Online Master's Programs in Music

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Updated on: 11/22/2018

If you hold a bachelor’s degree in music and want to take your studies even further, an online music master’s degree is the first step in achieving your goal. Graduate programs strengthen and build on prior knowledge and skills while introducing new, more advanced concepts. A master’s degree also provides the opportunity to develop a specialty or focus on a particular area or career path, such as music production or broadcasting.

In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about earning a master’s in music, from courses and concentrations to the best online music master’s degrees available. Read on for valuable tips on how to choose a school, pay for your degree, and get the most out of your education.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Music Program?

An online music master’s degree strengthens prior knowledge and introduces new concepts and skills. Depending on your focus area, you may learn to manage performing artists, teach K-12 students, capture audio in studio recordings, direct a choral group, or design concert and event staging. You may also interact with music professionals, participate in an internship, or apply your skills during field study.

The average online master’s in music consists of 30 credit hours and takes full-time students around two years to complete. Some schools allow candidates to transfer graduate credits obtained at other institutions, which can considerably reduce a program’s duration. Degree length also largely depends on whether you enroll as a part- or full-time student. Online programs typically provide a part-time option, which allows students to work and balance personal obligations as they study. In addition, distance education programs offer a greater deal of scheduling flexibility, and many feature accelerated or self-paced courses.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in music program?

Course offerings tend to vary from school to school, and often depend on the area of study you pursue. While no two programs offer the exact same curriculum, the following examples are just a few of the courses you’re likely to encounter in a master’s in music program.

Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Music Education

Tracing the history and evolution of music education from ancient Greece to contemporary times, lessons provide a broad overview of instructional methods and topics over the centuries. Learners acquire a solid understanding of music’s importance in general education and cultural literacy.

Musics of the World

Ideal for prospective music teachers, this course presents a variety of global music traditions from an ethnomusicological perspective. Using qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as fieldwork, students explore one or more music-related focus areas in detail, placing special emphasis on music’s role in culture.

Advanced Mixing Techniques

Candidates enhance their mixing capabilities by exploring concepts like EQ, balance, spatial effects, and dynamics. Lessons also explore time correction and pitch, as well as specialized mixing techniques used for digital streaming services. Students hone their mixing skills through hands-on assignments and projects.

Commercial Voice Production

Coursework surveys the creative process used to produce commercially viable vocal recordings. Students learn to position microphones for different kinds of vocal recording sessions as they master Auto-Tune, vocoder techniques, and other common vocal processing effects and editing methods.

Creative Recording Techniques in Music Production

Cultivating both technical and creative expertise, this course presents methods for creating professional recordings in nearly any setting, including portable studios with limited equipment. Candidates expand their recording vocabulary and skills as they learn to manipulate dynamics, frequencies, and arrangements.

What exams or projects should I expect?

An online music master’s degree curriculum generally includes a final project or activity, in which candidates synthesize and demonstrate their acquired knowledge. You may be required to create and submit a capstone project, such as a portfolio of your compositions or performances. A culminating thesis project might also require you develop unique, original products that result in a professional piece of work as a result of you synthesizing the knowledge you gained in your studies. Doing so enables you to more thoughtfully assess your artistic and professional growth.

What specializations are available in a master’s in music program?

Some master’s programs allow candidates to select a concentration, or specialized academic track. Choosing a concentration lets you sharpen skills related to your interests and prepare for your desired career. While available concentrations vary considerably between programs, you’re likely to encounter the following specializations as you research online music master’s degrees.

Music Theory

This concentration presents techniques for analyzing tonal and post-tonal music, distinguishing modes and scales, and advanced concepts in musicology. Students may compose and perform their own works to demonstrate proficiency. Graduates can enter easily segue to a doctoral program.

Music Business and Entertainment Industries

Future executives and entrepreneurs gain the administrative tools to manage and promote labels, projects, and initiatives in an increasingly digital music industry. Coursework often includes hands-on experiences such as internships or field studies. Many graduates go on to work for record labels, music publishers, promotional companies, and talent agencies.

Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management

Offering a deep understanding of both nonprofit arts administration and for-profit live entertainment businesses, this concentration is geared toward tomorrow’s industry leaders. Candidates explore the legal, management, financial, and promotional aspects involved with managing live entertainment. Courses examine topics such as marketing, production, and performance oversight.

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Music Degree?

An online music master’s degree qualifies candidates for a variety of new career opportunities and helps graduates stand out in the workforce. An advanced degree shows employers and industry experts that you possess the knowledge and skills required for success. The following career options allow individuals with an online music master’s degree to combine their educational background and passion for the industry. While some positions may require additional certification or training, obtaining a master’s is the first step toward landing a fulfilling and challenging job in the music industry.

Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians

These technicians coordinate, operate, and ensure the integrity of electrical and sound equipment. Working behind the scenes of television broadcasts, sound recordings, concerts, and radio shows, they adjust video, lighting, and audio equipment, synthesize sound with on-camera action, and make routine reports. They must also know how to convert video and audio recordings to digital file formats for later editing.

Music Directors and Composers

Music directors lead bands, orchestras, and choirs in performance and recording sessions. They write and arrange original songs, and decide which compositions to perform for live audiences or studio recordings. Music directors are often charged with auditioning performers and identifying the best musicians to fulfill their group’s needs. This career requires a careful attention to rhythm, timing, and melody. Candidates interested in becoming music directors may benefit from selecting a conducting concentration.

