6 Exciting Music Degrees to Consider for Your Career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Musicians and individuals who want to pursue a career related to music have many options regarding their education and what degree they get. Whether you're looking for a more theoretical or hands-on role, choosing the right education path is the first step to achieving your career goals. By understanding the different degrees available for aspiring music professionals and who might benefit from each degree, you can select which academic program to pursue. In this article, we explore what music degrees are, provide a list of six degrees you can pursue, and discuss minoring in music.

What are music degrees?

Music degrees are academic qualifications that students who are interested in a career related to music can pursue during their post-secondary education. Students learn a range of skills and knowledge, such as music theory, practical music skills, music history, producing, and teaching. While there might be overlapping concepts that are taught in many of these degree programs, each degree focuses on equipping students with the tools they require to succeed in their chosen field. Students can choose which degree they want based on their interests and short-term and long-term career goals.

Many universities have a music department that offers various degrees in the music field. Students can also apply to study at a conservatory, which might offer more specialized and diverse resources to prepare them for a musical career. Music schools typically require a formal application process, and certain programs might also require an audition or an interview to determine if the student qualifies for the prerequisites of the school or program.

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6 degrees in music you can consider

Choosing the right degree to pursue may lead to success throughout your career. It teaches you the knowledge and skills you need and provides valuable opportunities to network with mentors who can provide advice and guidance. Here are six degrees in music for you to consider, including the general requirements for each degree:

1. Bachelor of Music Education (BME)

A Bachelor of Music Education degree prepares students for a career in teaching music to elementary, middle, and high school students. You can choose to specialize in teaching a specific grade range. Instructors prepare students with knowledge of theoretical, cultural, and historical music concepts while focusing on practical applications of these concepts in the classroom. For example, students might gain exposure to teaching in mock or real classes, developing lesson plans, and interacting with students engagingly. Students that complete the BME degree are typically qualified to teach music anywhere in the country.

The BME program typically takes five years to complete, with around 150 semester hours. Students might take courses in theory, music and culture, aural skills, vocals, and instruments depending on what they what to specialize in as a teacher. Most BME programs also require students to participate in music ensembles, non-music electives, and teaching-related courses, such as inclusive classroom strategies, assessment and evaluation, conducting, and music education methods.

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2. Associate of Arts (AA)

The Associate of Arts program offers students a foundation of general education required for many careers. Students learn important career skills and knowledge that are applied in many areas of music, such as sound engineering. After completion of this degree, you can pursue entry-level positions related to the music industry, such as a music director or producer. The AA degree is ideal for students who want to build upon their existing skills or want to gain a broad degree and don't want to commit to a four-year program.

The AA degree is an introductory degree in music that takes two to three years and 60 credit hours to complete. Besides music, students are typically required to take a variety of courses that relate to all areas of the arts and sciences, such as technology, math, humanities, and social sciences. The AA program gives students the flexibility to pursue different directions based on their interests. Students also develop important soft skills that can help them succeed in their careers, such as problem-solving, communication, and analytical skills.

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3. Bachelor of Music (BM)

A Bachelor of Music degree is an intensive program that prepares students for a career as a professional musician. In addition to honing your instrumental skills, such as vocals, flute, or piano, you also gain foundational and advanced music knowledge, such as ear training, history, and performance skills. With a BM, students can become soloists, work in music ensembles, or join performance groups. Within the BM degree program, you can also choose to pursue specializations if you want to focus on a specific area, such as composition, music education, and comprehensive jazz. Specializations depend on the music school you choose.

The BM degree takes four years to complete, and students are required to take both music and non-music courses. Most first-year courses are the same for all students, regardless of what they want to specialize in for their careers. These courses prepare music students with the skills required to succeed in any music profession and can become transferrable skills if they want to switch roles. Music students are also required to perform recitals and have music evaluations throughout their third and fourth years of the program.

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4. Bachelor of Science in music (BSc)

The Bachelor of Science in music degree allows students to explore technical and business-oriented courses that prepare them for specific applications required in the music industry. These degrees are more multi-disciplinary than programs that prepare students to become career musicians. Graduates often find careers as sound technicians, music producers, sound engineers, and in sound recording. Many of these roles combine technical skills with an understanding of music theory and concepts, which students learn with the BSc in music degree.

This degree typically takes four to five years to complete, with 150 credit hours. While some schools offer music specializations in their BSc program, other schools might offer a dual program with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Music. Students take a combined selection of music-related courses, such as their instrument of choice and music education, and technical courses, such as business and music production. The BSc in music program can also help students to enter the music industry as producers, teachers, and arts administrators.

5. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree prepares students for a career in music and arts-related fields. You can choose to specialize in specific areas of music, such as music history, music performance, and music composition. Students can choose among a variety of music-specific courses that prepare them for their desired field and art discipline courses that help make them more developed professionals. With a BFA, students can become career musicians, music directors, and music teachers. Students can also choose to pursue careers related to music, such as film sound editor, multimedia artist, band manager, and music agent.

A BFA typically takes four years to complete. Unlike a Bachelor of Arts, BFA students are required to take more art-intensive courses and fewer liberal arts or social science courses because of the focus on fine arts. Most universities offer a BFA degree, with a combination of studio, practical, and theoretical approaches to learning. Not only do students learn the knowledge required for a career in the fine arts, but they also get the opportunity to hone their skills in an engaging and guided environment.

6. Master of Arts (MA)

The Master of Arts degree is the graduate level of the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Music degree. Students focus on specific areas of the liberal arts, social sciences, or humanities, getting a broader education that covers general music skills like ear training, interpretation, and technical analysis. An MA can lead to higher-level roles in your field and help you further hone your skills to take on more complex responsibilities in the workplace. In addition to advanced courses in your specialized subject area, students typically also participate in a capstone project or thesis paper in order to graduate.

It takes two to three years for students to complete the MA program. Instructors organize seminars, classroom discussions, and academic research to equip students with a variety of advanced theoretical knowledge that helps them succeed in their careers. You not only gain important tools required for your specific field, but you also gain transferrable skills that you can use in any career change or advancement. With an MA degree, you can go into many career paths, such as education and art and design.

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Minors in music

Minors allow you to specialize in areas related to music that are separate from your major. Some universities might let students minor in subject areas that are unrelated to music with approval from the relevant departments. Minors require fewer credits than majors and they give you a competitive advantage over other professionals also looking for similar jobs. Acceptance into minor programs can be based on auditions, interviews, applications, and grades.

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