Careers for Music History Majors: Job Options and Descriptions

Oct 04, 2019

Individuals with a degree in music history can continue studies to complete a master's or doctoral degree in music history, or a master's in library science. With graduate studies, music history majors can prepare for several career options, such as being a music historian, college professor, and music librarian.

Essential Information

Music history majors can use their research, analysis and communication skills to find employment in various branches of the academic world. Because of the competitive and specialized nature of this field, most working professionals hold a graduate degree in music history. These programs offer instruction in various music genres, insight into the societies where they are common and a look at the importance of music in our culture.

Career Music Historian College Professor Music Librarian
Education Requirements Master's degree in music history Master's or doctoral degree in music history Master's degree in library science along with degree in music history
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% for all historians 13% for all postsecondary instructors 6% for all librarians
Median Salary (2018)* $61,140 for all historians $69,400 for postsecondary history teachers $59,050 for all librarians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options

Studying music history, also referred to as historical musicology, can lead to an array of career options. While varied, these careers require strong analytic skills and a broad understanding of musical genres and their historical contexts. Also, since most degree programs require students to study German, French, Italian or Latin, graduates might qualify for various international career opportunities.

Music Historian

Music historians spend most of their time researching and writing about their chosen topics. This generally involves questioning why music is the way it is and what it tells us about the societies that created it. Music historians present their findings at conferences, publish articles in academic journals and, at times, author books.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of all historians could see a 6% increase between 2018 and 2028, and historians in general earned a median annual salary of $59,050 in 2018 ( Once established as scholars in their field, music historians also might teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

College Professor

As college professors, music historians might teach general music courses to non-music-major students or specialized classes for music majors. Depending on the particular campus, college professors might also serve as mentors or advisors to a handful of students. Professors in this field are expected to continue their work as music historians and, as such, must continue to conduct research, present at academic conferences and produce scholarly texts.

Because of increases in college enrollment rates, the BLS predicts a 11% increase in general college teaching opportunities between 2018 and 2028. History professors earned a median salary of $61,140 per year in 2018.

Music Librarian

Music librarians perform typical librarian functions, but in a setting that focuses on music. Music librarians, for example, help library patrons find reference materials and complete research about pieces of music or composers. They might also select scores and recordings of music that their libraries carry. They then index and catalog these musical purchases.

Librarians in general earned a median salary of $59,050 in May of 2018 and were expected to see a job growth increase of 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS.

Graduate studies are required to pursue a career as a music historian, a postsecondary instructor or a music librarian. From 2018 to 2028, in this industry postsecondary instructors will enjoy the highest rate of job growth, while music historians and music librarians will see nominal job growth in their fields.

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