Music Degrees – Reviewing the Options

Choosing among several possible music degrees, considering a conservatory or music school or music department, as well as whether you’d like to graduate with a BM, BFA, BME, BA or BS in music depends on what you want to study, which school might fit your goals best (and how it labels the degree program), and what you see yourself pursuing after you graduate.

Do you want to go on to graduate school in music or leave the door open for getting an advanced degree in the future? Find out what credits you’ll need to have under your belt in order to meet the entrance criteria when you are ready to apply.

Is it important that you graduate in four years? If so, seek out periodic guidance and support from your music school so that your decisions and choices keep you on that track.

Bachelor of Music (BM) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Music schools see the BM or BFA degree as an intensive program that prepares students to be professional musicians. As a BM or BFA candidate, you’ll embark upon your four-year curriculum starting on day one (an important consideration for students considering transferring or changing their major). Music classes will take up two-thirds to three-quarters of your classes, depending on which school you attend.

Music schools offering BM or BFA degrees within universities will require you to take specific music and non-music classes. This pushes you to maintain your writing and reading skills and gives you an opportunity to round out your education. As a BM or BFA candidate, you’ll perform a recital in your junior and/or senior year.

Some schools will give you credit for AP or IB exams taken in high school. You may also be able to test out of lower level requirements. But in general, the BM or BFA degree requirements are lengthy and limit the number of electives you’ll have room for in your schedule.

BM and BFA music students who want to graduate in four years may have a hard time fitting study abroad into the regular school year. They should also realize that friends who are pursuing degrees in other areas may be able to start college as sophomores, thanks to high AP/IB test scores, but that the BM and BFA degrees are typically non-negotiable four-year programs.

Bachelor of Music Education (BME)

The BME degree prepares you for a career in teaching K-12 vocal and instrumental music, along with the preparation necessary to gain state licensure. Be sure to check licensure requirements in the state where you think you’ll want to work, as this may inform your decision about where you’ll want to go to school.

As a BME student, your curriculum will include a combination of music education courses, conducting, music theory, aural skills, and music history. You will study a major instrument, take methods courses, and gain experience through observation and supervised teaching in classroom situations. You will student teach, attend workshops and events for current and future teachers, and gain exposure to a host of professional development opportunities. You will also take a required number of liberal arts courses as well as music technology classes.

Bachelor of Arts in Music (BA)

If you want to study music but also want the flexibility to prepare for a career in another field or in a field of music not addressed by other programs or departments, you may consider the BA in music degree. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of your credits will be in music, depending on the school you attend. The other requirements will be in musicianship, general education, and electives, based on your interests. Because there is more flexibility with a BA degree, you are more likely to be able to take a semester abroad during the school year, while still graduating in four years.

Bachelor of Science in Music (BS)

The BS degree is offered at some schools where the emphasis is more business-oriented. Music business and music industry majors are likely to find themselves getting BS degrees. Some schools also offer the BS for music education and sound recording technology.

Double or Dual Degrees

Universities that house their own music colleges, conservatories or schools typically make it possible for students to get a music degree in conjunction with a degree in a separate field.

Some independent conservatories offer degree programs in conjunction with universities (e.g., New England Conservatory + Harvard University; New England Conservatory + Tufts University; The Juilliard School + Columbia University). Check to find out whether these are four- or five-year programs.

? Some of the questions to ask each school:

  • Are there additional fees for students getting double degrees?
  • Will getting a double degree affect scholarships, merit awards, or my date of graduation?
  • What are the logistics of getting a double degree if classes are held on two different campuses?
  • How many students successfully get double degrees at this school?
  • How easy/difficult is it to get into required classes if I enroll in a double degree program?
  • Are there students successfully getting double degrees with whom I can have a candid conversation?
  • Are there advisers available who focus on the needs and concerns of students getting double degrees?
  • Will getting a double degree allow enough time for required ensembles, bands, private lessons, and practicing and still leave time for having a life outside of school?

Minors

Minoring in a related but separate field from your major can be a good complement to your major and may open up additional career doors when you graduate. Your minor will require fewer courses than your major, yet it still conveys a serious interest in a particular field when it comes time to look for a job or internship. Acceptance into a minor program may be based on application, audition, interview, and GPA, depending on the school and the program.

Comments

  1. daisy

    I am currently a junior in HS planning ahead for next falls college application/audition process. I am looking for help finding a college that I can get either a BA or BFA in Vocal Performance with a dual degree or minor in Music Therapy. I specifically want to study “popular music” or similar, not classical or opera. I have found that USC Thornton School of Music and University of Miami Frost School offer both options but I can’t figure out if they would allow a dual degree or minor AND I am hoping to have more options than those. I plan on auditioning for college but I am open to suggestions. I currently have a 4.1 GPA. I have also heard that some schools let you create your own major but don’t really know where to start. Thank you!

    • Music therapy is not offered as a minor. It is such an extensive major that we have not heard of students having the time to double major. You can always visit websites of schools you’re interested in to learn more about what’s possible. We have many listed on all of our music therapy articles.

  2. Taylor

    I am a Guitarist that is very interested in learning theory. I recently changed my major from Biology education to our school’s associates of Music program, our school does not offer a bachelors so i am planning on transferring once i get my associates of arts. I am unsure of what i can do. I want this degree, but I also want an income that is 50k+ per year. I wouldn’t mind being in music education as I was going to go into the education field regardless. Do you have any suggestions?

    • We are strongly against going into music education unless you are really passionate about teaching. It would be a disservice to your students as well as to yourself. And as we recently told another student: entering music with the expectation of it leading to a lucrative career is not recommended because it is unrealistic, at least at first. You can continue playing guitar and becoming more proficient at it without majoring in it. You can join ensembles and bands and play solo. But if you can’t imagine doing anything else with your life and career, and are willing to work hard and learn the skills required to not just be a proficient musician but also how to market yourself and your music, then go for it! If you do plan to transfer from a 2- to a 4-year program, be sure to read this first: Community College for Music Students.

