Music lovers can now pursue an online bachelor's degree in music. The online degree is ideal for those who are passionate about music and want to teach, produce, or perform music. Advances in sound and recording technology make pursuing a music degree more interesting than ever.
Because many jobs in the music industry rely on fluctuating arts funding, career growth for the field as a whole is difficult to determine. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that some music jobs, like choreographer, will grow as much as 24% due to an increasing popularity in dance schools. Continue reading for more information about what you can do with a bachelor's degree in music.
Choosing a Program
Students earning a music bachelor's degree online learn all aspects of music, from the theory of music to the composition of music for commercial jingles and video games. The diversity of programs ensures that you can find the perfect fit for your interests. While some programs focus on students mastering a particular musical instrument or family of instruments, others focus on industry-related areas like sound engineering and the business of music. Regardless, students learn about musical genres like jazz, world music, hip-hop, and orchestral music. Some programs also offer courses in songwriting, the history of music, and reading music.
In programs that focus on performance, students may have to audition or perform as part of their application process. Some programs also require students to take face-to-face lessons that they must then transfer as credit towards the program. Some programs may require students to perform solo or participate in an ensemble or choir as part of their academic assessment. Other programs require students to complete a musical capstone project involving a thesis, recital, or composition.
Depending on the program, students study to become music therapists, sound engineers, songwriters, performers, music teachers, or composers. If you plan to pursue a career in music or a musically related field, an online music bachelor's degree may be right for you.
What Are The Best Online Bachelor's in Music Programs?
Berklee College of Music
|Boston, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Berklee College of Music began in 1945 as the Schillinger House, focuses mainly on jazz music. The school later expanded to include other musical concepts, such as rock music, film scores, and music synthesis. The institution's final name change occurred in 1970, approximately four years after Berklee awarded its first bachelor's degrees. Duke Ellington, Jimmy Page, Loretta Lynn, Sting, B.B. King, Carole King, and Alison Krauss all hold honorary doctorates from the college.
Berklee offers many music bachelor's degrees, including a bachelor of professional studies. Students can choose from concentrations that include music production; music business; electronic music production and sound design; guitar; songwriting; songwriting and producing music; and music composition for film, television, and games. Degree candidates can also choose an undeclared path or build an interdisciplinary program. All concentrations for this online music degree require 120 credits, with the department allowing up to 60 transfer credits. Learners can earn as many as 30 credits for previous education or experience.
For consideration, applicants must submit a written or visual personal statement that addresses musical experience, career goals, and interest in Berklee. Admission also requires two recommendation letters and, for some concentrations, pre-recorded auditions that should not exceed four minutes. Berklee holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Berklee also offers music certificates in artist management, jazz composition and arranging, keyboard styles, live sound production, and music business law and policy. Program graduates can pursue a master of music in music production, a master of music in film scoring, or a master of arts in music business through Berklee, as well.
Valley City State University
|Valley City, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Located in North Dakota, Valley City State University began in 1890. This public school educates learners through an interactive 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and ranks among U.S. News & World Report's top public schools and regional colleges in the Midwest.
VCSU offers two online music bachelor's degrees: the bachelor of arts and the bachelor of science. Each degree requires 120 credits, but bachelor of arts students must allot 16 elective credits to liberal arts. Students in both programs complete classes in theory, aural skills, arrangements, and history. VCSU also offers online certificates in piano pedagogy and composition.
Learners must fulfill performance requirements with the piano, ensembles, and a chosen instrument. The department also requires a capstone project. Capstone options include a recital, thesis, or composition experience. Degree seekers must complete 30 program credits at VCSU. The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accredits this program.
Applicants must mail an audition video to VCSU that includes two stylistically diverse pieces. Vocal applicants must use accompaniment for their auditions.
High school students may qualify for VCSU's dual enrollment or early entry programs for higher education credit. The school also allows high schoolers to participate in the yearly Solo Song Symposium and the James D. Ployhar Honor Band Festival.
VCSU students benefit from career services, such as resume guidance, job postings, and career fairs. The Allen Memorial Library also provides resources for online learners, such as ebooks, mail-requested books, and Interlibrary Loan items for nonresident students. VCSU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
University of West Georgia
|Carrollton, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
The University of West Georgia dates back to 1906 when the Perry Act created the Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School. This public school in Carrollton educated over 13,700 students in fall 2018 and awarded more than 2,600 degrees that year. UWG delivers undergraduate courses through a 19-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, with more than 70% of full-time faculty holding terminal degrees. The institution also boasts Carnegie Classification and accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
The Department of Music delivers a bachelor of music with a major in composition for learners interested in online music production degrees. Students can concentrate in keyboard/guitar, voice, or woodwind, brass, and percussion. All paths require 120 credits and common courses like applied composition, music theory, and aural skills. Program milestones include a half recital during the student's junior year and a full recital during senior year. This program holds accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
Candidates can graduate in four years and pursue UWG's online master of music in music education to prepare for teaching careers. The bachelor's program also equips learners for careers as composers and performers.
WGA offers career assistance to students and alumni, such as resume tips and social media guidance. Online learners may benefit from videoconference counseling and online self-help tools through the Counseling Center. WGU students can also study abroad in countries like France, Germany, Spain, China, Costa Rica, and Australia.
University of Maine at Augusta
|Augusta, ME||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 17%||
The University of Maine at Augusta began in 1965 and currently comprises more than 5,500 learners. The U.S. News & World Report ranks this New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)-accredited school as one of the top regional colleges in the northern part of the country.
UMA's bachelor of music in contemporary and popular music offers a concentration in music education. The 121-credit program explores theory, pedagogy, arrangements, and western and jazz music roots. Student polish skills with their chosen instrument while preparing for three Praxis exams: general, music content, and principles of learning and teaching.
Learners can complete most of this four-year program through distance education. However, student teaching experiences must take place in Maine. Since this program requires low residency, candidates interested in a music business degree online only should consider other options.
Applicants must audition in person, through a video, or provide a portfolio. Auditions must include two works that, together, total under 10 minutes. Students without sufficient experience for these auditions may apply for the associate of science in music program.
Learners can also choose UMA's bachelor of music in music education with a minor in secondary education. UMA also provides a bachelor of music in contemporary and popular music without the music education concentration.
Online students can view workshops from Career Connections on resumes, cover letters, interviews, internships, and graduate schools. The center also provides information on references, job searches, and social media sites. UMA libraries deliver tutorials on research and participate in Interlibrary Loan.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Music Program?
Because of the diversity of online music degree programs, details of individual schools, curricula, and programs may differ from those discussed here. However, most programs tend to offer certain courses that focus on fundamental objectives in music.
Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's in Music
Course offerings differ from school to school depending on the program's focus: music production, music theory, music education, or the business of music. Regardless of focus, most programs offer courses that cover specific genres and instruments, such as jazz, world music, electronic music, woodwinds, or piano, as well as certain subjects within the discipline. Below you will find a list of sample courses that offers a general view of course topics.
- Instrumental methods and repertoire: Students learn fundamental music theories and develop their skills with a variety of instruments in preparation to teach instruments to students in a school setting. This course prepares students to become band or orchestra teachers, music therapists, and performers.
- Music composition: Students learn the art of composing and writing music for a variety of contexts including live performances, film, television, recitals, video games, and personal enjoyment. Students learn about melody, harmony, and rhythm and how to write music that creates an emotional impact. In addition to standard music theory, students explore modern innovations in sound production and instruments.
- Music business: Students explore trends and topics in music business in preparation for entering the music industry. They learn about concrete business subjects, such as copyright, licensing, publishing, retailing, and marketing, while also focusing on technology in music, the future of music, and how to discover new talent.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Music?
Full-time students typically earn their online bachelor's in music degree in four years, although some programs offer accelerated course options that lead to early graduation. Most online music degree programs require around 120 credits of coursework. Some schools follow a cohort learning model in which students advance through their courses together, meaning students do not work at their own pace but in synchrony with their peers. Other programs are self-paced, allowing students to advance through their courses as slowly or quickly as they prefer. Part-time enrollment also affects how long it takes to earn your degree.
Students can often complete their degree in less time if they transfer into the program with credits they have earned at another accredited university. Students studying a particular instrument who are not yet proficient may require additional semesters of lessons or ensembles in order to earn their degree.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Music Degrees
Accreditation agencies ensure that schools adhere to certain standards, which assures students that they are receiving a quality education for the cost of their tuition. The U.S. government does not accredit schools nor does it create accreditation agencies; instead, it provides a listing of recognized accreditation agencies that people can refer to when researching schools.
Schools receive either regional or national accreditation. In general, regional accreditation is more prestigious than national accreditation. State-based and nonprofit institutions are usually regionally accredited while private or for-profit schools receive national accreditation. When looking at a school's accreditation agency, it is most important to determine whether the school is regionally or nationally accredited and that the name of the accrediting agency directly matches the name of the agency listed on the government's website. You should keep in mind that a degree from a nationally accredited school may not count toward transfer credits, graduate school requirements, or some job requirements.
Common regional accrediting agencies are the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission in Higher Education. Well-regarded accreditation agencies among bachelor's in music programs include the National Association of Schools and Music and the National Association for Music Education.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approves accreditation agencies and provides a listing of all approved agencies. The ED also provides a list of program-specific accreditation agencies for specialized programs, such as education, community and social services, and arts and humanities. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is an organization comprising more than 3,000 learning institutions and 60 accreditation agencies. CHEA advocates for self-regulation of educational quality through accreditation. Together, these two organizations ensure that schools meet certain criteria and standards of quality education. You can explore a list of all accredited schools on the ED's website, or on CHEA's website.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Music Graduates
Bachelor's in Music Salary
Many people who work in music pursue music as a secondary career option, relying on another form of employment as their primary income source. While many musicians, singers, and performers are self-employed, earning money on a per-hour or per-project basis, those who work as music educators, music therapists, choreographers, composers, and directors can enter full-time careers that earn livable wages higher than the national median salary for all workers.
|State||Annual Mean Wage|
Bachelor's in Music Careers
Those who earn a degree in music go on to work in a variety of musical contexts. While many musicians are self-employed, the degree also prepares people to enter careers in directing and composing, music education, music production, music therapy, music business, and choreography. While performing musicians and singers do not necessarily need to possess a formal degree, many naturally creative individuals who make music choose to pursue a degree in order to refine their skills or learn how to teach their craft to others. Below are some examples of careers you can pursue with a bachelor's in music.
- Music Director and Composer
Music directors lead musical groups, orchestras, and other music performances. Music directors most often work for local groups that put on musical performances, such as schools or religious organizations, but may also travel to out-of-town performance venues. Composers write music and typically work from home or at a recording studio.
Median Annual Salary: $50,110
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Music Teacher
Music teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels teach students how to sing, read music, play instruments, and perform musical plays. At the elementary school level, music teachers introduce students to the art of music as a whole, teaching them about different styles of music and instruments. At the middle school and high school levels, music teachers help students further explore and refine their musical abilities.
Median Annual Salary: $58,030
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Recreational Therapist
Recreational therapists provide creative therapy approaches for those with illnesses or disabilities. Music-based recreational therapists utilize music as a therapeutic tool, using songs and instruments to help increase their patients' overall well-being. They work primarily in schools, hospitals, and retirement homes.
Median Annual Salary: $46,410
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Producers and Directors
Producers and directors help create many forms of entertainment: television shows, plays, movies, commercials, and live performances. They work long and untraditional hours, often under tight deadlines and extreme pressure. Most producers and directors work with a script that requires some amount of creative interpretation, and use music to enhance their production.
Median Annual Salary: $70,950
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
- Dancers and Choreographers
Dancers and choreographers help bring narratives, ideas, and emotions to life through dance. Most dancers and choreographers work with performing art companies, though 25% are self-employed. Dancers and choreographers may also work for private dance studios that offer dance classes and host recitals.
Median Annual Salary: $16.85 per hour
Projected Growth Rate: 4%
Professional organizations in the music industry advocate for performers, musicians, music educators, and sound workers, ensuring that the industry treats their work fairly. Some organizations hold annual conferences, offer financial or scholastic assistance to researchers, perform outreach initiatives, and hold award ceremonies to honor excellence in the field. In general, these organizations serve as community builders and networking hubs for recent college graduates and experienced music professionals alike.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Music Program
Students interested in receiving financial aid in the form of loans, grants, and work-studies must complete a FAFSA form. Some music programs offer additional scholarships to students based on talent or skill. Some programs hold auditions to assess a student's performance ability and offer funding to exceptional candidates. It's important to research each school's funding to determine the availability of additional aid and awards.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Bachelor's in Music Program of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 Berklee College of Music Boston, MA 2 University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA 3 Valley City State University Valley City, ND 4 Texas State University San Marcos, TX 5 University of Maine at Augusta Augusta, ME