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Ethnomusicology Degree Program Information

Ethnomusicology is a form of musical study that emphasizes the cultural, social and historical aspects of different types of music. Programs are most commonly available at the bachelor's and master's levels.

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Essential Information

Undergraduate students in ethnomusicology programs focus on building a framework of knowledge on how music develops, as well as acquiring the skills to research global musical traditions and sounds. They graduate with the potential to pursue careers in the music industry or apply to a master's in ethnomusicology program.

Master's degree programs are more common and provide the opportunity for candidates to delve into research in their area of interest; a thesis is usually required. Ethnomusicology graduates with a master's degree are qualified for many music-related careers, including at cultural centers and museums. Applicants into a master's degree program must hold a bachelor's degree. Prior to admission into a master's program, some schools require applicants to submit a paper exploring historical or theoretical subjects in music.


Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology

A 4-year bachelor's degree program in ethnomusicology provides students with the research skills and foundational background necessary to explore the social and cultural development of music from around the globe. Students undertake courses covering theories of music and musicianship while also learning about various world cultures and traditions. They are trained to understand, recognize and recreate musical sounds from varying civilizations. Ethnomusicology coursework is presented through classroom lectures, workshops and recitals. Students cover topics such as:

  • World music
  • Western music history
  • Analysis of traditional music
  • Classical European music
  • Classical Chinese music
  • African music

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Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology

Graduate programs in ethnomusicology are typically more common than bachelor's degree programs in the field, and are designed to build upon a previously gained knowledge of music and music theory. Programs place a heavy emphasis on independent research and allow students to explore those aspects of ethnomusicology that they find most appealing.

Students are often encouraged to choose a minor or concentration in an area such as women's studies, international studies, Afro-American studies, music technology or linguistics. They also study theories related to musicology and musical genre. Master's students enroll in courses based upon his or her individual concentration or plan of study. Students must typically complete a master's project or thesis. Available courses may include:

  • Seminar in ethnomusicology
  • Cultural theory
  • Research methods
  • Music history
  • Linguistics

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in ethnomusicology does not often provide students with a surefire path to a particular career in the music industry. Rather, it opens up students to a variety of career or continuing education options. Job titles may include:

  • Music editor for films
  • World music record label manager
  • Songwriter
  • Music teacher
  • Cultural analyst

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Many job opportunities are available for graduates of a master's degree program in ethnomusicology, such as careers as music archivists and curators in museums and cultural centers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), archivists held 5,460 jobs in the U.S. in May 2015, primarily in colleges, information services and museums.

The BLS reported median annual earnings of about $50,250 for archivists as of May 2015. As of the same month, curators earned a median of $51,520, while museum technicians and conservators earned a median of $40,340, the BLS reported. The BLS projected job growth of 7% (about as fast as the average for all occupations) for archivists, 8% (as fast as average) for curators, and 5% (as fast as average) for museum technicians and conservators from 2014-2024.

Certification Options

Archivists and curators have the option to gain voluntary certification, although it is not typically required of professionals in the field. The Academy of Certified Archivists bestows the designation of Certified Archivist. A master's degree and some archivist experience are necessary to earn the designation.

Those interested in studying ethnomusicology can enroll in a bachelor's or master's program to learn about the social and cultural development of music in different places. Master's students will deepen their knowledge by concentrating on a topic to research independently, and they may also qualify for an optional professional certification.

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