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Musicians record, perform, and teach in various settings. Depending on their interests and career goals, musicians may not need a degree for employment, but an online master's in music can expand their professional options and better equip them for success in the field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of musicians to grow at a slower than average rate between 2019 and 2029, but professionals with extraordinary talents and advanced training should still enjoy opportunities.
Aspiring musicians can find in-depth degree information on this page, which can help them navigate their academic and professional options. For more information, consult our master's in music program guide.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Music Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|1||Colorado State University||Fort Collins, CO|
|2||Azusa Pacific University||Azusa, CA|
|3||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||New Brunswick, NJ|
|4||Stephen F. Austin State University||Nacogdoches, TX|
|5||University of Nebraska Kearney||Kearney, NE|
|6||Eastern Illinois University||Charleston, IL|
|7||Southeastern Oklahoma State University||Durant, OK|
|8||Southern Utah University||Cedar City, UT|
|9||Morehead State University||Morehead, KY|
|10||Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond, KY|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Music Programs
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Colorado State University
|Fort Collins, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Based in Fort Collins, CSU offers a master of music with a music education specialization. Designed for K-12 teachers and independent music educators, this hybrid program combines an online curriculum with two-week, on-campus sessions.Working professionals benefit from a flexible online curriculum, and on-campus sessions take place over the summer, which allows teachers to continue working full time. This 30-credit curriculum offers courses in theory and research, and in-person sessions provide opportunities for collaboration and hands-on projects.CSU's online master's in music program draws from the educational philosophy of Hungarian music educator Zoltán Kodály. Upon completion of this program, students also obtain the national Kodály music teaching certification.
Azusa Pacific University
|Azusa, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
The master of arts in music entrepreneurship from APU — located in Orange County, California — is a hybrid program led by experienced music industry professionals. Working musicians benefit from the program's low-residency format, which requires limited on-campus sessions. Participants can graduate in two years. Students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the music business and focus on maximizing revenue in the age of digital streaming. This 32-credit program prepares graduates to work as independent musicians, music industry producers, artist managers, music marketing representatives, and tour coordinators.To apply, prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a letter of intent, two recommendations, and official transcripts.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
|New Brunswick, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
The online master of music in music education at Rutgers caters to K-12 music teachers. Online learners explore the relationship between music education and theory through courses like model composition and tonal analysis, behavioral approaches to music learning, and cognitive approaches to music learning.This 30-credit curriculum includes six foundation credits, 12 core credits, nine elective credits, and a three-credit capstone course. The capstone project requires students to compose a full research report and present their findings in an online forum.Prospective students must hold an undergraduate degree in music or music education from an accredited college. Additional requirements include one year of teaching experience and a 5-10-page academic paper on music education, history, or theory.
Stephen F. Austin State University
|Nacogdoches, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Based in Nacogdoches, Texas, SFA offers an online master of music with four tracks: performance, conducting, music education, and theory-composition. Each track comprises 36 credits and helps students develop the competencies and critical thinking skills required for professional careers in music.The program further divides tracks into concentrations. While students can complete many core classes completely online, some concentrations require on-campus sessions. However, the elementary/general and instrumental concentrations in the music education track and the theory-compostion track can be completed entirely online.All applicants to SFA's School of Music must complete an audition. Upon acceptance to the program, each student is tested in music theory and history to determine their proficiency and placement. GRE scores are not required.
University of Nebraska Kearney
|Kearney, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
The online master of education in music education offered by UNK teaches students advanced theory, research, and techniques related to education and musical performance. Distance students enjoy access to library services, technology support services, and a variety of online learning tutorials. This 36-credit program allows students to explore subjects like choral literature, the history of classical music, and music analysis. Graduates of this program can pursue careers as music teachers, band directors, choral directors, composers, and instrument tutors.To apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree in music and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also submit a 300-500-word essay detailing their personal philosophy of teaching.