  3. Dylan

    Hi, I just graduated with my BA in Music Industry and BS in Mass Media. Junior year, I had an epiphany (or for better words, I felt like I was in the wrong major) and wanted to switch to a BME program. Unfortunately, my school did not offer one, and because I was almost done with my BA, I decided to finish my last year. Anyway, I still really want to become either a music educator or a music librarian (ridiculously hard to get into, yes, I know). I know I’m going to have to get a Masters along with my initial certification, or most likely a dual in an MLIS program and an MA usually in Music History or Music Theory. I’ve just graduated from my BA/BS and am unsure of what to do, and really am not sure what I want to go into. I do like the idea of both career paths almost equally, but I know job outlook-wise, it’s smarter to go for Music Education.

    • Because these are such different career paths, we suggest you take some time to explore each of them before moving forward. Look at the admission requirements and curricula at some of the schools where you would be interested in applying for more education/training. Consider doing an informational interview with at least one music librarian and also shadowing them to see what their work days are all about. Visit the Music Librarian Association’s website to learn more.

      Also consider doing some volunteer work in a school and with the age of students you would be interested in teaching. Also talk with music educators and check out NAfME’s website to learn more about music education. Once you’ve done all of this, you are much more likely to know whether either field is the right next step. And you’ll have a better story to tell about why you’ve chosen that path.

  4. Max

    Is it realistic for me to think that I can be a professional tubist? I always have people that bring me down and people who encourage me, and I just want to prove people wrong. So is it a realistic option for me?

    • Tubists may have to take on other jobs in addition to performing, but indeed there is a call for them as there aren’t as many of them as there are performers on other instruments. To be more employable, tubists are wise to learn to play other horns as well.

      You don’t indicate your age, your current level of proficiency, whether you take private lessons, how much you practice, your years of study, or your experience to date. But we do encourage you to take private lessons and ask for feedback about your proficiency level – and get suggestions for improvement. College music professors offer lessons to prospective music majors, and if you’re one of those, you can also ask for a lesson and feedback from faculty at schools you’re interested in applying to.

      If you are in high school, youth orchestras/symphonies and summer music programs offer excellent experience and opportunities. If these apply, see our summer music section and article about youth orchestras to learn more.

  5. Tyler

    Hello! I have been looking at college websites and have come across a bachelor’s degree in music history. What is your opinion on this degree? I have often felt that a music history specialization was better suited for a master’s degree, when a student has been introduced to research skills and basic music history topics through an undergraduate degree.

        • Music programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music are required to provide a minimum of 120 semester or 180 quarter hours.The average number of years it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree in music at schools in the U.S. is 4. Some students take 5 years to complete this degree if they take a study abroad, take less credit hours per semester, add another major, change majors, or have to repeat a course.

  6. Kara

    Hello,
    I am a sophomore in college and have up till now a double major with performance and education. I am thinking about dropping the performance degree and just sticking with music ed because its a ton more units to do both. Are there any advantages in keeping the performance degree that would make it worth to spend an extra year in school? I am also in an honors program that’s in lieu of GEs so even though I’m a semester ahead, it didn’t do anything.

    • A lot depends on your career goals as well as what you are doing as a music ed major. We don’t know if your music ed programs includes private lessons and we don’t know how much practicing and playing you get to do. If your goal is to maintain a performance career as well as become a music educator, music lessons and as much practicing and performing will be helpful. We encourage you to talk with your professors and see what they say about the value of spending another year in school – including the cost of doing that.

    • Wilson

      No. I would recommend finishing the BME degree so you have the option to teach public school, and practice and study with a good teacher if you want to perform, especially if you would need to pay another year of tuition to take a bunch of career unrelated courses for the performance degree. I’ve never heard of an applicant being denied an opportunity to audition for an orchestra because he/she had a BME degree, and there are very highly successful performers with a BME out there, as long as they play well.

  7. Katherine

    Hi! Im a freshman in college I plan on getting a degree in instrumental music education. But i want to get a bachelors and a doctorate in conducting. The college I am attending doesnt offer those programs. Could you recommend some college that offer these programs? Thanks!!

  8. Annie

    Hello! I’m going to be a junior in high school and I’m looking around at the different music programs different schools offer. I’ve played classical piano for over 11 years, and this past summer I graduated from a month-long summer program called CSSSA at the California Institute of the Arts. I want to major in music, but I’m not sure of the different options I have. I’d like to be a professional musician, but I’ve found also that I have an aptitude for teaching others. I’d like some suggestions on possible majors and what type of school would be best suited for me!
    Thank you. 🙂

  9. Hello! I am a musician and I’m currently getting my associates degree then transferring to Berklee College of Music (already accepted) to get my B.A in music therapy. Then, I want to attend Harvard (or some other medical school) to become a M.D in Child Psychiatry (using music as one of the methods of medicine/mental healing). I’m still in the planning/confirming process of “Music to Medicine” but is this possible or even a good idea??

    • The answer is way longer than this space allows. But here’s our shorthand response: As long as 1)You want to be in school and can afford to do so for many years; 2)You can put up with the demands and rigors of all of this training; and 3)You are passionate about what you are doing ––– then why not start on this path with these goals and see how it unfolds? You may find stopping points along the way but with each level of training, get all you can to prepare for working in that field in case you do decide to work instead of going for more education. We urge you to read this article about music and medicine – as well as all of the music therapy articles here on MajoringInMusic.com.

  10. Dylan

    I am interested in music type careers, not necessarily a solid music major, but rather something that has it incorporated into it. I like the idea of music technology and intermediate music production. Are there any unpopular and interesting careers that I could look into that I probably wouldn’t have heard of before? And maybe some schools with good music programs so I know where to look? Thanks in advance!

    • We suggest you look at the article What Can I Do with a Music Degree? and see what interests you. There are a number of articles on MajoringInMusic.com that talk about what it’s like to major in as well as find work in many of these fields. If you have any interest in business, check out music business programs as well. As you collect ideas, start looking at schools to see if they offer what you think you’re interested in studying. Participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com make that easy by linking what they offer right on their pages.

