Is Pro Tools Certification Worth It? 3 Great Reasons (and 3 Terrible Reasons) to Take a Training Course

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Avid_Logo300250Recently, 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.

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  • makialexandria

    I’m studying at CRAS, which has its own Pro Tools certifications, separate from the Avid’s certs. I’d been wondering how the manufacturer certification worked for a while now. Thanks for posting this up!

  • Tom

    … So you got fleeced for an extra cert, on top of your degree?

  • Knowing Protools is very important if you wish to work in truly professional audio studio. Logic is popular, but I rarely have a client request Logic. It’s always about Protools, and let’s be honest it truly is deftest program for making records. Having said that, when I’m interviewing potential hires,, they always go out of their way to let me know they’re protools certified. As if that was the end all, be all. As if they’re now qualified to work on any major project with celebrity x. What they don’t get, is that their protools certification, is just the beginning step of their stairway to superstar engineer heaven. That in truth, it’s the equivalent of having just earned your driver’s license, and showing up to NASCAR telling them you’re ready to race.

    So YES, knowing Protools is critical, since it’s the professional standard by which we wall work and make a living, if you want to be a successful Engineer in a commercial pro-audio establishment. All else be damned (sort of…LOL)

  • Good to read something like this online, a lot of times when researching Pro Tools training schools you get so overwhelmed with adverts and BS articles it’s hard to find an honest and true opinion. I also have taken the PTools certification courses and I do want to reinforce that they will in no way guarantee you a job. They are great for someone with some previous knowledge of the program who wants to learn some real deal skills, and it makes a very nice addition to a resume, but it’s not going to be a fast track to your dream job.

  • LuChang

    I have to beg to differ with you on Protools being the “deftest program for making records.” The deftest program would be the one a person is most comfortable with. I’ll give you that Protools is the most prevalent.

    But to me that’s always seemed to be luck of the draw that it ended up so popular. Programs like Nuendo have always been more than a few steps ahead of Protools with each new release.

  • LuChang

    Of course, I have the luxury of working at a performing arts center/school where it’s more about what I like working with than it is what my employer demands I use.

    I’ll admit that if I hadn’t lucked into this perfect “retirement gig” 8 years ago, I’d be PT certified.

  • LOL, good to know. I’ve heard great things about Nuendo, but I know of no place that uses it, or nor anyone personally.

  • LuChang

    Well… It’s got some good footing in Europe and in Nashville, here in the states. Chuck Ainlay, Elliot Scheiner and David Hewitt are few that I know who use it.

    I started out on DP years ago and when I had to move from Macs to PCs, I started with Cubase and then upgraded to Nuendo. I’ve also worked with Digi/Avid products since the Soundesigner days.

    I’ve still got a HD2 protools rig that we use to record in our studio theater. I don’t mind it for tracking, but I hate mixing on it. I also do a lot of scoring for educational videos, online games, ipad apps, etc…

    It’s just easier for me to do the work in Nuendo.

  • Joe Sears

    Hey Justin- great article. I teach AVID Pro Tools classes through Pro Media Training here in New York City and was just wondering where you took classes, and who your instructor was? Yes, you are correct about having the right instructor as well. Please let us know when you can. Thanks.

  • dBunk

    I’ve taken the first 3 tracks at a local community college and found the classes very useful. I hesitate to spend $650 or so on a one day intensive 4th class as anything learned in that short span will most likely been forgotten before I can utilize. The author is correct in that 101 is not for someone that has never opened the software. The textbooks alone are great reference when I need to do something I have never tried or don’t do often. Here in California, community colleges offer the first three courses for about 60 bucks each and the books were about 50, 100 and a little more than that for the third course. The first book came with a voucher for a free Avid plug-in so some of that cost is recovered.

  • makialexandria

    Not at all! They’re covered in the cost of admission, so all I had to do was put in the extra time and show up to the weekend review courses and tests. CRAS offers a lot of certifications outside of the regular curriculum. The only real limitation you have is whether or not you can complete the certification within your time as a student.