The future of music

Types of Music Degrees

December 29, 2023
music degrees

If you’re thinking about applying to music school, you might first want to know what your options are.

There are different types of music degrees available, each with its own prerequisites and characteristics.

So in today’s article, we will overview all the types of music degrees and majors.

And we will talk about different career paths you can take once you graduate. 

Types of Music Degrees 

If you want to study music, there are so many options at your disposal – from universities, colleges, and conservatories to different music majors and types of degrees.

And whether you’re interested in joining a National Symphony Orchestra or starting a career in the music business, there’s a music degree program for you.

Now, what type of degree you should opt for depends on your goals and previous experiences.

The thing is, some degrees require a prior degree in music.

Some music programs require previous experience and musical skills, and others are ideal for students who want to start learning about music from scratch. 

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the different types of music degrees available – and then you’ll be able to determine what degree is the right fit for you.

1. Bachelor of Music (B.M.)

B.M. (Bachelor of Music) is one of the most common music degrees offered by universities.

This kind of music degree program usually entails courses in music theory, ear training, music history, liberal arts, and so on.

And some of the music majors you can choose from include composition, performance, music education, and music therapy. 

But in most cases, B.M. programs are based on music classes – they often take up two-thirds of the classes.

That said, B.M. programs attract students who want to focus on performance and a specific instrument.

grand piano with music sheets

Since they’re focused on performance, B.M. programs usually entail lengthy requirements – the best music schools are highly selective, and the admission process can be quite complex.

On the other hand, B.M. programs allow students to focus on their passion, equip them with valuable skills and knowledge, and prepare them for a successful career in music. 

2. Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

On the other hand, when it comes to B.A. programs, the focus is not on in-depth music theory and performance. 

Students of this program usually study a wide range of art-related subjects.

So, while majoring in music, B.A. students can study literature, poetry, history, social sciences, and so on.

Therefore, this music degree program is ideal for students interested in humanities and culture in general and music as an art form.

The requirements are also not as rigorous as with a Bachelor of Music, although the acceptance rate varies from school to school.

3. Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)

Unlike B.A. programs, B.F.A. programs allow students to focus on cross-disciplinary studies.

This means that with a B.F.A. program, you can combine music studies with other forms such as film, visual arts, dance, and fine arts.

B.F.A. programs usually have a strong foundation in history and art, but they can be quite versatile, and they’re generally ideal for students who want to collaborate with other artists.

4. Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

If you’re more interested in the technical and scientific side of music, you should check out B.S. (Bachelor of Science) music programs.

B.S. music programs revolve around areas such as the music business, audio engineering, and music technology.

And they can include courses in computer science, electrical engineering, physics of sound, and so on.

person working on a computer

Many students who want to enter the music industry decide to enroll in a music production or audio engineering study program as these music degree programs are designed to equip students with the technical as well as creative skills necessary to enter the field. 

See also: Best Audio Engineering Schools in the US

5. Bachelor of Professional Studies (B.P.S.)

If you want to start a career in the music industry, you might also be interested in Bachelor of Professional Studies programs.

This is a relatively new type of degree program, and it’s designed to prepare students for specific types of jobs in the music business.

B.P.S. students usually complete a shortened set of general education (liberal arts) courses, while focusing on their preferred area of study. 

So, B.P.S. programs are based on the combination of theory and practice, and they’re ideal for career-focused students who want to gain a new skill set and enter the workforce.

6. Associate of Arts (A.A.)

Usually offered at community college, the Associate of Arts degree program is intended to focus your study toward liberal arts.

In most cases, the A.A. program takes two years to complete, and it helps students to build a foundation of general education and career skills.

7. Diploma

If you don’t want to take liberal arts classes, getting a diploma might be a good option for you.

You earn a degree through a college or university for the completion of several courses, while you earn a diploma through specific coursework in a specific field.

Also, a degree takes four years and a diploma takes two to three years to complete.

That said, a diploma requires fewer credits to complete, and it’s generally a more affordable option. 

8. Certificates

A music certificate, on the other hand, marks the completion of a program that doesn’t lead to a degree. 

It’s defined as a postsecondary vocational certification, and it takes a shorter time to earn than other types of music degrees.

You can get a certificate through an online music program, university summer programs, or through on-campus certificate programs. 

Some music schools also offer Artist Certificates that are more rigorous. 

9. Graduate degrees (M.M., M.A., M.F.A., M.S., D.M.A., Ph.D.)

Once you get your music degree, you can continue with your studies by enrolling in a graduate program.

Graduate music programs tend to have more specialized courses; so, if you want to focus on a specific area of study and excel in it, getting a Master’s degree is the way to go. 

six person wearing a graduation gown

There are many different graduate programs to choose from, such as music production, music business, songwriting, film scoring, and so on.

And if you want to take your studies and level even further, you can get a Ph.D., a doctorate in music is a terminal degree in the field.