  11. George

    Hello everyone! I am a non-American citizen but I am to enroll myself as a music student in the USA. I have been studying privately for many years, I have just got my Licentiate in piano performance from one of the British examination boards/ London College of Music- University of West London. My question is: May I graduate before that four year term of study?

    • Check with schools before you apply, to see whether the classes you took qualify you to test out of any of the required classes at the schools you’re interested in attending. If you’re applying to 4-year schools, whether you’ll be able to graduate early will depend a lot on the school you go to, the number of credits you take per semester, whether you’ve been able to waive any classes, whether you take classes during the summer. If graduating in less than four years is a priority, you might also compare the BA and BM programs wherever you apply.

  12. Ellen

    My daughter wanted to major in music performance, but doesn’t want to chose between her sax and her flute. Does she have to focus on just one instrument? Her music teacher told her the only way she could do both was to get a degree in music education.

    • She will need to audition on one instrument – even for music education – and she’ll have the best chance of being offered admission if she auditions on the instrument she’s strongest on. Once she gets in, she’ll likely be able to continue lessons and performance opportunities on her second instrument. Majoring in music education makes sense if she wants to be a music educator. But not if she doesn’t!

  13. Megan

    I am going to be a freshman in college this year. My current career goal would be to become a violin professor someday. Which degree would be more helpful on my track before going to grad school? (Perhaps a Bachelor of Music or a Bachelor in Music Performance)? Also, how realistic/doable is this career goal?

    • To teach violin on the college level, you will likely need a doctorate degree and a very strong performance background. A BM in violin performance is certainly a way to start.

  14. Mark

    If I have an Bachelor of Arts in Music, can I go to graduate school and earn my Master of Music in Performance or Master of Music Education? Is this Possible.

    • Yes, although there may be a few classes you’ll need because the BA did not include them. Check the application and audition requirements at schools you might want to apply to. Address any questions to the graduate admission folks. If any of the schools you’re interested in participate on MajoringInmusic.com, use the forms on their school pages on the site for asking your questions.

  15. Debbie

    My daughter has a degree in Music performance but has recently been working in education as a teacher assistant. She loves the education field and hopes to go back to school for education. How difficult will this be for her? How many credits will she have to get to have music ed degree?

  16. Bethany

    I am a junior in high school, and I am a two-time member of the All-State choir. I definitely want to pursue a degree in music, and ultimately I would like to perform while also composing and arranging on the side. What degrees would best suit me? I think i definitely want to do vocal performance, but is it possible for me to double major in that and music theory? Thanks!

    • Yes, depending on the school you go to. Start looking at the websites of schools you’re interested in, and find the curricula for each major. A question you’ll want to ask is whether you will be able to get the classes you need for each major and still graduate in 4 years. If any of the schools you’re considering applying to participate on MajoringInMusic.com, you can ask your questions right on the forms on their school pages.

  17. Brad

    I’ve recently been accepted into music school to pursue a degree in Music Performance with concentration of classical guitar. I’m a returning student (meaning I have an associates degree already, and a career already in another field). This is an adventure that I’ve always wanted to take on, but I just want to know what my options are as I go forward with this new career path in music. My original plan when I set out to apply to music school was that once I was finished, I would teach classical guitar at a university the collegiate level. Am I making the right choice by pursuing this degree with these goals in mind? And if so, how likely will I be able to obtain a tenured position once I’m through school? I have a family to think about, and I just want to make sure I’m making the right long term decision that’s best for everyone.

    • You’re on track to achieve your goal. But we’d be misinforming you if we led you to believe you’re guaranteed getting there with a bachelor’s degree in music. Tenured positions are harder to come by these days. There are far more adjunct positions to be had. And most tenured positions require that you have your doctorate in the field you want to teach in, or a stellar background and experience in that field of music to compensate for not having a doctorate. If you are interested in teaching private studio students, getting some pedagogical training and experience would be helpful in conjunction with your degree program.

  18. Lindsey

    What if you already have a bachelor degree that isn’t in music and you want to get a masters in music? I am a singer ( not professionally) and I have had several years of instruction throughout high school and college. I have a great passion for music and want to either teach voice and/or perform. Would getting a masters in music be possible? Thank you.

    • The undergraduate degree in music includes progressively more difficult classes in music theory, music history, aural skills, musicianship, private lessons, and ensemble work over the course of four years. Graduate programs expect you to have that under your belt before you apply and audition. Remember that you would be applying and auditioning against students who have this background. We suggest you explore more by doing the following: 1. Look at participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com – visit their graduate programs links. 2. Ask your specific questions of any of the schools by filling out the forms on their participating school pages.

  19. Kritika

    I have a passion for music and specifically vocal music. I sing and I want to make that passion as a career. I want to do it as a degree in university but I’m confused to which degree I should take and what jobs I can have. I need to explain to my parents what subjects I want to take in university and I’m completely lost. I like singing songs which are popular nowadays but I also have an interest in educating myself about music theory and other types of music. Do you have any suggestions for degrees and career options I might have?

    • You’re smart to recognize the importance of technique, music theory, music history, aural skills, musicianship, and classes in non-music areas that will inform your ability to be a musician. These are all offered on the college level in music programs. There are several vocal music articles on this website that you’ll want to check out, especially the popular music and music industry articles, the “ABCs of Voice Degrees” article, the music education articles, the musical theatre articles, and the music therapy articles. Since we don’t know what kind of training and background you have so far, we also recommend you consider summer music programs in voice to strengthen your skills and also help you figure out if you really want to pursue majoring in vocal music. Check out our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page to learn more.

  20. Danny

    Quick question, when majoring in music education is that the same as majoring in music theory and music strings. Or is music education more like a general name for the different areas one can study? I am going for a music major and also planning to double major to be a music therapist.

    • Music education is the name of a major – it prepares you to become a music teacher. Music theory is a separate major. Strings would be a performance major with a strings emphasis. Music therapy is a major unto itself, offered by many but not all schools. Read our articles on music therapy to learn more.

      • Danny

        By having a B.A. in music education, what aspects of music would it allow/certify me to teach, ex. theory, piano, or all including singing? Thanks for you answer by the way.

