Top Colleges with Music Theory Degrees

Read about top colleges that offer programs in music theory, which can include the study of both classical and modern musical techniques. See what type of undergraduate and graduate programs are offered by four high-ranking universities, as well as what other schools across the country have programs in music theory.

It is possible to earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in fields related to music theory. Related certificates are also available at some schools.

School Overviews

Each one of the four universities profiled below has received a ranking or recognition from Forbes or U.S. News & World Report. All four schools offer bachelor's degree programs in music theory; graduate studies leading to either a master's or doctoral degree are also available.

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI

School Highlight: Students in the university's School of Music, Theatre and Dance can take advantage of low student-faculty ratios.

The first public college in the Northwest Territories, the University of Michigan (UM) ranked #27 on U.S. News & World Report's list of best national universities for 2017. UM offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory program as well as a Bachelor of Musical Arts. Although no master's degree programs in music theory are available at UM, the school does offer a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Music Theory and a Doctor of Philosophy in Composition and Music Theory. A certificate program in music theory pedagogy is available, too.

Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

School Highlight: Northwestern University (NU) is a private college that ranked 15th on the Forbes list of America's Top Colleges in 2016.

Northwestern's Bienen School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory as well as a Master of Music in Theory. Also available is a music theory and cognition Ph.D. program that allows students to conduct research in such areas as popular music and tonality.

Boston University in Boston, MA

School Highlight: This private school features 17 schools and colleges as well as 250 areas of study on two campuses.

Boston University (BU) ranked #39 among U.S. News & World Report's national university rankings for 2017. Its School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory, through which students have the opportunity to create a unique composition. BU also offers a Master of Music in Music Theory, which includes advanced studies in composition and tonal analysis.

Baylor University in Waco, TX

School Highlight: The Baylor School of Music is home to an MM in Music Theory program as well as more than 60 full-time faculty and around 400 students.

For 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor University as #71 among national universities. Music theory majors at Baylor receive comprehensive training in the subject, providing a foundation for a wide range of music-related careers, as well as graduate-level studies in the field. Classes are small, usually with only 10 to 25 students, and all are taught by faculty members rather than graduate students. Upon graduation, students are awarded a Bachelor of Music in Theory. From there, they may go on to a Master of Music program in the field, which involves more advanced courses and culminates in a comprehensive oral exam.

Top Music Theory Schools

Here are some more schools with strong music theory offerings:

  • At California Institute of Arts in Valencia, CA, undergraduate students can pursue a music theory minor.
  • Graduate students in the musicology program at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, can pursue a minor in music theory.
  • The Juilliard School in New York, NY, houses six different performance spaces and features an honors track offered by the Music Theory and Analysis Department.
  • At Michigan State University in East Lansing, the music theory master's degree program offers emphases in pedagogy or research.

There are multiple highly ranked schools that give students the opportunity to study music theory at either the undergraduate or the graduate level.

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