Online Music Degrees

While most musicians begin studying or learning about an instrument from an early age, others can quickly pick up an instrument and easily make it their own. Online music degree programs are one way students can supplement or increase their existing knowledge and gain skills that can help them turn a love of music into a career.

One of the biggest traits an aspiring musician should have is self-discipline, according to the College Board, with the ability to take criticism well following as a close second. As with many performing arts fields, there are diverse opportunities for careers in music but competition can be tough. Read on to learn how an online music degree can give you an edge over your peers.

You may find there are quite a few prestigious music schools online offering degrees at varying levels. Online bachelor’s degree programs in music may offer a number of different concentrations – from a particular instrument or a particular style of music to music composition and production. Similarly, you may find master of music degrees online offering a range of concentrations while online doctoral degrees are rare.

Students may choose to combine on-campus performance practice with online education. Online music degree programs can allow working professionals, career changers and high school graduates obtain the knowledge and skills they need while still adhering to work and other schedules. Since many of the best online music degree programs impart learning through videos, students may be able to click pause and practice as they go along. Online music degree programs may also allow students to learn from music teachers from all over the world, depending on the form of music they are interested in.

A degree in music may qualify you for a number of different jobs in the industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that while a musician may not necessarily need postsecondary education, a bachelor’s in music may be necessary for individuals interested in careers performing opera or classical music. Salaries can vary greatly too. For example, a 2016 report by the Berklee College of Music shows that an orchestral musician can earn anything from $28,000 to $143,000.

The table below shows the job openings, average salaries and employment outlook for music graduates using data from the BLS.

Here are a few steps you can take to become a professional musician.

Step 1: Practice your instrument (or singing) as much as possible.

Step 2: Get comfortable on stage by participating in as many performance ensembles as possible while still in high school.

Step 3: Take private lessons if you can or music theory classes in high school.

Step 4: Conduct your research on the best online music degree programs that suit your needs.

Step 5: Enroll in the program and practice, practice, practice.

Step 6: Start building your presence on social media to gain followers.

Step 7: Audition for different ensembles or bands while still in school and perform with them.

Step 8: After graduating, opt for an advanced degree in music should you wish to do so.

Step 9: Gain exposure through your website, social media, or by performing and networking as much as possible.

Step 10: Don’t be afraid of hard work and an irregular paycheck! It can be worth the patience some day!

Although many musicians have practiced their art over a life time through private lessons and instruction, online music degrees can help them formalize their learning and gain a better understanding of the industry as a whole. Students can pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in music and which can be helpful to those wanting to be an arranger, conductor, composer or other music-related professions. To teach at a college or university, a master’s or doctoral degree is typically required. This is especially true when it comes to teaching advanced coursework.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Students enrolled in an online music degree program at the associate level can study the basics of the music business; explore music theory, develop their performance and improvisational skills and learn how to use a DAW (digital audio workstation).

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; audition/ video essay

Typical coursework: Curricula may vary depending on the instrument you play and the focus of the online music degree program. Some examples of courses include:

  • DAW
  • Ear training
  • Great composers and music masterpieces of western civilization
  • Media relations
  • Theory and musicianship

Possible electives: History of American musical theater; video games and popular culture; advanced classical guitar

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in music?

The BLS emphasizes that a formal education in music may not be necessary to work as a professional musician. However, an associate degree in music may open doors to entry-level jobs in the music industry. Graduates of online associate degree programs in music may be able to find work in recording studios, with record labels, or music venues to name a few. Some examples of job titles are:

  • Broadcast and sound engineering technician
  • Cruise ship entertainer
  • Playback singer
  • Road manager
  • Sessions musician

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Students enrolled in online music degree programs at the bachelor’s level can expect to have a more comprehensive musical education than those in an associate degree program. They may study more advanced musical theory, explore different genres of music; learn the nuances behind composing and arranging music for different types of productions and develop their aural skills to a high level of proficiency.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; audition/ video essay

Typical coursework: Curricula typically include topics in theory, music business, music technology, maintenance of musical instruments and more. Some classes you may take include:

  • Advanced melody, harmony, rhythm
  • Basic conducting
  • Music foundations
  • Reharmonization techniques
  • Scoring and arranging

Students may have to write a thesis, complete a composition or a capstone recital in order to earn their online music degree.

Possible electives: Ear training for live performance; jazz improvisation; modern musical trends

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in music?