        • The B.A. in music education would prepare you to teach K-12 music. You would likely focus on instrumental OR vocal music in your undergraduate program, but in reality, you may need to do both in the school where you teach. You would graduate with the academic background necessary for meeting teaching certification requirements in the state where you attend school. Since each state has its own licensing requirements, be sure to check those also. Check out our articles on music education, including this one: Tips for Music Teacher Job Interviews.

  21. Hannah

    This might be a silly question, but is there a difference between a Bachelors of Arts in Music Education and a Bachelors of Music Education? What would be best for teaching elementary music? Music is my passion and I’m excited to share it with others as much as I can. 🙂

    • This is definitely not a silly question! Different schools offer different degrees. And in many states, you need to take a fifth year to get credentialed as a music teacher. The best preparation includes as much experience working with children, focusing on your main instrument but becoming proficient on others, and becoming a student member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) at whichever school you attend. We also encourage you to read our articles on music education to learn about other aspects of this great career. Start with this one, and see links to others on the right side of the page: Tips for Music Teacher Job Interviews.

  22. Jaclyn

    I am a junior in H.S. and I am trying to find out information about degree programs that would match my interests. I am a singer with a concentration in jazz, blues , R&B, and some pop. I would like to get into the music industry but I am unsure of the types of jobs and degrees that would be available. I was thinking of somehow combining a communication degree with maybe music media. Does a program like this exist?

    • We suggest you start by reading this article: Music Industry Internships. Be sure to click on the other articles listed on the right side of the page. Then look at the schools linked on this article – these are all participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com where you’ll be able to find music industry-related programs. Another suggestion is to take a music industry summer program this summer to help you clarify your interests. We think you’ll find this to be good preparation for when you are ready to apply to colleges. Look at our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs Page for these: LYNX Arts & Media Camp (Colorado), University of the Pacific Music Camp, McNally Smith College of Music/Music Industry Summer Program (Minnesota), and Leeds College of Music (International – UK).

  23. Abigail

    I am currently in my 2nd year of high school and plan to major in Music Education in college, but I was wondering what the best minors to go with that would be? I play the violin and would like to play in an orchestra too.

    • It all depends on your interests and whether the schools you apply to offer the capability to minor in conjunction with their Music Education programs. Start considering what you’re looking for in a college program and then start looking at schools that may meet your criteria. You can start that process by visiting music schools right here on MajoringInMusic.com

  24. Anny

    I currently am a senior in high school, and have finished my auditions for this fall. I have auditioned and been accepted into the flute performance programs at University of Redlands, University of Oregon, and Central Washington University. I am very dedicated to getting a strong performance degree, but I also am very interested in double majoring in a science (psychology/neurobiology).

    My question is: If I want a degree that prepares me for a future career/graduate school in flute performance, while also giving me the necessary credits to continue graduate studies in sciences if I chose to, what would be my best option? Also, when applying to music performance graduate programs, do they truly care what your bachelor’s degree is, or is it more important that you put in the work and have an amazing audition?

    • We think the best way to determine which school is the RIGHT school for you is to figure out which one is the best fit based on your career goals as well as other criteria. See our “10 Considerations for Visiting Music Schools” to help you put your criteria together. Remember that it’s not only what you learn in the classroom but the opportunities you can gain that will give you the best education.

      In looking ahead to graduate school, check a few grad school websites to get a sense of what they look for in prospective students. Good undergraduate performance programs will prepare you for applying and auditioning, although some students also take a post-bachelor’s certificate or diploma program to improve their chances of acceptance. We’ll be posting an article about that soon. Graduate performance programs will expect you to be a highly proficient performer with a high level of musicality, in addition to a strong music theory, history, and aural skills background.

  25. Brandon

    I am a junior in high school and would like to get a degree to teach music either for a school or some place that gives lessons. I was in percussion for 3 years but have not played since 8th grade. I am currently trying to pick up drums again and will graduate high school with an associates degree (I am attending a STEM school). Do I need to have a certain level of skill if I want to get a degree in music or before I pursue a music degree and will my associates degree get me ahead or will I have to start over? Any suggestions or information to point me in the right direction would be great.

    • You’ll need to be able to play your primary instrument at a high enough level and with enough musicality that will allow you to audition successfully. This will be very difficult at this point without a private teacher, a ton of practice, and probably a summer music program (see “2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs.

      You will also need to be proficient at sight-reading and it would be very advantageous if you have at least a fundamental background in music theory. See this article for more: Prepare to be a College Music Major. Also read articles under “Preparation and Planning” on the top navigation bar of MajoringInMusic.com – there are several articles that will be useful to you now.

      Note that majoring in music is not the only way to keep music in your life. You can also consider a minor in music and/or taking music lessons while you’re in college so that you can feel ready to perform in a band, ensemble, etc.

  26. margaret

    l need a degree in music which will help me to teach theory of music, choral, music history and being able to play more than one instrument. Please help which degree will that be. Also it must be internationally recognized. Is it possible?

    • As a starting point, we suggest that you explore music education as a possible major in college. You will need to be proficient enough on a primary instrument or voice to apply, audition, and be accepted. And most every music major these days is expected to also have keyboard skills even if they’re not a piano major. You can also study additional instruments, which, as a music educator, will be quite useful.

      As for international recognition: that will depend on where you want to teach and the regulations there. See our article “Teaching Music Abroad: Adventure, Culture and More.”

  27. David

    I am a junior at the University of Florida major in theatre (BA) with a minor in voice performance. Could the coursework in the minor serve as an equivalent for an MM program (since I will have 3 semesters of applied voice, a semester of theory, a semester of music lit, and at least six semesters of vocal ensemble, plus some elective coursework in opera workshop and diction). I started my minor as a junior and plan to finish it in the fall of next year. I just started in classical, but I would like to train more in both classical AND music theatre (I placed second in the NATS Musical Theatre category for my chapter). Is it possible to complete a second BA or BM in two to three years?

    • Congratulations on your NATS award!