Eastern Illinois University
|Charleston, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Offering an online master of arts in music with a music education concentration, EIU charges a flat online tuition rate to all learners. Designed for working music educators, this program allows teachers to apply their learning directly to the classroom as they work through the curriculum.Though students complete most courses online, the program requires a one-week summer residency. To fulfill this residency, students travel to the school's campus in Charleston where they complete a variety of project-based workshops and courses.This program culminates in a three-credit capstone project in which students deliver a 1,000-1,500-word oral examination on topics such as performance practice, pedagogy, or interpretive approaches to music. Each student pairs with an advisor who is responsible for approving and guiding the final project.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
|Durant, OK||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
SOSU — located in Durant — hosts an online master of music education. Designed to allow teachers to continue working while earning their degree, students can complete the program in four semesters and one additional summer session at SOSU's main campus.This degree provides students with the opportunity to develop skills and qualities needed to become an effective leader. Graduates of this master's in music education program often enter careers in teaching and administrative roles. Out-of-state distance learners pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. Graduate admission requirements include official transcripts and documentation of a bachelor's degree from an accredited college.
Southern Utah University
|Cedar City, UT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
SUU offers an online master of music in music technology with a performance technology track. This flexible program is suitable for working professionals; it features multiple start dates and an entirely online format that students can complete in 12 months.Of the 30 credits required to graduate, 18 credits come from core coursework. Students study a variety of topics, including audio recording, music technology and business, and concert production. Students earn their 12 remaining credits through four performance technology courses.This program culminates in a capstone project, in which students apply classroom knowledge to a professional setting. The program helps skilled graduates enter a variety of roles, such as music directors, technical sound designers, and studio engineers.
Morehead State University
|Morehead, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
MSU — located in northeast Kentucky — offers a master of music with two concentrations: music education and performance. Both concentrations use a hybrid format and combine the flexibility of online courses with traditional on-campus summer sessions.Students wishing to pursue a concentration in performance can choose from a variety of specializations, such as brasswinds, woodwinds, guitar, and keys. The concentration in music education centers around the study instruments, with additional courses in music history, literature, and education.The flexible curriculum allows professionals to continue working while earning their degree in three years. Applicants interested in the performance concentration must also complete an audition.
Eastern Kentucky University
|Richmond, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Based in Richmond, EKU offers a fully online master of music in music education. Created for K-12 teachers, this program allows students to combine their passion for music with innovative teaching practices. This 32-credit curriculum requires 12 core credits (including a project, recital, or thesis), 10 music education credits, and 10 elective credits. Students cover topics like music literature, history, theory, and teaching techniques. Upon completion of this program, students must take a written or oral exam.Graduates can pursue careers as public and private K-12 music teachers, arts and humanities teachers, and band directors. All prospective students must take the music theory and music history entrance exams during the application process.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Music Program?
Typically, MA degrees feature heavier research and liberal arts components, MS degrees emphasize technical studies, and MM and MFA degrees center on composition and performance.
Successful students in master's in music programs typically possess strong dedication, determination, and talent. These programs usually last 1-2 years and require 30-75 credits. All degree-seekers should consider their academic and professional goals when choosing between degree types and program options.
Musicians may encounter various degrees at the master's level, including an MA, MS, master of fine arts (MFA), and master of music (MM). While students can pursue many music careers with any of these degrees, each option offers something different educationally and professionally. Typically, MA degrees feature heavier research and liberal arts components, MS degrees emphasize technical studies, and MM and MFA degrees center on composition and performance.
While many MM and MFA degrees feature similar end goals, some MFA programs offer more flexibility and freedom. MM degrees often combine performance and musicology training, whereas MFA students may focus more on performance. These two degree types also tend to feature additional residency requirements.
In each program, learners can choose concentrations that focus their training in a specific direction or genre. Possible concentrations include music technology, community music, performing, composing, and music leadership.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Music Programs
In general, most master's in music programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree for admission. Prospective students must often submit standardized test scores and professional recommendations. More competitive programs set grade and standardized test score minimums.
