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Music Studies Degree Program Options

Although music performance jobs are awarded to individuals with the most musical ability, undergraduate and graduate degrees can help musicians improve their skills and prepare for music careers.

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Essential Information

Associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in music are widely available at community colleges and 4-year schools. While undergraduate programs may be more general, graduate degree programs often focus on a specialized area, such as music history for a specific time period. Auditions are typically required for program admission, regardless of level.


Associate's Degrees in Music

A 2-year associate degree can be earned in music performance, music theory and composition. Associate degrees in music introduce students to basic music appreciation and performance. Schools offer a variety of associate degree, such as the Associate of Fine Arts degree in Music and the Associate of Fine Arts in Music Education.

A high school diploma, or its equivalent, is required for admission. Coursework in an associate degree program include music mixes theory, history and applied practice:

  • Baroque music
  • Choir
  • Music theory
  • Introduction to composition
  • Classical music

Bachelor's Degrees in Music

Available bachelor's degrees include the Bachelor of Music degree, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music and the Bachelor of Arts in Musical Performance. Undergraduate degrees in music often include intense composition and performance components. Students typically choose an area of specialization, like history, education and performance.

Bachelor's degree programs require a high school diploma or GED for entry. Students at 4-year schools have to take general education classes in addition to music classes. Most programs require students to participate in a performing ensemble and take private lessons in voice or in their instrument.

  • Studies of popular music
  • Fundamentals of music performance
  • Production techniques and methods
  • The business of music
  • Composition

Master's Degrees in Music

Master's degrees in music offer students an opportunity to study advanced concepts relating to various theory, composition and performance. Available degrees for graduate music students include the Master of Fine Arts in Music Theory and the Master of Arts in Music Appreciation. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and pass an audition.

Students take advanced courses in music theory, history and performance. While classes in undergraduate music programs cover general concepts, graduate courses cover specific techniques and time periods.

  • Music of the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries
  • Historical music technique
  • Performance analysis
  • Composition theory
  • Counterpoint

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Jazz
  • Music Composition and Theory
  • Music History and Literature
  • Music Merchandising and Management
  • Music Pedagogy
  • Music Performing
  • Musical Conducting
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Piano and Organ
  • Stringed Instruments
  • Voice and Opera

Doctoral Degrees in Music

Students with doctoral degrees in music typically seek jobs as professors at colleges and universities. Doctoral degree programs have a comprehensive research component, and students are expected to submit a thesis or original composition. Available doctorates include the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and the Doctor of Fine Arts in Music degree. Doctoral applicants usually hold a master's degree in music and pass an audition.

Students in doctoral music complete some core coursework but spend much of their time researching and performing. A doctoral recital may be included in program requirements.

  • Medieval music
  • Renaissance composition
  • Jazz technique
  • Orchestral composition
  • Conducting

Popular Careers

Students in master's degree music programs enhance their musicianship, which may make it easier for them to win performance or teaching jobs.

  • Professor or teacher
  • Musician
  • Orchestra administrator
  • Music director
  • Composer

Students with a bachelor's degree in music are ready for careers in performance, education and production.

  • Orchestra conductor
  • Songwriter
  • Music teacher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), musicians and singers can expect a 3% employment growth rate between 2014 and 2024. Data from the BLS shows the median hourly wage of musicians and singers in May 2015 was $24.20. BLS information reveals the annual median salary of music directors and composers was $49,820 in May 2015.

Individuals with doctoral degrees in music can pursue careers in academia, research and performance. The BLS found that music professors had a median annual salary of $65,340 in May 2015. Additionally, BLS data shows music professors in New York, Massachusetts, and California earned the highest mean wages in the same year.

Continuing Education

Aspiring music teachers have to complete a state-approved education program in order to teach in public schools. In addition to taking education coursework during the bachelor's degree program, they must pass state certification tests.

Music studies students have both undergraduate and graduate degree options to consider. Undergraduate programs focus on basic skills, such as music theory and composition, while graduate students complete courses in more specialized content, such as historical music technique and conducting.

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