10. Double or Dual Degrees 

There’s another option you can consider – a dual-degree program that lets you earn two credentials in two different fields.

This is usually possible at universities that house their own music colleges, conservatories, or schools.

So, with this kind of program, you would be able to get a music degree in conjunction with a degree in a separate field.

11. Online Music Degree Programs 

Besides standard on-campus degree programs, some universities and colleges also offer the possibility to complete a program entirely online.

This way, you can enroll in a program offered by a respected university regardless of where you live.

Generally, students prefer taking online lessons for various reasons, including:

  • Flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Affordability 

Online learning can ultimately save you a lot of time and money – besides taking classes at home, tuition and fees for online studies can be significantly lower than on-campus alternatives.

However, some online degrees don’t have the same reputation as on-campus degree programs.

Plus, some music degree programs require you to be physically present because of the rehearsals, collaborative projects, music lessons, and so on.

It all depends on your specific area of study and type of music degree program. 

See also: Best Online Music Schools

Is a Music Degree Worth It?

As you can see, there are many great options for studying music you can explore.

You just need to find a degree program that meets your needs. 

And if you do, we’re sure you won’t regret it.

Of course, you first need to be sure you really want it – therefore, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your career goals?
  • What are your existing skills and strengths, and how can they help you in achieving your goals?
  • How much time and money are you willing to invest in your studies?
  • Does your dream job position require a music degree?

When it comes to music, talent and skills are much more important – however, some positions do require a music degree.

For instance, some technical fields require a degree, as well as some research fields such as music therapy.

But even if your dream job doesn’t require a music degree, applying to a music college can bring you so many benefits.

woman holding her music degree

As a music school student, you can make connections, collaborate with fellow students and artists, and get a chance to learn from talented musicians and expert teachers.

Moreover, a music degree program will equip you with the skills, experiences, and knowledge necessary to build a successful career in music.

That said, whether getting a music degree is worth it or not depends on your goals. 

But no matter what your goals are, one thing is for sure – a music degree will improve your career prospects and give you an edge over competitors. 

Types of Music Schools

Besides different types of music degrees, you can also choose from different types of music schools and institutions.

Music was first studied exclusively in conservatories – and most conservatories still provide music degree programs.

They often provide courses and programs focused on performance, composition, teaching, and more traditional music studies.

But music is now an integral part of many university programs – that way, students can major in music, and get a degree that will help them advance their careers.

Many music degree programs are rigorous and designed to prepare students to build successful careers in music.

Music colleges and educational institutions also offer music programs, and they are often focused on contemporary, popular, and jazz music (like Berklee College of Music, for example).

So, the conservatories are known for classical music training, while the college usually focuses on the study of contemporary music. 

The Music Majors 

Besides types of schools and degree programs, you can also choose from different music majors.

Majors express the subject you are studying to get a degree.

So, if a Bachelor of Music is a degree, your major might be in Composition, Performance, or something else.

The most popular music degree programs are focused on the specific instrument or vocals, composition, music business, and music production.

They also allow students to focus on a specific genre or style, such as Jazz, pop, or classical music.

Either way, choosing the right major is important because that will be the main focus of your studies. 

two persons studying

Now, here’s a list of the music majors many universities and colleges offer:

  • Music (General)
  • Performance 
  • Composition
  • Songwriting
  • Music Production
  • Audio Engineering
  • Music Education
  • Music Therapy
  • Music Business 
  • Music Industry Studies
  • Musicology (Ethnomusicology)
  • Music Theory
  • Conducting
  • Choral Studies
  • Jazz Studies
  • Film Scoring
  • Radio Broadcasting/Communication

Is Majoring in Music Hard?

Although it doesn’t seem that way to some people, majoring in music is quite hard.

Many music degree programs include a ton of classes, rehearsals, and performances.

Therefore, majoring in music requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and persistence.

The thing is, many rigorous music programs (especially B.M. and M.M. programs) gather top talent and therefore produce outstanding musicians. 

And these musicians end up working in top institutions and orchestras, or they become famous songwriters and music producers.

But that’s not the case with every music school, of course.

Some music schools are less selective and more flexible – consequently, they are less challenging and demanding.

But the difficulty of music also depends on the school as well as the student’s previous experiences, skills, and talent.

In any case, if you want to earn a music degree, you’ll have to be ready to put in the work. 

It’s true – becoming a professional musician is a challenging journey, but it’s also a rewarding one.

Finally, although it’s important to have goals and big dreams, enjoying the process is just as important.

But if you’re passionate about music, you shouldn’t have any issues enjoying your studies. 

Careers in Music 

There are many different types of jobs available to people with a music degree.

And there are many career paths you can take.

However, you should think about the career path you want to take before applying for college.

That way, you can focus on a specific area of study, develop the necessary skills, and improve your career prospects.

