Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Sound Design MSc

Awards: MSc

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Sound Design

If you've studied sound or music technology at university, been working in sound professionally, or if you've been experimenting with sound as a composer, designer, sound artist or engineer and are looking for a way to develop your voice, this programme may be for you.

We balance challenging practical project work with theoretical study and this creates an inspiring and motivating work environment. We also run an annual festival of experimental electronic music called Dialogues, which students often participate in.

Studying for an MSc in Sound Design will expand your craft and appreciation of opportunities for sound design across a range of media, musical and artistic practices. Our programme is practice-led and strongly interdisciplinary and we encourage students to create innovative and expressive sound media including the study of:

  • film sound
  • interactive game-audio design
  • sound installation and sonic art
  • sound software design
  • creative music and compositional practices

Our programme has over 20 years’ experience of teaching, learning and exploring the limits of sound design as a creative practice, academic discipline and career training. Our students are an international cohort of sound enthusiasts, working in a stimulating practical context, and make use of a wide-range of production studios, software and hardware in a lively university environment.

Graduates of the programme will have professional, practical, analytical and intellectual skills to take into sound-related industries or further study.

You will study a broad, flexible and integrated range of key and emerging sound design practices in the context of contemporary media. Students are taught across the ECA campus in a range of locations through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • practical sessions
  • critique

External professionals in the field of sound design and related areas provide occasional input to support this.

Across two taught semesters the programme develops and consolidates sound design skills. It explores the creative and expressive potential for sound editing, sound processing, and the ways sound can support interactions and narratives, create spaces and meaning, and through creative coding change according to context.

The programme concludes with a self-directed but supervised research-led final design project over the summer period in an appropriate area of sound design. Our overall objective across the year is to support the development of personal skills, insights and experience while encouraging a rounded, outlook that has a wide appreciation of the issues of sound design in a range of creative contexts.

The Reid School has five production studios in stereo or 5.1 configurations. There are numerous labs and maker spaces across the campus and various bookable venues available for live performances, recording experiments and installations. There is also a bank of music practice rooms available in the basement of the Reid School of Music.

We have developed two new 360-degree audio mixing spaces which are available for experiments in VR, AR, Dolby Atmos and ambisonics. We have stocked our studio cupboard with a wealth of microphones, location recorders, cameras, speakers, cables and VR equipment available for booking and flexible use.

Since 2019, the Reid School of Music has enjoyed the benefits of being an All Steinway School with 28 pianos available for performance and rehearsal across the campus.

Students who follow this programme will:

  • obtain a broad foundation in sound design and related technologies
  • explore the use of existing computer-aided sound design techniques in a creative way
  • be able to analyse and think deeply about sound and its role in a wider creative arts environment
  • develop an understanding of the scope and limitations of computer applications in sound design
  • engage in cross-disciplinary collaboration in the context of audiovisual practice
  • discover new creative uses of advanced technologies
  • foster the ability to work cooperatively in groups in the context of design

The rich, cross-disciplinary programme of study we offer provides graduates with advanced skills in the following:

  • game sound
  • audio programming
  • audio production
  • post-production
  • other digital technologies relevant to sound design and the crafts of sonic art.

These skills will allow you to take on commissions in professional sound design areas or pursue your own creative path.

Our graduates are now working for major theatre, TV and video games companies. Graduates work as freelance sonic artists, composers, and for various sound post-production studios across the world.

Many are running successful sound-related businesses and several have PhDs and are pursuing academic careers.

You will gain a wide variety of transferable skills that will increase your employability across the arts and further afield, such as ability to:

  • research & analyse sound
  • structure & manage your time
  • effective teamwork & communication

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

Normally a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject such as music, sound design, sonic arts, media arts, sound engineering, acoustics, film, animation or art/design, accompanied by a portfolio introducing us to some recent work that you are proud of.

Your portfolio should include at least three pieces of work and can include a range of items such as an essay on sound, a small collection of sound recordings, performances or documentation of a sound-based project, such as an installation, film or animation.

Whatever you include, it should be your own work. A short explanation of your role in collaborative projects is required. Your portfolio is best uploaded with the application as a PDF file with explanations about the projects and links to the work hosted on a reliable space online.

If you do not meet the academic entry requirements or if you do not have a sound-related degree, we may still consider your application if you have significant professional sound-related experience supported by a substantial portfolio. Please contact us to check before you apply.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Depending on your main interests and what you hope to achieve in your final project you may face some additional costs relating to realising aspects of your work.

ECA is well stocked with technical sound equipment and a wide range of hardware and software to assist the development of your learning and research.

Most students have their own laptop, but there is bookable access to fast, effective lab machines and some laptops available for loan.

It is strongly recommended that you own your own computer suitable for contemporary sound production.

Almost all software we teach from comes without the requirement to purchase a license to use it in an educational context.

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please be aware that applications must be submitted and be complete, i.e. all required documents uploaded, by the relevant application deadline in order to be considered in that round. Your application will still be considered if you have not yet met the English language requirement for the programme.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 06 November 2023 14 December 2023
2 08 January 2024 29 February 2024
3 20 March 2024 10 May 2024
4 14 June 2024 24 July 2024

(Revised 18 October 2023 to add in the staged admissions deadlines for the 2024/25 academic year)

If you do not have a sound-related degree you must submit a portfolio as part of your application. You will not be able to upload your portfolio immediately; you must wait for an email prompt, which you'll receive within a few days of submitting your application and will explain how to upload your portfolio. If you plan to submit audio or video files, please upload these to an online sharing website and add the link to the portfolio upload section of your online application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU