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

Choosing to complete an online master’s in music program brings the same level of integrity and comprehensive education that a traditional on-campus program provides. Students benefit from flexible scheduling and attendance options, allowing them to work and live their daily lives while completing coursework during more convenient hours. An online program also gives students the opportunity to choose the best college or university to meet their needs, removing the need to relocate for a quality education. Before choosing an online master’s in music program, take time to research the different offerings and coursework to ensure you select the educational institution that best suits your interests and needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Music

Music Education Pursuing an online master’s in music with a concentration in music education gives students the skills they need to teach music to younger generations. Music educator in a traditional classroom environment, whether elementary or secondary schools or at the post-secondary level
Composition Choosing the composition concentration for an online master’s in music allows students to explore their own style and sound, giving them the tools they need to create their own arrangements. Composer for a variety of music styles, to be used in theater, movies, television or any other avenue that employs musical accompaniment
Music Theory Focuses on the evolution of music and how it relates to different cultures and society, preparing students to arrange music with a greater understanding of human responses. Composer, musician/singer on a stage or in a studio setting, music teacher in a traditional classroom environment
Music History The music history concentration for an online master’s in music degree includes some elements of music theory but places an emphasis on the history of music. College professor in a classroom setting, music librarian in a traditional library, music historian in the chosen research environment
Performance Prepares students for performance in theater productions, television and film. Performer on a theater stage or for television or film production
Conducting Opting for a conducting concentration for a music master’s degree provides students with the skills needed to lead a full orchestra. Conductor in a studio or stage setting

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Music

There are many educational institutions that offer online master’s in music degree programs, each with its own unique coursework. Depending on the career path you wish to pursue, it’s important to find a program that offers the concentration that best fits your goals. Some programs will require an audition, so check to see if this is something that can be done remotely or if it requires a visit on-campus.

The program courses offered will depend largely on the concentration you choose and the college or university that developed the program. A few examples of common courses found in an online master’s in music program include:

Music of the World Students study the different musical styles across the globe, learning to identify musical characteristics of different cultures and recognize diverse music traditions.
Music Composition Covering arrangement techniques, musical theory and composition skills.
Techniques of Research in Music Explore and learn research techniques for investigating music issues and learn skills to develop possible solutions.
Music Theory Examine the key elements of written musical scores and music notations, including a focus on scales, intervals and rhythm.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Music?

Most online programs for a master’s degree in music are designed to be completed in two years, but there are several factors that can alter that timeline. Choosing an accelerated program requires a more significant course load but allows students to cut their time investment by half. If participating in a traditional, two-year program, electing to attend part-time can increase the number of semesters needed to complete your degree.

It’s also important to consider how often semesters begin each year and when required classes are offered. Core classes that are only offered one semester per year may delay your degree if you are unable to make them work with your schedule. Schools that offer staggered semesters, which start more than twice a year, may offer more options to shorten your enrollment time.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Music Prepares For

Music Educator A master’s in music program with a concentration in music education can prepare students to complete the certification requirements in their state. Exams and licensing agencies vary by location. A certified music educator is qualified to work with students in a variety of age groups and cover a range of musical topics.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Music Degrees

When choosing a school that offers an online master’s degree in music, it’s important to make sure it is accredited by a proper agency. Accreditation offers protection to students by assuring the curriculum is up to industry standards and that credits will be recognized should the student choose to pursue a post-graduate degree. Certifications and licensing can also be hindered if a degree is obtained through an unaccredited program.

There are several national and regional agencies that provide general accreditation for graduate programs. The U.S. Department of EducationDepartment of Education offers national accreditation, as does the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, that focus on schools that offer distance learning. Regional accrediting agencies are often more beneficial, as credits are easily transferred between schools within that region. There are six major regional accrediting agencies, including the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Industry-specific accrediting agencies are also respected, such as the National Association of Schools of Music.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Music Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Overall, job growth for music careers is expected to experience a 6 percent increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This puts the industry very close to the 7 percent job growth expected across all sectors. However, because the music industry attracts a large number of hopefuls, competition for desirable positions will be high. For many music careers, obtaining a master’s degree in your preferred focus can give you an edge over competitors who hold a bachelor’s degree or less. In fact, many higher-paying positions require a graduate degree to even be considered as an applicant, and job security is also increased.

Expected Salary

Obtaining a degree from an online master’s in music program also gives you a better negotiating position to command a higher salary. As with any arts industry career, pay is often directly related to the quality of your work. Pursuing an online master’s degree in music increases your knowledge base and gives you the tools you need to improve your talents. Looking at the table below, note that the higher earning potential is generally related to a higher level of skill.

Music Teacher $27,989-$67,761
Music Director $14,741-$66,281
Musician $15,414-$100,948
Music Composer $20,089-$128,222
Music Producer $24,527-$103,905

Although standard musicians have the potential to earn a higher salary based solely on talent, some of the better-paying music positions, such as composers and producers, require a more technical skill set that greatly benefits from a graduate-level education. Years of experience in the industry will also affect the pay you receive. Professions in music show an increase in earning potential directly related to the number of years dedicated to their particular field, with the exception of music directors who appear to peak after five years’ experience. If you look at the table below, you can see how years on the job can affect a music major’s earnings.

Career Opportunities

Career opportunities for those who complete an online master’s in music degree program are varied. Depending on the focus you choose, it’s common for music professionals to switch between career options as opportunities arise.

Musician / Singer Musicians and Singers perform for live audiences or record music in studios using vocal arrangements or by playing instruments. They are rarely given annual salaries and are, instead, often paid hourly or per performance. $26.96 per hour 6%
Music Director / Composer Composers are responsible for arranging original music scores, while Directors lead the musical groups and orchestras that play the arrangements. $50,590 per year 6%

Professional Organizations

A successful career in music is often dependent on who you know, so professional organizations are a great way to build your professional network through hosted social events. These organizations can also keep you up to date on the latest industry news, provide training opportunities and advocate for your rights as a music major. The following are a few professional organizations available to those with a master’s in music.

American Federation of Musicians: The AFM acts as a musician’s union, demanding fair wages and working to protect the interests of its members. Job opportunities are presented to members with a guarantee that pay, benefits and conditions meet the employment standards the AFM has set.

Society for American Music: This organization works to encourage networking between music professionals. The SAM hosts an annual conference with several industry special interest groups and creates two publications to help members stay on top of industry news.

Society of Composers, Inc.: The SCI is an organization created to help composers achieve professional success. Members are given access to SCION, a database that offers career opportunities, and they may attend a number of national and regional conferences to connect with colleagues and grow their professional network.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Music

Many students choose an online master’s in music program for the financial savings but may still need some assistance to pay for their graduate degree. The first step to seeking financial help is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens the door to any federally-funded grants or loans a student may be eligible for. If more funds are needed, private loans and scholarships are also an option. The resources below are a great place to start your search.



Scholarships Details
The NFMC Thelma A. Robinson Award in Conducting Award: $1,000

Deadline: By invitation from the Conductors Guild

Eligibility: Must be a student, enrolled in a university or college conductor’s program at graduate level or higher.

The NFMC Young Artist Awards Award: $1,000-$20,000

Deadline: February 1

Eligibility: Between the ages of 18 and 30 for instrumentalists, between the ages of 25 and 37 for vocalists.

The Ray Charles and Jon Charles Scholarship for Music and Vocal Arranging Award: $1,000

Deadline: June 1, November 18

Eligibility: Must be a current student, enrolled in a music composition or arranging program, under the age of 27.

John Lennon Scholarships Award: 3 awards totaling $20,000

Deadline: February 1

Eligibility: Current student at U.S. college or university, between the ages of 17 and 24 at time of submission and not working with a major record label or music publisher.

Dr. Robert Hawkins Memorial Scholarship Award: $1,000

Deadline: November 5

Eligibility: Current student, attending a U.S. college or university and enrolled in a program to obtain a degree in instrumental (band) music education.