Musicology Education and Training Program Information

Musicology is the academic study of the history, culture and social science of music. Degrees in musicology are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, providing instruction in topics such as musical analysis and music and culture.

Essential Information

Musicology studies are available through university music departments. Many programs offer subspecialty options in such areas as historical musicology or ethnomusicology. At the bachelor's degree level, students gain foundational skills through courses in music history and musical analysis, as well as with the liberal arts courses required for the degree. Universities may offer this degree through Arts or Music departments. Master's programs push students to hone their music analysis skills and allow them to investigate areas of interest to complete a thesis. At the doctoral level, students focus on one area for a dissertation and often teach undergraduate classes. At each level, programs may have requirements such as foreign language and instrument proficiency, and an advanced ability to read music. Graduates of musicology programs have a broad range of professions, including education, music librarianship, music publishing, and music journalism.

  • Program Levels: Bachelor's, master's, or doctorate.
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary for undergraduate degrees. Many programs require students exhibit proficiency of an instrument and reading music through an audition. Master's programs typically require applicants to submit GRE scores. Graduate programs may require the applicant submit a writing sample, have knowledge of at least one foreign language, be able to read music at a high level and have strong proficiency with the piano and/or voice.
  • Program Specializations: Historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music analysis, music history and others.
  • Program Length: Bachelor's programs, 4 years. Master's programs, 2 years. Doctoral programs, up to 6 years.
  • Other Requirements: Certain coursework such as foreign language, a thesis or dissertation. Doctoral students may be expected to teach one or more classes.

Bachelor's Degrees in Musicology

A 4-year degree in musicology provides students with foundational skills in the advanced study of music and prepares them for graduate study or for entry-level teaching positions. Most schools require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent, be proficient in one or more instruments and capable of reading musical notation. Many programs require students to audition before acceptance and include foreign language coursework requirements during the program.

Many programs include concentrations or tracks for students to focus on one or more areas of musicology, including advanced musical analysis, music history and ethnomusicology. Programs typically offer Bachelor of Arts in Musicology or Bachelor of Music in Musicology degrees; both types of programs offer a broad liberal arts education in addition to the major courses in music history and ethnomusicology. In addition to learning music theory and gaining instrumental practice, students take theory-based courses that explore the cultural implications of music. Students may take related electives in their major; course topics could include the following:

  • Music of Brazil
  • History of the concerto
  • History of jazz music
  • Evolution of the ballad
  • History of opera

Master of Arts in Musicology

Master of Arts in Musicology students learn advanced musical theory, aural analysis techniques and the history of jazz and classical music in the Western world. Applicants must have completed bachelor's degrees in a related subject, such as music or history, and may be required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Students must demonstrate competence in music reading and fundamental keyboard and voice skills. Many programs require students to audition.

In their first year, students learn how to analyze historical musical texts and documents, and courses emphasize a heavy foundation in music theory and notation. Students also examine the diversity in styles and in music notation methods through courses in ethnomusicology. In their second year, students choose a focus of interest and complete a thesis. Course topics may include the following:

  • Composition
  • Music education
  • Baroque music
  • Aural training techniques
  • Music literature

Ph.D. in Musicology

A student who wishes to teach or research music history at an advanced level can pursue a doctoral degree in musicology. All doctoral candidates must complete a bachelor's or master's degree in a related subject. Most programs also require students to submit a writing sample, have knowledge of at least one foreign language, be able to read music at a high level and have strong proficiency with the piano. Programs may take up to 6 years to complete, though students with other degrees may finish faster. Students are expected to complete a dissertation in a research topic of their choice, under the advisement of a faculty member; most students sub-specialize in either music history or ethnomusicology. In addition to working on their dissertations, students are expected to teach a number of undergraduate classes.

Depending on their areas of specialization, students may study advanced topics on the evolution of music through history or the folk music of a particular country. Ph.D. programs may include the following topics:

  • Music of the Renaissance
  • Music of the Caribbean
  • Counterpoint music theory
  • Improvisation
  • Music and society

Popular Career Options

Many undergraduates qualify for entry-level positions in teaching music at the elementary through high school levels (with applicable state teaching certification) or in private instrument instruction. Private lesson instructors don't need state certification, and they can either go into business for themselves or teach at music stores and extracurricular schools of music. Other careers may require further education; some popular career choices include the following:

  • Music librarian technician
  • Music journalism
  • Piano, voice or guitar teacher

Master's program graduates are prepared for a number of professional fields or for further graduate studies, depending on their focus of research. Some popular career options include:

  • Music publishing
  • Music librarian
  • Associate professor of musicology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Since the field of musicology is broad, graduates with doctoral degrees have a variety of possible career paths. Many graduates pursue careers in teaching or in research at the university level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), though competition for tenure-track positions at a university was expected to be keen, employment of postsecondary teachers in general was expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the mean annual wage of a general art postsecondary teacher in 2014 was $64,300.

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