But you can also choose a study program focused on general music studies and opt for a specific area of study later on.

Either way, if you’re passionate about music, there are many careers you can pursue based on your interests, abilities, skills, and goals.

For instance, if you’re interested in music technology, you can become a sound engineer, stage production technician, audio-visual technician, and so on.

And if you’re a talented singer, you can join a choir, become a vocal coach, or study to become a soloist.

woman singing with spotlights

This is indeed a wide field, and there are many roles in the music industry you can have, even with a single music degree. 

For example, music producers can work in a recording studio, collaborate with artists, work as freelancers, or provide mastering and mixing services.

Music therapists can work in hospitals, rehab centers, and various institutions. 

And there are also roles in management, research, journalism, and hospitality.

Some students decide to share their knowledge and passion and embark on a journey of becoming music educators. 

It all depends on the exact career path you want to take.

But that’s something that students offer to figure out during their studies – therefore, don’t worry if you’re still not sure what you want to focus on. 

Now, let’s take a quick look at some of the fields and music-related careers you can pursue:

Performing Careers 

  • Background Singer
  • Bassist
  • Choir Director
  • Drummer
  • Guitarist
  • Music Sequencer
  • Pianist
  • Programmer
  • Vocal/Instrumental Soloist

Music Production and Recording Careers 

  • Music Producer
  • Recording Engineer
  • Studio Manager

Songwriting and Publishing Careers 

  • Arranger
  • Composer
  • Songwriter
  • Film Composer
  • Jingle Writer
  • Lyricist

Concert and Touring Careers

  • Booking Agent
  • Tour Manager
  • Promoter
  • Stage Manager
  • Live Sound Engineer

Music Business and Management Careers 

  • Art Director
  • Project Manager
  • Personal Manager
  • Record Label Executive
  • Talent Scout

Music Education Careers

  • Music Educator
  • Music Teacher (Elementary School)
  • Musicologist
  • Private Instructor

Journalism, Writing, and PR Careers

  • Music Journalist
  • Music Blogger
  • Music Editor
  • Playlist Curator
  • Music Supervisor
  • Radio DJ

How to Choose a Music Degree Program 

With so many outstanding schools and interesting music majors, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even a bit confused.

Of course, some students know for sure what they want to study – maybe they have been taking piano lessons since they were a kid, or they’ve always wanted to become conductors.

But the truth is, many people starting college don’t have clear career goals. 

After all, a degree program should show you all the possibilities and help you find out what you’re really passionate about.

Nevertheless, you still need to choose a program to apply for – and that’s not an easy task.

There are, however, some things you can do to make things easier.

Finding the Right Fit

Since many music schools are quite selective, there’s a chance you won’t get accepted into the study program you wish to enroll in. 

That said, you should create a college list – a list of your wishes and colleges/universities that offer what you’re looking for. 

To create a college list, you need to conduct thorough research and identify the schools that meet your academic and financial goals.

For starters, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you more interested in the creative or technical process of making music?
  • What music genres and styles do you prefer?
  • What are your abilities, special skills, and strengths?
  • How can you incorporate these skills into your studies?
  • What is your budget?

The answers to these questions will help you create a college list and determine your next steps. 

woman looking outside the window while holding paper

When making a list of the schools that might be the right fit for you, you can consider the following factors:

  • Location
  • Tuition fees
  • Courses offered
  • Facilities
  • The faculty
  • Networking opportunities 
  • Student experiences
  • Internship and study-abroad opportunities 

It’s important to develop the criteria you can base your final decision on.

And then you need to be able to apply the criteria and make your list even shorter. 

Another thing that might help you out is visiting the school you’re interested in – many universities have open days, and that’s arguably the best way to get all the information you need.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask for advice – reach out to other students, search for forums or online communities, or attend events and performances that might help you get an idea of what that particular school is all about.

Online research will help you discover more about teaching faculty, learning format, and teaching philosophy, but reaching out to students or alumni will help you find out more about campus life, internship, and collaboration opportunities, as well as the general vibe of the school. 

Applying for College 

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you can start checking for application dates.

Meeting the deadline for each aspect of the application is crucial.

Therefore, try to prepare everything in advance to avoid sending an application at the last minute.

Most music schools require an essay, letters of recommendation, and some kind of music portfolio.

Some of them require you to complete an audition too.

Applying to music college can be daunting and overwhelming, but if you approach the whole process one step at a time, you’ll realize it’s not as difficult as it seems.

The important thing is to stay organized and focused on what really matters to you. 

Types of Music Degrees – Final Thoughts 

There are many types of music degrees available to students who want to major in music – from B.M. (Bachelor of Music) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs to music certificates. 

What type of program you should opt for depends on your goals, interests, and skills.

Either way, majoring in music comes with many benefits, and enrolling in a music degree program will certainly provide you with valuable skills and experiences.

You may also like: Best Music Schools in the World

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