Online Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology: Program Info

Dec 04, 2019

Learn about online master's degree programs in ethnomusicology. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

There are just a few online master's degree programs in ethnomusicology, a relatively new field of study that explores the cultural context of music. Most combine a few online courses with on-campus requirements. Some programs emphasize music performance, while others are geared towards research into the cultural origins and development of music. These programs usually result in a Master of Arts or Master of Music degree.

Most programs require students to have a bachelor's degree in some area of music, but some will accept students with other majors. There may be other requirements, such as proficiency in an instrument or fluency in a language other than English.

Students generally take courses that reflect their particular interests and goals, so programs of study vary. Most include a look at the history of music as part of human culture as well as the methods used to study music and culture. Other courses could cover world music or music as a means of telling stories.

Master's Degree in Ethnomusicology

Students interested in this field learn about the many kinds of societies or cultures that produce music and its cultural context. A graduate degree in ethnomusicology generally requires an undergraduate degree in some form of musical training, but it is possible to approach the subject from a background in anthropology, sociology or cultural studies. Ethnomusicology is not only the study of music, but it is also the study of who performs or creates the music, as well as the cultural setting for the development of that music. Some online ethnomusicology programs require students to have competency in a specific instrument, while others might require a background in the history of music. The ability to read music or notate music that is heard may also be required by some programs.

Information and Requirements

Completely online graduate programs in ethnomusicology are not common, but some classes such as the history of music or anthropology may be found online as part of a campus degree program. Since many classes are involved with the performance or production of music, this aspect makes these online degree programs rare. Students interested in this field are usually required to have language training in order to understand the culture or society that produces the music. Part of the degree program usually involves proving competency in at least one foreign language.

There are two different kinds of related master's degrees in ethnomusicology. Students interested in research might earn a Master of Arts, while students more interested in the performing arts might wish to pursue a Master of Music. The latter degree might require a student to have a performance skill level with a particular instrument.

Course Topics

Common courses in ethnomusicology combine the performance of music with the study of the languages and culture that produce music. To get started, graduate students log into the school's secure learning portal to access courses and program content.

History of Ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicology is a fairly new field, but the study of music as a part of culture has existed for many years. This class would provide an historical background on the rise of music as a part of culture.


This course addresses the methodology used in the scientific study of culture or society. The class includes research methods and could conceivably include fieldwork.

Music and Storytelling

Some music is produced as a means of conveying ideas about the history and culture of a society. In this class, students learn to connect the idea of music with the idea of spoken tradition.

Introduction to World Music

This class presents a broad overview of music around the world. Students are usually required to take a class like this before pursuing more specific areas of study.

Career Information

A master's degree in ethnomusicology could be a steppingstone to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a career as a college professor. Students might go on to work in museum studies, perhaps at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center.

College teachers in art, music and drama earned a median salary of $69,960 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, Also in May 2018, the median figure for postsecondary professors of anthropology and archaeology earned $83,940. The BLS listed the median annual salary for a museum archivist to be $52,240. Salaries for anthropologists and archaeologists vary greatly, but the median annual wage for this type of work was $62,410 in 2018.

Continuing Education Information

For students interested in an academic career in ethnomusicology, it would probably be necessary to pursue a Ph.D. in this field. These programs are not commonly online since most involve fieldwork. There is no licensure or certification required for someone working as an ethnomusicologist.

Ethnomusicology is a relatively new field with only a few online master's degree programs that allow students to study concepts such as music and storytelling, world music and ethnography. Graduates may choose to work in different fields, ranging from education as professors to research as anthropologists.

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