Performance-heavy degrees, like the MFA and MM, usually require an audition or portfolio review. Many of these programs require a music-related bachelor's degree, as well.
Visit the graduate admissions guide for more information.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Music Program?
Many master's in music programs allow students to customize their training to fit their interests and career goals. However, most programs offer similar core courses. Titles and descriptions may vary, but the following list examines some of the most popular courses in this field.
- Music Research
In music research courses, students examine scholarship in music. They learn to analyze, critique, and build on different ideas. Coursework teaches advanced concepts and research methods and prepares learners to complete their own in-depth research projects.
- Music Bibliography
Music bibliography courses teach students how to best use the library for research purposes. Learners explore how music students and scholars prepare research work, write research papers, and cite music-related sources. Students learn various research tools and techniques and discover how to distinguish between sources and types.
- Music History
Music history courses explore the evolution of music and performance. Students look at the major moments and influencing factors that contributed to the contemporary art form. They also examine moments in history and the cultural and social contexts that helped shape music at those times.
In these courses, musicians practice their art in front of their peers and instructors, incorporating feedback and critiques to better their craft.
- Music Technology
Music technology courses teach students how to use the various technologies in the field. Students look at the hardware and software required to create digital music, along with different applications and creative new uses of older technologies.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Music Degree?
Graduates with a master's in music can pursue many music-related careers. Despite decreased demand for traditional stage performances, the music industry continues to expand and offer new opportunities for professionals.
The allure of a musical career makes for plenty of competition for jobs, but non-performers enjoy a better outlook. The BLS projects faster than average job growth for sound engineering technicians and postsecondary teachers.
See where a master's in music can take you. Learn more about music careers here.
Musicians perform live or make recordings for various media and purposes. They also attend rehearsals and deal with promotional work. Travel may play a big part in their day-to-day activities.
- Musical Director or Composer
Musical directors lead musical groups in their performances. Directors may write and arrange music, oversee rehearsals and practices, and handle various public relations tasks.
- High School Teacher
High school music teachers lead music classes and teach students the fundamentals of the discipline. They also create lesson plans that challenge and encourage students to appreciate music.
- Postsecondary Teacher
Postsecondary music teachers educate students in the area of their specialization. Teachers at this level also conduct their own research and scholarly work. According to the BLS, art, drama, and music departments employ the second-most postsecondary teachers (over 116,000).
- Sound Engineering Technician
Sound engineering technicians manage sound and electrical equipment for various broadcasts and presentations. They set up and maintain sound equipment and technology for movies, concerts, and recordings.
Music Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Music Programs
- Is a master's in music worth it?
In a master's in music program, students sharpen their musical knowledge and strengthen their performance abilities. The degree can provide the advanced training needed for some of the most prestigious musical careers. Students in these programs must be passionate about pursuing music as a career, not just a hobby.
- What can I do with a master's in music?
Graduates can become musical performers in various contexts and settings. They can also work as music directors or teachers or apply their technical knowledge to a sound-related profession.
- Is music a good career?
The BLS projects 1% job growth for musicians between 2019 and 2029. This slower than average rate results from reduced attendance and funding for traditional performances, but musicians still enjoy great career flexibility and freedom. Digital, social media, and streaming platforms have made it easier than ever for musicians to create and promote their music.
- How much money can I make with a master's in music?
Salaries for graduates with a master's in music can vary considerably. According to the BLS, musicians make a median hourly wage of around $30, more than $11 higher than the median hourly wage for all occupations. The highest 10% make more than $80 per hour.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in music?
Postsecondary teachers are likely the best paid graduates with a master's in music, earning a median annual salary of $79,540. The top 10% of postsecondary teachers make more than $174,960. Additionally, the top 10% of music directors and composers make more than $125,200 per year.