Music Degrees

If you love writing, singing, and discussing music, and have a vocal or instrumental talent, you may want to consider a major in music. Music majors are generally interested in playing, teaching, producing, recording, or otherwise being involved with music for a living after college, and must demonstrate the commitment required to make an impact in an industry that already contains a great number of talented musicians and music professionals. In a music major, students do not merely participate in ensembles and play instruments. They also become well-versed in music history, music theory, and harmony.

Students who hope to perform music for a living learn practical skills, such as sight-reading, and participate in ensembles to build up their confidence in singing or performing in front of audiences. Music students are also exposed to many different types of music, including classical, rock, blues, jazz, funk, hip-hop, and folk. Students can later draw from these art forms after they graduate and seek to carve out their own place in the music world. Because music education at the undergraduate level is so hands-on, online music degree programs are more common at the graduate level, once students have already honed their foundational skills and worked in ensembles. However, music history online degree programs may be a good fit for students looking for online options at the undergraduate level.

Classes and Assignments of a Music Major

The type of courses students take as a music major depend on the university they attend, the degree level they are pursuing, and the specialization they choose, if any. For instance, a music major with an emphasis in performance will take different courses than those who choose an emphasis in music business, music composition, or music history, although some courses will be shared by all. Meanwhile, students with online masters music degrees can pursue postsecondary teaching positions. Courses in a music major might include music theory, sight-singing and ear training, computer applications in music, music history, world music, piano and piano proficiency, choir, wind ensemble, chamber orchestra, conducting, and vocal methods. Students who have talent in a particular instrument take advanced lessons in that instrument, whether it be the clarinet, guitar, piano, harp, cello, voice, percussion, or other instruments.

It’s not uncommon for music professors to require students to go out and experience a certain type of music and write about it, research a particular style of music and turn in an essay on its history and impact, or read from texts that explore various areas of music. Student performers must also write original compositions that demonstrate mastery of the various elements of music they are learning in class. Students may be required to demonstrate their knowledge of music writing software. Music majors who specialize in sound recording technology generally must complete a final project in which they demonstrate the skills necessary to record music effectively, while music majors who specialize in an instrument generally complete a final recital in their primary instrument.

Degree Levels for a Music Major

  • Associate. Online associate music degrees can equip students with the skills and confidence necessary to become performers or entry-level sound recording technologists. Students who play instruments build a solid foundation in aural skills, music theory and technique, interpreting music, and get the chance to work in music ensembles. Some students choose associate degree programs to get their basics out of the way before transferring to bachelor’s programs in music.
  • Bachelor’s. Online bachelors music degrees not only hone a student’s proficiency in music theory and performance, but also aim to produce a well-rounded student by requiring a full complement of general education courses in communication, mathematics, the physical and social sciences, and the arts and humanities. Students delve more deeply into concepts of music history, musical styles, and music as a business. Some students choose bachelor’s programs to better qualify for positions as music teachers, sound recording technologists, or other careers in the industry, particularly as independent performers, while others complete a bachelor’s in preparation for future graduate study in music.
  • Master’s. A master’s degree in music allows a student to specialize in a particular area of music and conduct research in that area, whether it be music education, music therapy, composition, performance, or another area. Students may obtain a master’s either to advance in a music education career, qualify for positions as composers and music directors, diversify their musical skill set, or as a stepping stone for future graduate work in music. Self paced online masters degree programs make it possible for working adults to more seamlessly add graduate study to their busy lives.
  • Doctoral. Doctoral degrees in music are designed to produce both artists and scholars who are capable of producing high-quality, independent research, as well as teaching at the college level. Through their doctoral research, music students become highly specialized in areas like musicology, music technology, music theory, or the history, philosophy, sociology, and/or psychology of music. Since most tenured music professors hold terminal degrees in their field, a Ph.D. in music is the best college degree for future music professors.

A Future as a Music Major

Students who graduate from music programs may go on to become independent musicians and performers, but other careers in the industry include sound recording technologists; producers; music directors; composers; music teachers for elementary, middle, and high schools; music professors; music writers and reviewers; and arrangers. Salaried music directors and composers earned a median yearly salary of $41,270 as of May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Those seeking a composer job creating original music for symphonies, television, or film scores will face keen competition, but employment for composers and music directors is projected to grow by 10% between 2008 and 2018, the BLS notes. The earnings of self-employed musicians and singers vary greatly, reflecting the number of gigs they play or the amount of contract work they line up.

A musician’s talent and professional reputation plays a significant role in their potential earnings. For instance, if a musician’s talent and reputation draws fans to fill large concert halls, arenas, or outdoor stadiums, they will command higher pay than those who are lesser-known and perform in smaller, local clubs.

Students with a degree in Music are considered well prepared for
becoming Music directors and composers.