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.

What are the best music programs of 2020? Here are our top 3:

Rank School Location
1 Berklee College of Music Boston, MA
2 Valley City State University Valley City, ND
3 University of Maine at Augusta Augusta, ME

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?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Berklee College of Music

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

A private music school founded in 1945 in Boston, Massachusetts, Berklee serves more than 7,000 students. Berklee Online offers three master's degrees and nine undergraduate majors, including a 120-credit interdisciplinary online bachelor's degree in music.

The personalized interdisciplinary studies major requires core music and liberal arts courses; two courses in music business and music technology; and additional classes in music production, composition, and performance. Students may select from courses in touring, artist management, and copyright law and must complete a final capstone project.

Applicants must apply online by submitting a written or video essay, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Berklee uses rolling admissions and notifies applicants within two weeks after applying. Berklee graduates have won more than 250 Grammy Awards.


Valley City State University

Valley City, ND Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 41%

Founded in 1890, North Dakota's VCSU began providing laptop computers to all students in 1996. Today, VCSU offers two graduate and 11 undergraduate degrees online, including an online bachelor's degree in music. The curriculum includes general education courses, core music courses, music electives, and performance credits.

VCSU's music major requires core courses in music theory, aural skills, conducting, arranging, and music history. Students may take all classes for the music major online, but must complete lessons and ensembles on campus at VCSU or another institution. Music majors prepare a recital, thesis, or composition as a final capstone project.

Applicants must submit an audition to show proficiency in their instrument. Non-resident online students pay the same tuition rate as residents from Western Undergraduate Exchange states.


University of Maine at Augusta

Augusta, ME Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 18%

UMA houses more than 85 programs, including 14 online bachelor's degrees. UMA's online contemporary and popular music degree offers concentrations in audio, performance, composition, music education, and sonic arts.

UMA's bachelor's in music requires core coursework in aural skills, music history, music theory, and the music industry. Additional course requirements include composition, piano lab, ensembles, and digital music systems. Seniors complete a senior seminar and a concert or portfolio.

UMA accepts applications on a rolling basis. In addition to completing an online application, applicants must audition in person or by video or submit a portfolio. Auditions should include two pieces and not exceed 10 minutes. Out-of-state distance learners pay a reduced tuition rate.

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.

Top Paying U.S. States for Music Directors and Composers
State Annual Mean Wage
New York $78,760
Minnesota $72,410
Massachusetts $68,100
Vermont $64,220
Florida $64,110

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

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.


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