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Music Professor: Career Information and Requirements

Music professors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and necessary skills to see if this is the right career for you.

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Music professors typically hold a graduate degree, and they teach students music theory, music composition, or vocal or instrumental performance, in addition to carrying out usual teaching duties.

Essential Information

Music professors instruct college students in music-related topics and teach instrumental or vocal performance classes. Most universities hire music professors with a Ph.D. in Music or a similar degree, while some 2-year institutions may consider candidates with a master's degree.

Required Education Ph.D. in Music or similar degree required for working at universities; 2-year institutions may consider applicants with a master's degree
Other Requirements Firm understanding of music composition and ability to perform music
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for all postsecondary art, drama and music teachers
Median Salary (2015)* $65,340 for all postsecondary art, drama and music teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Music Professors

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that the median yearly salary of art, drama and music professors was $65,340. A professor of music teaches college-level courses in instrumental and vocal performance, music theory, music history and composition. A music professor must have a working knowledge of, and ability to, convey techniques and theories involved in music composition, as well as the ability to perform music. Other duties professors are responsible for include:

  • Preparing weekly lectures and course materials
  • Initiating creative, classroom discussions
  • Staying up-to-date on music research
  • Assessing students' performance abilities and work
  • Advising students on academic endeavors

Requirements for Music Professors

Most doctoral degree programs require about six additional years of full-time study beyond a master's degree program. A Ph.D. is the most commonly held degree for a professor employed at most colleges and universities, according to the BLS. Several types of music doctoral degrees enable graduates to teach music at the postsecondary level:

  • Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Music
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Music Education

The DMA emphasizes performance, for professors focusing on teaching vocal or instrumental music. A Ph.D. in Music emphasizes writing and research, and is more common for professors of music theory or music composition. The music education Ph.D. prepares graduates for postsecondary teaching, specifically, as well as research in music education. Graduate students may also choose to complete a dual doctorate program, which incorporates academic elements from the DMA and Doctor of Philosophy.

Some 4-year colleges hire those with a master's degree for certain art-related subjects, such as music, though advancing to a full professorship may still require completing a doctorate while working as an assistant professor or associate professor. Professors with a master's degree most often work at 2-year colleges, reported the BLS (www.bls.gov). Most Master of Music Education programs include studies in technology and philosophy, while others provide the student with opportunities to study music education research or practice.

To become a music professor, it is highly advised to complete one of multiple doctoral degree programs, each of which specifies in different aspects of music. A master's degree will occasionally be acceptable. Music professors need to have knowledge and skills in their subject and be able to effectively impart it to their students.

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