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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Music

Majors Overview March 1, 2016

This article talks about master’s degree programs in music and their education requirements, coursework, career options, job and wage outlook, and continuing education options.

Master’s Programs in Music

Schools commonly offer graduate music programs as Master of Arts (M.A.) in Music and Master of Music (M.M.). The focus of MA program is on general music theory, history and music pedagogy (the science of teaching); students keen on acquiring comprehensive music knowledge would benefit from enrolling in these programs. Students with talent in conducting, music performance, or music composition would particularly benefit. Program coursework in the MM program features core, as well as elective, music courses along with a final recital, performance or thesis.

Master of Music Education (M.M.E.) programs are also available through some schools, targeted at students who seek teaching careers in K-12 schools. Program graduates would earn not only a master’s degree, but also qualify for music teaching licensure.

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s music degree, along with submitting a video or audition portfolio of teaching skills or performances.

Education Requirements

Education prerequisites in most master’s degree programs in music exceeded those in other master’s level programs. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a baccalaureate, or its equivalent, in a related major. Those applying as performers will have to perform an audition and provide a detailed listing of their repertoire. Admission criteria may also include the presentation of videos and scores of live performances of students’ original compositions. Criteria may also include submission of statements of purpose and, in some instances, of video examples of their teaching skills.


Students enrolled in most music master’s degree programs have to complete about 30 credit hours, varying by their chosen major. Common coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Principles and practices in music education
•Musicology (often synonymous with music history)
•Music theory and literature
•Music research methods
•Analytical studies of music

Career Options

Program graduates from MA, MM, or MME programs can seek careers as:

•Musical Performers

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, musicians and singers are expected to see a three percent job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2012, musicians and singers brought in an average hourly wage of $24.16 (BLS). Music directors and composers are expected to witness a three percent job growth during the 2012 – 2022 decade; in 2014, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $55,230 (BLS).

Continuing Education Options

Program graduates who seek continuing education may pursue doctorate programs in music offered by many schools that offer master’s degree programs in the subject. For instance, musicians, composers and directors seeking to pursue both the scholarly and creative aspects of music may enroll in a Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) program. Program graduates may also pursue post-master’s professional certificate programs in areas such as string quartet performance, solo voice and opera performance, and woodwind performance.

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