      Are you asking whether a minor in voice would equal a master’s in music? If so, look on the websites of schools with classical voice programs. You’ll see how much music theory, language training, music history, performance, and more is required for the bachelor’s in voice let alone the master’s degree. You are more likely to receive credit toward a second bachelor’s degree from the same school you’re at – this would be considered a dual or double major. But you’d be wise to check with the department chair ASAP to see what’s realistic and how much time you’d be looking at.

  28. ashlyn

    Hi my name is Ashlyn and I am currently still in high school and wondering whitch of these would be good for me – a music producer or a music manager. I think I am leaning more towards manager because I love to travel. If any one has any advice for whitch one would be more exciting please feel free to give me your advice.

    • A music industry college program will prepare you for both fields, but the clearer you are about each of these careers and what’s required to be successful in each, the more likely you’ll be able to find a program that fits you and provides the training you’ll need. Find relevant summer programs on our Summer Music Camps & Programs page –– these willl provide great insight and experience for whatever area you choose. And be sure to check out our music industry internship articles to learn more.

  29. I have a bachelors degree in international affairs, but I want to become a touring musician who is endorsed by a musical instruments manufacturer. I have an idea for a signature amp line and thats tied into becoming a sponsored musician. I want to go back to school for music composition so I can take my technical skills and knowledge to the next level, however, I am curious how I could fund a second bachelors degree? I still owe money on my previous student loans…

    Should I go back to school for a second bachelors degree in music or are there other alternatives to becoming a touring musician?

    • To be a successful touring musician, you need strong performance skills, and business/entrepreneurship training would be very useful as well. Read our articles on music industry and entrepreneurship to learn more. Instrument companies are very particular as to who they will have represent them and typically work with highly proficient musicians and often those who’ve already made a name for themselves. But check directly with some of the companies to see what it would take.

  30. Nicole

    I recently graduated with a bachelors degree in cello performance. I would love to teach private lessons but am open to teaching in a classroom. I’m having trouble finding any job opportunities that have to do with this degree. Do you have any suggestions on where to look and what to look for?

    • Can we assume you had some pedagogical training in conjunction with your degree? If so, you could start seeing private students if you can set up a studio or travel to see students in their homes. You may find this article useful: Tips for Success as a Freelance Musician. You will need teacher certification to teach in a classroom – check out how you can get that at a local college or university. Also talk with community music schools in the area where you are living – what teacher credentials do they require? We also suggest you talk with the career development office at the school you just graduated from, to help you think out some next steps.

    • It all depends on the school, the program, your background, whether you’re working while going to school. Two years is an average, but check the requirements at each school you may want to consider.

  31. Michael

    I went to school for Ethnomusicology with a concentration in Jazz. I am currently looking into options for teaching music at the Elementary or Middle school level. What options do I have with my situation?

  32. Brooke

    I am currently doing my second year in a BMus program. I was originally at another school doing a BFA in music performance, and I am now second guessing my decision to leave the first school. I originally left because I thought that the BMus program was a higher degree and would offer me more job opportunities however, over the past year I have been considering other careers in music – not performance specific. Should I continue in the BMus program or go back to the BFA program?

    • Since we have no idea what you’re interested in career-wise and what your current school offers vs. your former school, we suggest you talk with the music department at your current school. See if they can advise you as to what you can do with a music degree from their school. What kind of career development service do they offer? Entrepreneurship classes? Opportunities to explore areas you’re interested in learning more about? Ultimately, it’s not so much the name of the degree but more, what you do while getting the degree, that will serve you best.

  33. Louis

    Do you know if it is typical for a master’s in music program to accept students with an undergraduate bachelor of arts in music degree, or do they only accept students with bachelor of music degrees?

  34. Rynn

    I am currently a junior at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. I am earning two degrees—a BA in History, and a BAME in instrumental music. I want to go to graduate school and specialize in either music history and music composition. How can I do this? I eventually want to teach in colleges music theory, history, woodwind, and band, in addition to performing in ensembles.

  35. David

    Do Master’s programs require bachelor’s degrees in performance? I was a vocal performance major but switched to communications with a minor in music. I am looking to pursue an MM in Vocal performance and am wondering if schools will even look at my application/pre screening videos.

    • We suggest you review master’s level application and audition guidelines at music schools to get a better sense of the kind of preparation prospective graduate students have attained. You can find a great sampling of schools right here on MajoringInMusic.com. You’ll find that most schools require a bachelor’s in Vocal Performance to be ready for the level of advanced training a graduate program entails. Note that as a prospective graduate student you would be required to audition against those who do have undergraduate degrees in Vocal Performance and a strong background in music theory, music history, languages, applied lessons, performance, keyboard skills, musicianship, sight-reading, etc. There may be some schools that will allow you to prove your readiness for the master’s level without an undergraduate degree in vocal performance – you’ll have to research where that may be possible and realize that they may require you to take additional courses to prepare to apply.

  36. I’m currently a junior in high school and I’m really interested in a degree in music, but I’m confused as to which degree would be right for me. I’m more interested in performing and music production, but based more on contemporary style. The majority of schools I’ve looked at only have degrees with what seems to be classical music. What other degrees should I be researching to better fit my interests?

  37. Hayley

    I’m a senior in high school, and only last year did I realize that I wanted to major in music. It’s always been something I was passionate about, but I simply didn’t think it would be sustainable. Sadly, I don’t have a very strong music background – but I have an incredible passion towards it. I picked up sight reading very quickly and have been in an advanced choral team at my high school- along with another 4 years of regular chorus. I’m learning the piano and I have so many more instruments I want to learn, including the Erhu and the violin. I’m also a percussionist (my sister taught me how to play the djembe and I’ve loved percussion ever since), and I compose and arrange music. My problem is that I don’t know what school or music path I should go for – Vocal Performance is a big path for me but I don’t know what type of degree I would be eligible for with my late start. Overall, I really don’t know where to start! I need some help and nobody in my family really knows anything about majoring in music (the only one that went on a musical path didn’t go to college). Where should I look to get started?

