$. I’d say the entire course is worth 18-20,000$ Tops. Go part time and use your extended time wisely. I’m currently having fun and still learning new things every day.

    1. Hey I’m going to be moving to New York soon to attend SAE… it’s there anyway we can talk. I’m originally from Georgia. I’m a musician/ veteran looking to be an audio engineer and entrepreneur. I’m concerned about how much the public transportation is there and how is.your class schedule

  13. Had an attack of nostalgia and decided to check what’s happening with SAE,so i ended up in this page. In 2006 i got my audio engineering diploma and electronic music production certificate from SAE London. Was it worth the money? Definitely NOT! The two teachers i had were great,don’t get me wrong.
    They knew their stuff and were happy to explain everything with every detail. The problem was that you couldn’t practice the things you were taught. 1)Because most of the equipment wasn’t working properly.You wasted most of your booked time,restarting your computer/project,trying to figure out which connection does work etc.
    2)Booking the studio was really tricky,having 50 guys waiting at the same time.You ended up booking the studio 1 hour here,1 hour there,creating a completely fucked up schedule for yourself.If you had a job you were FUCKED! There were just not enough studios for all the students. Another problem was that some of the exams were evaluated by the supervisors. Most of the supervisors were graduates from the last semester or two semesters before yours.Which means not enough experience to evaluate my exam/project!
    I don’t know how are things now. They changed the location. The changed a lot of teachers. I don’t know how the new studios look like. When i went there the studios didn’t look anything like the pictures i saw in the internet back then. They just posted the pictures from the Australian branch.
    My advice to anyone who wants to study Sound engineering is this:
    Since you have the money to spend for a course,spend it wisely. Find a guy who’s already a pro in live sound. Ask him to be his assistant.Pay him like a private course,since you have the money. Wherever he works,he will have you as an assistant. He will be paid from the club and from you. Ofcourse how much money you’ll agree on i don’t know. But it will be less that these so called “schools”. At the same time apply in every studio you can find. Maybe mop floors in the beginning,but who cares. As long as you’re in there. Then buy a good computer with a cheep DAW and start practicing. There are a lot of free very good plugins out there. All kinds of EQ,compression…whatever. Just practice your ears! A book or two can help you get started,but you can find a LOT of stuff in the internet as well. Either on youtube or blogs with pictures.
    If you’re thinking of moving to another city/country to study,hold back for a year or two. First check the options i wrote above.It’s gonna save you money and time!
    Thanks for reading!

  14. my entire class seems to have almost dropped out at the SaE class in Perth, Australia. If you like watching youtube videos, this class is for you.

  15. Hey there, I went to SAE Amsterdam (currently on my last 2 weeks of Bachelors).

    Just wanted to say if you’re planning to go to SAE Amsterdam for something other than Audio Engineering, then you’ve made a huge mistake. The school is incredibly unorganized when it comes to courses other than AE. I went to Interactive Animation course, there is only one good teacher that is motivated to teach. We complained about the software not being able to run, so students had to share computers, and after a year what was going through their head I think was “So they complained about software and lag for a year, so they want new desktop screens?” I’m serious, they bought new desktops thinking that was the problem.

    Their main focus is customer acquisition and making money. Not giving students a good education. Part of the desktop argument was that it shows how cool and sleek the computer section was to new students, until they joined up and experienced the problematic programs they needed to use.
    We pay the same amount as the AE students, yet the AE students get a laptop in their degree. We don’t. We get crappy gear, couple of crappy teachers and a crappy schedule (that no one really sticks to).

    TL;DR – Their main focus is customer acquisition and making money. I do not recommend SAE Amsterdam (can’t speak for other SAE’s).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *