Online Universities with Music Composition Degree Programs

Get info about online programs in music composition. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

Online degree programs in music composition are rare. Perhaps the only fully online option is a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games, which is offered by Berklee College of Music.

A much more common course of study is a bachelor's degree in music, which may include composition courses. Due to the nature of music studies, these programs often cannot be earned totally through online study. There may be performance or internship requirements, and skills-based courses such music as pedagogy or conducting usually must be taught in person on the school's campus.

Applicants should have some music training and performance experience. They may be required to take a placement exam in music theory. Online courses call for a computer with a current operating system, a fast Internet connection and, in some cases, special software for music composition and editing.

All bachelor's-level students must complete general education courses in English composition, mathematics, science and social studies, among other topics. Music majors generally take courses in music theory, learning the fundamentals of reading, writing and performing music. They study composing techniques and often are required to compose musical pieces as class assignments.

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Music Bachelor's Degree

Online bachelor's degree programs in music teach students about the theory, history and literature of music. Typical prerequisites include high school transcripts or equivalent General Educational Development (GED) test scores, as well as ACT or SAT scores. A music theory placement exam is also required by some schools, along with evidence of past musical experience. Graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Music.

When choosing a music school, students may consider factors such as the institution's reputation and the opportunities it offers for performance or business internships. They might also consider whether classes are available in a preferred area of specialization, such as vocal performance or Baroque-era music. Some mostly-online programs require some in-person commitments, either on campus or at a location near a student's home, so prospective students should carefully consider these requirements and select a program that coincides with their goals and capabilities.

Information and Requirements

These online programs take approximately four years to complete. As in traditional bachelor's degree programs, elective and general education requirements are included. Some programs require in-person skill-based courses in areas such as singing, ensembles, conducting, composition or pedagogy. These can often be completed at institutions near a student's home and transferred to the online program.

Some online courses use an Interactive Video Network (IVN), such as STAGEnet, to provide access to course materials. Students also access materials through an online course management system, such as Educator. Some schools require special software such as Finale, Sound Forge or Smart Music for working with music theory, composition and editing. Other typical requirements include access to a fax machine and e-mail account.

List of Common Online Courses

The online courses offered in these music degree programs include music composition, theory, history and analysis. General education courses are also commonly offered online. Some sample course descriptions are listed below.

Music Theory

Students learn the fundamentals of analyzing, reading, writing and performing music. Topics include harmonic, rhythmic and melodic materials, terminology, ear training and dictation. Students may create a portfolio applying the concepts learned.

Music Form, Composition and Analysis

This class covers beginning composition using various techniques. Both melody and harmony are explored, and students also analyze related structural forms. Assignments may include regular writing projects.

History and Literature of Music

This class focuses on musical style and form development using media and composition study. The class also explores history and literature related to the Baroque and Classical periods, non-western cultures and various other socio-cultural epochs, including the contemporary one.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $24.20 in May of 2015. However, full-time hourly jobs for musical performers are rare; most work part-time and on irregular schedules, and many supplement their earnings with other jobs. The BLS also reported that the Internet and new types of media would increase employment opportunities, and that religious organizations would offer the most new salary-based jobs (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Musicians who wish to teach music or music composition at formal institutions must usually have a master's or doctoral degree. Master's and Ph.D. programs are available to aspiring students, and some courses may be offered online.

Online bachelor's degree programs in music composition are extremely rare, so most students who are interested in the subject pursue broader programs in music. These programs typically combine online classes in music theory and history with on-site performance training.

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