The employment outlook for individuals with a bachelor’s in music graduates can be good in terms of the range of careers that may be available. The BLS reports that they may be able to work in orchestras or operas or with other performing art companies. While the Berklee report shows that a bachelor’s in music salary can be potentially high, the BLS cautions that competition for such jobs can be tough and it is the candidates with exceptional musical talent that are likely to succeed. Potential job titles include:

  • Choir director
  • Lyricist
  • Audio engineer
  • Music curator
  • Music web producer
  • Music therapist

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

A master of music degree online can help individuals prepare for doctoral degrees or for careers in music education by honing their research, creative, and educational skills. Depending on their concentration, they may also study advanced concepts in music management and business.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in music, music education or related field; audition/ video essay or portfolio of work

Typical coursework: Curricula vary depending on the focus of the program. Some examples of courses include:

  • Composing the orchestral film score
  • Creative recording and editing techniques in music production
  • Introduction to music bibliography
  • Introduction to music technology
  • Music business revenue streams

Students may have to complete a capstone project or a master’s thesis as a part of their online music degree program. They may also be required to attend short residencies on campus.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in music?

A master’s in music may act as a stepping stone toward a doctoral degree or allow individuals to enter the field of music education. The BLS also states that employers may prefer hiring candidates with a master’s degree to lead orchestras or compose music. Some job titles include:

  • Arranger
  • Artistic director
  • Classical composer
  • K-12 music teacher
  • Music school administrator
  • Symphony orchestra conductor

Online graduate certificates in music focusing on performance are rare. They typically focus on the business or technological aspects of the industry. They are usually designed for individuals holding a bachelor’s degree who want to further their knowledge in these particular areas. For example, a professional musician with a bachelor’s degree may want to study music business in order to push their careers. However, the same musician may not want to commit to an entire degree program as the knowledge they seek is quite specific.

Typical duration: One year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree

Typical coursework: The courses you take can vary depending on the focus of your certificate program. Some examples of topics you may study include:

  • Applied pedagogy
  • Artist management in the music business
  • Music business law
  • Music business management and leadership
  • Psychoacoustics in music production

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Online doctoral degree programs in music are rare and are typically geared toward individuals who want to teach music at the postsecondary and graduate level.

Students of online doctoral degree programs in music can learn to hone their research skills and expand their knowledge of music theory and history.

Typical duration: Five to seven years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Master’s degree in music, music education or related field

Typical coursework: Students may be able to tailor the courses they take depending on their interests. Some courses you may be able to choose from include:

  • Applied ethnomusicology
  • History and philosophy in music education: perspectives and practice
  • Introduction to ethnomusicology
  • Introduction to music education research
  • Psychology sociology in music education: perspectives and applications

Possible electives: Advocacy and policy; special topics in music education technology: notation with Sibelius; introduction to early childhood music education

Dissertation: A major portion of the doctoral program is usually spent researching and writing a doctoral thesis which then has to be successfully defended before an expert committee.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a doctorate in music?

A doctorate in music can lead to a career in academia allowing individuals to teach in colleges and universities. A doctorate may also give working professionals the opportunity for advancement in their careers as well as a salary boost.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools undergo in order to demonstrate that their educational offerings are on par with professional requirements in the field today. Accreditation can be an important factor for students of online music degree programs to consider as it can be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid or for the transfer of credits from one degree program to another. Employers may also prefer hiring candidates who have graduated from accredited programs over those who have not. The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) is the main accrediting body for schools of music.

Specializations in Music

Music is a vast field with many instruments, genres and applications. This means you may find plenty of specializations to choose from while you are researching music schools online. Choosing a specialization may allow you to focus your education and therefore build a career in an area of music that interests you. Music specializations can range from the genre of music you play – like jazz or classical music for example – to different applications – like composing for films or composing for musical theatre. Some examples of specializations (apart from specific genres and instruments) include:

  • Electronic music production and sound design
  • Music business
  • Music composition for film, TV, and games
  • Music education
  • Music production
  • Songwriting

Licensures and Certifications in Music

There are no specific credentials necessary to work as a musician in many areas of the field. However, this can vary depending on your job role. A K12 music teacher may require a teaching license while music therapists may need to acquire the Music Therapist – Board Certified (MT – BC) credential offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

Additionally, studios may require their employees to be certified in the DAWs they use while broadcast and sound engineering technicians may benefit from certifications offered by the Society of Broadcast Engineers or Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association.

Employment Statistics

Sound Engineering Technicians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Sound Recording Industries
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries
  • Manufacturing and Reproducing Magnetic and Optical Media
  • Performing Arts Companies
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Georgia
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
  • Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

Music Directors and Composers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Religious Organizations
  • Performing Arts Companies
  • Sound Recording Industries
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries
States with the highest level of employment
  • New York
  • California
  • Texas
  • Oregon
  • Florida
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

You may find there are plenty of scholarships available for eligible students with exceptional talent in music. Scholarships may be offered by private foundations, professional organizations, and universities among others. Competition for scholarships can be tough, so it may be a good idea to apply to as many scholarships programs that you are eligible for. We’ve listed a few below to help you get started in your search.

Sources

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