  38. Brooklyn

    Hello,
    I’m about to be a junior in high school, and I’m at the point where I have to start looking into college. I know I want to major in music, and it sounds like the Bachelor of Music degree is what I’m looking for. I perform in a band as a guitarist, and I want to perform professionally as a career. I also like songwriting. Is the Bachelor of Music degree for this type of music as well, or for the orchestral type of music? Will the Bachelor of Music degree make this possible? How will it help me in ‘making it’ in the professional music performing world after college?

    • Great questions! It’s not the name of the degree but what you get to learn and experience as a music major that you want to focus on. The program, faculty, opportunities to build a strong musical foundation as well as to perform and network a LOT more important than the type of degree. It sounds like you are looking at a popular/contemporary music program, from what you wrote.

  39. Right now I’m in my 2nd year of high school and I’m trying to decide which major I should take b/c my mom says music is too hard and the other major I have my heart set on is computer science. I need your help to tell me which is better. Please and thank you.

    • Music is a very challenging field to major in and typically requires auditions. Unless you have a strong music background, a strong passion for one or more areas of music, and the willingness to work really hard in college, we suggest you look at other fields to major in. You might be able to minor in music and you’ll certainly be able to join college music ensembles, choruses, etc. if you are proficient enough on an instrument or vocally. Read articles under the heading “Thinking of Majoring in Music?” that will help you think this out even further.

  40. Nicole

    I am a fourth year junior majoring in music education, but I am concerned that I have chosen the wrong instrument. I have been majoring in violin, and I love the instrument but just do not feel qualified or confident enough to keep pursuing it, especially surrounded by so many talented violinists. I know I want to teach, but should I continue disappointing myself or switch instruments to something I’m more comfortable with, such as guitar? Or should I just finish out my degree with a violin proficiency since I’ve come this far?

    • You don’t say whether you want to teach K-12 or in a private studio or on the college level, nor what else you want to do with your music. But we do have a few suggestions just the same. Unless you want to be seeking a position as a violinist in an orchestra or ensemble, or teach on the college level, you don’t need to be competing with the talented violinists you hear and see. Taking up additional instruments will broaden your ability to teach K-12 music as well as allow you to find other passions beside the violin. Know that your education does not stop the day you graduate. Having a degree behind you opens many doors, and you can continue to study violin as well as other instruments as you move forward.

  41. Alex

    I am currently on course to get a bachelors in Music Education, and I just finished my Freshman year. I’m having second thoughts about whether or not I actually want to teach, and the Music Ed program at my school is extremely rigorous and intensive. It does not give me very much wiggle room to take some of the non-education geared music classes that I would like to try. I don’t want to rule out teaching completely, but I was thinking about switching to a Bachelor of Arts in Music (BAM) degree that my school offers, and choosing a concentration in vocal studies or something along those lines. This would give me the opportunity to have more freedom and get a more diverse music degree, but I still have some desire to teach. I’m not sure if I want to switch to the BAM major or stick out the Music Education major. Is there any way for me to get my teaching certificate after I graduate, even if I am not a Music Education major? I know that this is possible for other degrees (my mother majored in Literature and is now a college professor after getting her teaching certificate through other means). Any help/advice would be appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • We suggest you start by talking with your adviser in the music school or department at your school. You will not be the first or last student to approach them with these kinds of concerns. Also look at the teacher certification requirements in the state where you hope to teach. How many of the undergraduate classes required for certification would you be able to take, while taking advantage of the leeway offered by the BA? You may want to consider using your undergraduate program to do as much exploring as possible, and then take a master’s-level teacher certification program if you know you want to teach K-12. On the BA path, the biggest concern would be how to meet the teaching practicum and observation requirements.

  42. Elisa

    I’m half way to completing my BS in Music Industry/Business. Does this degree allow me to apply to Masters of Composition or Performance programs?

    • We suggest you look at the requirements for applying and auditioning for graduate programs at schools you might be interested in attending. Since Music Industry/Business programs typically require far less in terms of music theory and applied music lessons, you may need to take some additional classes to prepare for graduate work in Performance or Composition. Look at the participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com to get started. Also read this article: Majoring in Composition & Where It May Lead.

  43. Emily

    I plan on getting a BME next school year, and I was accepted into a school. I did not apply to their school of music, though. Is that a necessity for BME? I was hoping I could do private lessons for a year on my instruments (sax and cello) before joining any ensembles. Would I still need to apply to the school of music or no? If necessary, my school is Portland State and it does have rolling admissions for both schools (I checked).

    • Check with the school’s website to see if you have to apply and audition
      to be accepted into the Music Education division of the music department, which is standard practice at most schools. If you still are confused, talk with the admissions department directly.

  44. Justine

    I majored in music for 2 years in college, but then changed majors and graduated with a BS in Occupational Therapy. I have been a Music teacher for grades K-8 for 7 years; also a Band director for 7 years in addition to practicing Occupational Therapy. I would like to complete my music education degree now. Since I majored for 2 years in music already; have a B.S.O.T. and 7 years teaching experience, do I go for a Masters in Music Education, or is it a bachelors in music education?

    • We suggest you look at the websites and then talk directly with the music education departments at some of the schools you’d be interested in attending. Can you get credit for some of the classes you’ve already taken? We also suggest you check out the state licensing requirements where you live or plan to work. We assume you must have some sort of Teacher Certification in Music as graduate music education programs typically ask for that or a bachelor’s degree in music education to consider a student for a graduate degree in music education.

  45. Jessica

    I’ve been stuck in deciding what BA music degree I should get, once I transfer out of my community college. The next college (CSU) I am going to be in only offers a BA in contemporary in music or a BA in Recording/Technology. I was wondering what degree I should consider on aiming for, if I want to perform, sing, songwrite my own music as a musician. I am wondering which one of these two degrees will help me the most in doing what I love to do. If not I was wondering what other degree I should be thinking about, as I don’t have any interest in becoming a teacher or going deep into music history.

    • See if you can find the curriculum for each of the programs on the website of the school you’ll be transferring to. Then, talk with the heads of both programs there. Let them know your career goals. Which program will provide you with the most experience as well as the strongest foundation for what you want to do? Talk with students and recent grads from both programs – what’s their experience been like? How well-prepared are they for what they want to do?

