Is a Music Degree Right for You?

A music degree is a good fit for someone with an interest in musical theory, experience performing and playing musical instruments, and plans for a long-term career in arts organizations or teaching. In general, bachelor’s degrees in music can be intense, with a focus on developing musical technique and ability, aural skills, command of musical theory, and knowledge of relevant works of music and composers.

In some programs, you will have the opportunity to choose your instrument–whether it is vocal performance, piano, or violin –but you may also be required to participate in ensemble programs as well as develop piano skills. Most music programs include some introductory coursework, but assume that students enter the program with a music background. If you have experience in music, either through educational or extracurricular programs, you might consider a music degree.

Advice for Earning Your Music Degree Online

In general, there are two types of music bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Music and Bachelor of Music. Most online music degree programs will be Bachelor of Arts programs, as this type of music degree emphasizes music history, theory, and ear training as well as performance. A Bachelor of Music program is a professional degree that focuses on developing musical technique and performance.

Bachelor of Music programs usually require an audition to apply, but some Bachelor of Arts programs require auditions as well. However, online programs in music function differently, as the distance model makes musical instruction, ensemble performance, and evaluation somewhat difficult. Distance programs often focus on topics within the discipline that can be easily evaluated. Online programs may not be ideal for students with a primary interest in developing their performance.

Required Courses

Online music degree programs include general education classes in literature, math, science, and social sciences as well as major courses. Below are a few common required courses in online music degree programs:

  • Aural Skills
  • Sight-Reading
  • Music Theory
  • Music and Culture
  • History of Music

Common Career Paths

Some potential careers for those with a bachelor’s degree in music include:

Musicians and Singers

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Hourly Wage: $34.26

Musicians and singers play one or more instruments or sing for a living. Some may be studio musicians for hire, while others make a living performing live in bands or as solo artists. You don’t necessarily have to have a degree to earn a living as a musician or singer unless you want to pursue a career as a classical musician or vocalist, which often requires formal training and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. The figures above were gathered from the BLS

Music Directors and Composers

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Annual Salary: $53,370

Music directors are in charge of leading orchestras during their performances and recordings while composers write music. Composers write music for movies, musicals, TV shows and commercials, opera, or theatre. Music degrees in composition, theory, or conducting are more specific to this career, but a degree in music is applicable as well. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

High School Music Teachers

  • Expected Growth: 7%
  • Average Annual Salary: $59,125

High school music teachers usually teach choir, orchestra, or marching band, depending on the musical activities offered at their school. In order to be a candidate for these positions, you will also need a teaching certificate and may be required to have experience with the activity you want to teach. Job availability for high school music teachers might be lower than for high school teachers in general, as most high schools have only a few positions available to teach all grade levels. The figures above were provided by the BLS.

Sound Engineering Technicians

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Annual Salary: $47,080

Sound engineering technicians use professional equipment to record music artists and bands, a process that involves synchronizing, editing, and mixing music. While a bachelor’s degree is not required for a sound engineering technician position, it can train your ear to make you a more capable and thorough sound engineer, as well as provide some introductory coursework in sound and music technology. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Middle School Music Teachers

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,965

Middle school music teachers work with students in sixth through eighth grades. In most cases, they introduce students to ensemble music, like orchestra, band, or choir and many students will be exploring music for the first time. They provide instruction on technique and performance, theory, and sight-reading, and lead rehearsals and conduct performances. Figures above were provided by the BLS.


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