Masters Degree in Music: Program Overview

Oct 13, 2019

There are several degree options for students who want to study music at the graduate level. Find out more about the prerequisites and curriculum for each so you can make an informed decision.

Essential Information

The most common graduate music programs are the Master of Music (MM) and Master of Arts (MA) in Music. MA programs focus on general music history, theory and music pedagogy (the science of teaching), and they are primarily intended for students interested in gaining comprehensive music knowledge. In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree and submit writing samples or other work demonstrating their musical expertise.

Master of Music programs are mainly for students whose interest is in music performance, conducting or music composition. MM programs feature core music studies as well as elective music courses and a final thesis, recital or performance. To apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree and demonstrate their skills and experience through auditions or presentations of scores or previous live performances.

Some schools also offer Master of Music Education programs, which are for students who want to teach music in K-12 schools. In addition to a master's degree, these programs can lead to music teaching licensure.

Master's Degree in Music

Most music master's degree programs are about 30 credit hours long, depending on the student's chosen major. Possible courses include:

  • Music research methods
  • Music theory and literature
  • Principles and practices in music education
  • Analytical studies of music
  • Musicology or music history

Career Information

Graduates from MM, MA or Master of Music Education programs tend to pursue careers as musical performers, teachers, conductors and composers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for musicians and singers is expected to have little to no change for the years 2018-2028. In 2018, musicians and singers earned a mean wage of $37.51 per hour; the BLS reports these as hourly wages since professional singers and musicians generally do not work year-round and/or full time.

The BLS also estimates job growth of 1% for music directors and composers in the decade 2018-2028. These workers earned a mean annual wage of $59,790 in 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Many of the institutes of higher learning that offer master's degree programs in music also offer doctorate programs in the subject. For example, a Doctor of Musical Arts program is generally intended for musicians, directors and composers who seek to pursue both the creative and scholarly aspects of music. Post-master's professional certificates are also available in areas like opera and solo voice performance, string quartet performance and woodwind performance.

To summarize, there are several master's degree programs available in music, including a Master's of Music, Master of Arts in Music and a Master of Music Education. These degree options cater to students with a different area of interest in the field.

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