Musicians and Singers

Working as solo artists or in groups, professional musicians write and compose music in many genres, record studio sessions, and perform in front of live audiences. They may recruit and audition performers as necessary, rehearse in preparation for upcoming shows, and promote their work through social media and interviews. Many hold a background in music theory, composition, or musicology.

High School Teachers

High school music teachers present fundamental musical concepts to students in grades 9-12, including basic music theory. They often lead the school band or chorus, strengthening and showcasing students’ performance abilities. In addition to classroom teaching, high school music teachers produce, rehearse, and present live musicals, concerts, and talent shows.

Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

Working closely with producers and directors, editors use specialized software to turn recorded camera footage into a final product. They may also oversee sound editing, adjusting volumes and adding background music and sound effects. Camera operators capture and adjust images for television shows, movies, and sports events. Professionals in both roles must modify scenes as necessary to improve visual effects.

Joining a professional organization provides wonderful networking and career-building opportunities. Meeting others who share your passion for music is not only motivating; it helps you stay current with industry trends and practices. Many professional organizations also offer career resources like members-only job boards and resume assistance.

Association of Music Producers (AMP)

AMP provides members and advertising, production, and media communities with resources related to music production. The group maintains chapters across the U.S. and honors industry excellence through the AMP Awards.

Music Business Association

The industry’s only organization that weds content and commerce, this professional association helps members connect with potential business partners and increase their visibility through its website, newsletter, and events.

International Society for Music Education

With a presence in over 80 countries, this organization nurtures cooperation and intercultural understanding in a worldwide community of music educators. The group’s world conference draws members from around the globe.

Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)

MTNA encourages ongoing professional development for music teachers. MTNA members enjoy continuing education and networking opportunities, as well as resources like certifications and grants.

Association of Performing Arts Presenters

Supporting members through advocacy, networking, and professional development, this association got its start in 1957. Along with funding for travel and research, it delivers three annual training programs and sponsors webinars, think tanks, and conferences.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Music?

Graduates go on to take many different roles after completing an online music master’s degree. The following table provides salary and job growth information for a few of the most popular careers in the field. While some positions may require additional training or certification, earning a master’s degree can help put any graduate on an exciting career path like the examples described below.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians Less than $23,160 $42,650 More than $85,340 +8%
Music Directors and Composers Less than $21,010 $50,590 More than $109,300 +6%
Musicians and Singers Less than $9.70/hour $26.96/hour More than $69.81/hour +6%
High School Teachers Less than $39,080 $59,170 More than $95,380 +8%
Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators Less than $25,580 $58,210 More than $102,980 +13%

Source: BLS 2018

As the entertainment industry becomes increasingly digitized, technology is expected to drive a great deal of job growth for these and related careers. While online and streaming music services continue to grow in popularity, so does demand for professionals who are well-versed in digital recording and internet music marketing. Individuals who take on high-demand, lucrative positions in film and video editing must master complex software and equipment while staying abreast of new tech developments.

The type of music degree you pursue also affects your earning power. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, at Georgetown University, graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree in music draw an average annual salary of $49,000, while those with a master’s degree make roughly $61,000 a year. As the data demonstrates, earning a master’s degree in music can raise your expected yearly income by nearly 22%.

Online Master’s in Music Program Accreditation

The best online master’s programs come from accredited institutions. Conducted by external agencies, accreditation is a process which ensures that schools uphold high academic and ethical standards. Regional and national accreditation agencies assess institutions’ resources, student outcomes, and faculty qualifications. Most public, nonprofit universities receive regional accreditation, while technical and vocational schools are usually nationally accredited. Regionally accredited schools are typically viewed as more prestigious, as they only accept credits earned at other regionally accredited institutions. The U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation websites provide lists of approved accrediting agencies.

Along with institutional accreditation, individual programs and departments often obtain programmatic accreditation from field-specific agencies. For example, an online music master’s degree may hold accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which specializes in evaluating online educational programs. The National Association of Schools of Music also grants programmatic accreditation to undergraduate and graduate curricula at colleges, universities, and conservatories.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Music Degree

Pursuing an online music master’s degree requires a substantial financial commitment. Fortunately, there are an array of options available to help pay for your degree. Scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans can all contribute to reducing educational costs.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    The U.S. Department of Education provides more students with financial aid than any other source, awarding up to $120 billion in federal grants, work-study funds, and loans each year. To determine your financial aid eligibility status, you should fill out a FAFSA form as soon as you begin applying to programs.

  • American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC)

    Candidates studying orchestration and composition may apply for one of ASMAC’s five annual scholarships. Applicants must submit an original arrangement, a goal statement, and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

  • New Music USA

    This organization awards between between $250 to $15,000 to fund new music projects and cover costs such as studio recording. Grant recipients may spend up to two years completing their project.

  • Peter Carpenter Fellowship

    Sponsored by the BMI Foundation, this annual fellowship attracts aspiring TV, video game, and film music composers. Recipients have gone on to win Emmy Awards.

  • peermusic Latin Scholarship

    This annual competition awards $5,000 for the best original Latin instrumental composition or song. A panel of prominent Latin music publishers, songwriters, and administrators judge submissions. Winners have enjoyed accomplished careers in film, TV, and recorded music.