Recently, I was fortunate enough to have an employer provide the funds for me to attend Pro Tools Certification training classes. I had thought about taking one of these courses on my own for a long time, but for one reason or another, I managed to put it off for a bit more than a decade.
Like many professionals in the field, I thought I knew Pro Tools pretty darn well already. (Well enough to make most of my living using the program, anyway.) When you have plenty of work coming in, it can be hard to justify spending the time to train on a program you already have a good handle on. And of course, on those days when you have less work coming in, it can feel difficult to justify spending the money.
Still, I’ve always wondered if there was anything about the program I could know even better. Now, having completed my first series of Pro Tools certification classes, I find myself asking the same question you may be thinking: “If I had to pay out of pocket, would it have still been worth it? Would I recommend it to a friend or colleague?”
In some cases, absolutely yes. In other cases, probably not. More on that in a minute. But first, the basics of PT Certification.
The Pro Tools Training Process
There are 3 main levels of Pro Tools Certification: “User”, “Operator”, and “Expert”.
The first step on any of these tracks is to work through the lessons in a textbook called Pro Tools 101. It is published by Cengage Learning, and widely available at major booksellers. Avid’s guidelines are that this level of training should take 16 or more hours of study, usually completed over two or more days with a certified instructor. Once you feel comfortable with this material, you’ll want to sit for the Pro Tools 101 test. It’s one hour long, with 50 multiple choice questions.
Passing this Pro Tools 101 test will not earn you Pro Tools Certification by itself. Instead, you can think of this as a gateway to the higher level courses that do carry certification. It’s worth noting that this “Pro Tools 101” stage is the only part of the certification process that you have the option of completing without sitting through a full class led by certified Pro Tools Instructor—expedited versions may be available. All other levels of Pro Tools Certification can only be taken after a full-length class led by a certified instructor. Many major metropolitan areas will have at least a couple of registered “Avid Learning Partners” that regularly hold these classes with certified instructors.
The next level up from Pro Tools 101 is the Pro Tools 110 course. Taking this 24+ hour course and passing the test will bestow you with Pro Tools “User” Certification. From here, you can sit for higher level classes if desired, and certify at the “Operator” and “Expert” levels, where specialized tracks in Music or Post-Production are available. There’s also a special track for Avid’s live console, VENUE.
(Full Disclosure: Although I personally have no plans to teach Pro Tools classes anytime in the near future, I am now technically a “Pro Tools Certified Instructor“, and could secretly be trying to set the stage to fleece you for many thousands of dollars down the road. [Cue maniacal laughter]. I also work with a school that may occasionally offer these courses to students in the future.)
Having sat for the User certification level, I can admit that even the lower-level courses further enhanced my speed and understanding of the program. In every lesson, there was at least one little trick, workaround, or more efficient workflow to pick up. And that is the best of three good reasons to sit for certification training. (Rest assured, there are some bad ones too.):
Three Really Good Reasons to Take Certification Training
1) You Want to Know Pro Tools Like the Back of Your Hand
The absolute best reason to take Pro Tools Certification classes would be because you want to know the program as well as humanly possible. That means more than any credential or bullet point on a resume. If you do not really want to know Pro Tools inside and out, upside down and backwards, then you will hate it. You have to want to know these things. You have to relish in being a Pro Tools geek.
Even while studying for the Pro Tools 101 test—which I scored a 100% on by the way, *cough, cough*—I learned about little aspects of the program I had never really bothered to use before. It’s a bit humbling to recognize how many features you don’t use in the course of a professional life. There were more than a few moments when I found myself thinking, “Oh, so that’s what that button, that has been staring me in the face, unpressed, for 10 years, does. Neat.”
That, ultimately, is the single biggest reason to certify. You will learn, through a systematic approach, the exact function of every little button and menu option in Pro Tools. You will learn five ways of executing the same task, memorize new key commands, and find more efficient workflows. If you plan on spending countless hours inside this interface, that can only help.
Granted, there are many ways to get this kind of expert-level familiarity with a program, and most of them will probably cost less than Pro Tools Certification training. Today, the Web abounds with countless books, courses and videos on operating this and other software programs. Which brings us to the next decent reason you might consider signing up:
2) You Are More Likely to Excel at Training When You Are in a Structured Program
Sure, you could buy a few Pro Tools books and watch countless hours of video on new and unfamiliar functions. But have you?
Remember: The ability to sit through scores of hours of Pro Tools training at home in your own bathrobe for cheap, and even for free, is not a new phenomenon. It’s 2014 over here. If you have not done so in a serious and systematic way until now, what makes you think you will do it on your own tomorrow or next month?
The reality is that many people are better at taking training seriously and seeing it through if they have a structured course to attend. It can be motivating to have a teacher and classmates rooting for you, and holding you accountable for showing up and following through. When you’re home on the couch by yourself, the lure of cat videos and Facebook threads looms great.
One way to think about this is to ask: “How many books, movies and albums do I own that I have never read, watched or listened to?” Then, you might follow up by asking: “How many times have I dropped a whole bunch of money on a week-long class and not shown up?” That number probably approaches zero. When you assign real value to something by signing up and laying out a significant chunk of change, chances are you’re going to be more likely to follow through and take the most from it.
3) You Are Competing for a Staff Position with an Established Company, and Want a Slight Edge Over Similarly Qualified Candidates
No, having a Pro Tools Certification will not get you a job. But it couldn’t hurt. And in some cases, it could certainly tip the scales in your favor.