      If you’d like to work with one of our consultants to get more support, let us know.

  46. Eloy

    I am currently in college about to finish my AA, but I am curious as to what classes I should start taking so I can get on track to getting a degree for music business. This is a recent decision so unfortunately the only music oriented class I am currently taking is introduction to music business. I plan to take music theory next semester though. Also, what GPA should I strive to maintain? I don’t want to not be accepted to a music school because I am being dragged down by a class I don’t need and am not passionate about.

  47. Madison

    I am a junior in high school and it’s time for me to start focusing on choosing a career path. I am confident in my choice to major in music however I am slightly overwhelmed and feeling lost when I am asked what I want to do specifically. I can see myself playing instruments in a band. I am interested in sampling and making my own beats. But I also would like to be in a studio controlling all the buttons and switches while an artist is recording an album. A third option is as you may see on YouTube, there are channels strictly devoted to having artist come perform covers of songs or play acoustic sets, live sets, etc. I would like to be the person filming them, controlling the sound, or editing the video for YouTube itself. Lastly, something a little different- recording music videos seems fun too. As you can see I’ve got varying options. What degrees do these jobs fall under? What are the technical names for these jobs? And what other duties would that occupation require? Thank you for reading

    • Look for programs listed as music industry, recording technology, recording arts, music technology. Remember that internships that expose you to various aspects of the business will be invaluable. Read articles on MajoringInMusic.com about music industry internships and record labels to get more information.

  48. Brianna

    Hi,
    I am currently a high school student and am looking at majoring in music composition. One of the schools I’m looking at has two music composition majors, one is liberal oriented while one is not. I just wanted to know what the difference would be between the two.Thanks.

    • Chances are one is a composition program within a BA degree and the other is composition within the BM degree. The BM degree is more performance-oriented, with more music requirements. The BA is more of a liberal arts degree with an emphasis in music, with more leeway for taking more electives. But don’t go by these generalizations! Look at the school and the programs vs. a vs. your personal needs, goals, criteria for choosing a music school and music program. Every school is different regardless of how similarly-named their programs are, so be sure to check the website information and then contact the school admission and/or composition department directly for any remaining questions the website does not answer.

  49. Emily

    I am a high school student taking nursing classes. The thing is, I don’t want to be a nurse but I recently found interest in becoming a music producer (well I want to sign artists to labels) but I don’t know what degrees to look into.

  50. Shea

    Hi. I’m about to finish up my BS in Childhood Education, which will ultimately result in teacher certification. NY requires a masters and music is on the list of acceptable options. I began as a music major years ago (I’m a returning student) before switching to education, but would love to add a music degree. I’ve recently realized how much I miss it. Would it be possible to get into a grad program for music when my actual undergrad degree was not in music? I have several years of performing under my belt (both jazz and musical theatre, though jazz is my strength and preference) and some private, classical training in voice. Once certified, I only have 5 years to complete my masters while also gaining teaching experience, so I don’t have a lot of make-up time. I’d hate to do grad school in something about which I’m less passionate just for the sake of doing so. I don’t necessarily feel the need to be a music teacher (though the option would be fun), but would love added skills to infuse music further into my teaching and become a better musician, myself. Thanks in advance for any advice.

    • Music majors must take several semesters of music theory as well as applied lessons on their instrument, music history, and other coursework required to earn a degree in music. We are not aware of graduate music programs that accept students who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in music. We suggest you check the requirements for applying and auditioning to grad programs at schools you are interested in and then contact those schools directly if you still have questions.

  51. Trevor

    I am a highschool student and I love band. I take every possible band class here and I, one day, would love to major in music but I don’t know which degree is the best for me….
    I would like to get something that could land me a for sure job at a really good high school band one day directing and teaching young men and women the fine arts of Music. So what do you think I should get to land me a good job at a high school teaching?

  52. Hello, I was wondering if there really are any graduate programs for a BS in General Music/Music Industry. I will be attending university for this degree with a minor in Business, but I am always interested in the options that I might have for graduate studies. It seems less flexible for advancing through academia. If I can’t get into a graduate program with that degree would it be possible for me to just take more courses to be qualified?

    • What would be your goal in getting a graduate degree? And what would you want to study? Let your answers to these questions steer your decisions. Once you know your purpose, you can research application requirements for relevant graduate programs and determine the best way to proceed as an undergraduate. In the meantime, use your time as an undergraduate to get as much training and experience including internships as possible. And be sure to read the music industry articles on MajoringInMusic.com – these will help you think out some of your next steps.

  53. Seth

    I am a high school student aspiring to major in music whether it be composition or performance which degree would be right for me.

    • MajoringInMusic

      It all depends on the school you attend and what you want to do when you graduate. Note that a BM degree will require more music theory and music history, all of which will serve you well as a composition major as well as a performance major. But having time to do study abroad and to explore other areas will also inform your music, and a BA will offer more elective credits and a greater chance of studying abroad within 4 years. Keep your options open and see what makes sense the closer you get to having to make a decision. Talk with your current music teachers and, when you’re ready, college-level music schools, to determine the right path for yourself. Note that some students do switch from a BM to a BA once they’re in music school, if they find it will better serve their current interests and future plans.

  54. Jordan

    I’m currently finishing my Master’s in geospatial information science, but would like a change. The job market has changed since I’ve been working towards this degree and many of the jobs available are lower-level, monotonous jobs. One thing I have always wanted to do is focus on music. Unfortunately, my parents did not allow me to take music lessons as a child so as I got older I was able to pay for guitar lessons towards the end of high school. I still play a little, but would like to go back and focus on that because I have realized music is what makes me happy and it can make a difference. However, one problem that I have realized is that an audition is required to get into a music program. My skills and knowledge are not good enough to be able to audition to get into a music program based on an audition (I do not know a lot of theory or any other instrument). Because of this I am unsure of what to do. Many schools do not promise admission into a music program just because you were admitted to that specific university. I would appreciate any recommendations, insight, and/or help anyone has. Thanks

    • It’s wonderful to hear of your passion for music and that you are well-aware of the demands of getting into a college-level music program. What about taking private lessons as well as signing up for a music theory class (and possibly other music classes) at a community college? That would help you decide whether a 4-year college music program is really the right direction to head in. And if it is, what area of music really makes sense to focus on? While professional musicians rarely talk about their work as monotonous, they do work extremely hard and often with more than one income stream required. By the way, we also suggest you read “What Can You Do with a Music Degree?”

