PhD in Musicology: Program Overview and Degree Information

Oct 29, 2019

Ph.D. degree programs in musicology, which concern the formal study and analysis of music, are most often interdisciplinary. As with most doctoral programs, they can prepare graduates for careers in academia and research.

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Essential Information

Ph.D. programs in musicology, or related topics like composition or music and cognition, appeal to students who are interested in designing their own curriculum and choosing their own area of research in the field. Most programs allow students to personalize their coursework according to their interests. They could incorporate studies in dance, film, acoustics, cultural anthropology or linguistics into their curricula. They may offer concentrations in music history, music theory, music analysis or ethnomusicology.

Depending on the program, students may be required to teach undergraduate courses, present music portfolios, participate in recitals, demonstrate competency in at least one foreign language, pass comprehensive examinations, complete a residency, and successfully defend a dissertation prior to graduation. Some programs may allow students to pursue a Master's and Ph.D. concurrently.

Applicants must have a bachelor's and/or master's degree in a related field. Required materials for applicants may include academic transcripts, musical resumes, personal statements and sample essays on music-related topics.


Ph.D. in Musicology

Although doctoral musicology students usually have freedom in designing their programs, most students will study musical literature and become familiar with historical music periods, music genres and revolutionary musicians. They can learn about musicology theories and research methodologies, become competent in analyzing and criticizing music, and learn about how music is interconnected with politics, economics, the arts, media and society. Because the programs are interdisciplinary, students often take courses in a variety of subjects, such as history, language or the arts. Some of the musicology topics that they may study include:

  • Music historiography
  • World music
  • Music cognition
  • Aesthetics of music
  • Improvisation
  • Renaissance musical notation

Popular Career Options

Individuals with doctoral degrees in musicology can find jobs in academia. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2018 that art, drama, and music teachers at the post-secondary level earned an average annual salary of $82,560, while indicating that employment opportunities for all post-secondary level teachers were expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 11% between 2018 and 2028. Some of the other fields graduates can enter include musical researching and musical writing.

Overall, Ph.D. programs in musicology integrate broad liberal arts studies with specialized topics research in the student's area of musical interest. Graduates are prepared for academic research positions at the university level.

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