  55. Katie

    I have a Bachelors in Psychology but I am seriously considering going back to school for music. I would like to be a music teacher/marching band director or maybe even a music director at a church. Where should I start and how much of my degree could possibly transfer? And are there online schools that offer these degrees?

    • As a music major, you’ll need to take several semesters of music theory as well as music history. Whether any of your gen ed credits will transfer is up to the schools you’re considering. For music education, you’ll need to also gain the credentials needed to teach in the state(s) you’re interested in. As a church music director, there may be some more latitude in terms of training, but you’ll definitely need to gain enough experience (and networking skills) to compete for those jobs.

  56. Danielle

    My highest level of education is a high school diploma. I love music and have been performing and singing all my life. My dream is to open up a recording studio where voice lessons are offered. Another dream I have is bringing great music programs to lower income neighborhoods. Where do I start to make either one of these a reality?

    • Dreams are important: they inform our reality. But for dreams to grow legs, there are concrete actions that need to take place. Prioritizing your goals will help you figure out specific next steps. Networking will be crucial – meet ups, Chamber of Commerce meetings in your area, and other ways to meet people in who can help you now and in the future are all very important. Gaining business skills will be essential for everything you say you want to do. Working with a business coach may also be helpful. If you envision yourself in charge of the recording studio, you’ll need to get those skills as well. Best wishes as you move forward!

  57. Andrew

    I am planning on majoring in Music in college. I really want to learn music theory and composition. Which degree would be best for that type of learning??

  58. Jackie

    I am a third year law student. (Didn’t see that coming did ya?) I completed my bachelor’s in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and started law school immediately after. I am scheduled to receive my J.D. in a few months.

    The thing is- I don’t want to be a lawyer. I want to be a professional jazz vocalist and I always have, but certain circumstances have discouraged me from following that track. I plan to work at a law firm for a few years after graduation (I have already been offered and accepted a job) for financial reasons, but eventually I would like to return to school to study jazz voice. I will probably be 26-28 by the time I pursue this, and so a two year’s masters program seems to make the most sense to me. But without a bachelor’s or any formal institutional training in music studies, is it possible for me to enroll in a master’s program? Is my only option starting over from the beginning and pursing a second bachelors in a 4 year music program? Thank you!

    • You’re fortunate to have a job awaiting you that will pay for voice lessons and music theory training as soon as your schedule permits. As you get more proficient, you’ll gain a better sense of whether you really want to pursue more formal education or continue to take lessons and find performance opportunities. Many community music schools, community colleges, and for-profit music programs offer vocal jazz training that does not require the strong jazz performance and theory background along with being able to demonstrate a high level of performance proficiency required by graduate music school programs. Check the graduate school audition requirements at schools like Western Michigan University, USC Thornton School of Music, and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music to see this for yourself. Note that many lawyers without formal music training find ways to pursue their passion for music in addition to their work in the legal profession. Same is true of doctors, engineers, etc.

  59. Oliver

    Hello, I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in Business Administration degree. In my program I take business classes but no music business specific classes or music production classes. Just separate music classes and business classes. Would it be better to do a BA Music degree with a minor in business?

    • It really depends on what you want to do with your degree after you graduate. And how well you’ll apply what you’re learning in your non-music-oriented business classes to what you want to do. A BA will certainly provide you more electives, and if those would allow you the opportunity to take classes in areas that will be really relevant to your future plans, then yes, it may be more appropriate. Are there advisers in the music program at your school with first-hand knowledge of the career areas you’re interested in who can help you think this through? Are there internship opportunities to help you get some real-world experience?

  60. Richard

    My name is Richard (BA Music San Francisco State University ’93). I am currently serving as an education volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ethiopia. When I complete my service I would like to return to school and earn my MM in Choral Conducting.

    I have worked in conducting positions in schools and churches over the past 20 years and would like to take my skill set to a more professional level.

    I am concerned that my first degree was a BA and not a BM. Will I have to take additional credits to qualify for most program entrances, or are they typically weighted more towards your audition and experience.

    • Very cool to hear what you are up to!

      You’d need to look at the requirements for the degree at the schools you’re interested in, compare that to your transcript, and see what may be missing. You may need to take some voice lessons (ideally from faculty at a college or university with a background in choral conducting) as well as proficiency exams, and/or brush up on music theory and music history – some schools actually have remedial programs through which students can do that. Take a look at this article about careers in choral conducting on MajoringInMusic.com, by Scott Dorsey, education director of the American Choral Directors Association. And feel free to ask questions of any of the participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com by using the forms on their pages.

  61. Lisa

    I already have a BME degree but am considering working towards a Music Therapy degree. I wanted to know if having the BME would decrease the classes required for the MT degree or would I be starting over? If I would be starting over what is the expected length of time to earn this degree (in years please).

    • Take a look at the music therapy articles on this website. They explain the path that can be taken by a music major who didn’t major in music therapy,to prevent having to get another bachelor’s degree. Just plug “music therapy” into the search bar or scroll to the bottom of the site and look for the music therapy category.

  62. Claudia

    Hello,
    I’m currently in a undergrad program studying for Sociology but minoring in Music. I wanted to know what could I do with my minor when I graduate? Also I wanted to know if I could even major or get a MA in music after I graduate with my minor. Thanks.

    • A major or minor in music offers excellent transferable skills.

      If you want to switch into music as an undergrad or apply to grad school in music, talk with your professors now about what it would take. You’ll probably need to get more music classes under your belt especially in music theory, music history, and in the area of music you’re most interested in pursuing.

      Not everyone who works in music has majored in music. Exploring opportunities now for internships and volunteer work to learn about career directions and to network with people who may be instrumental in helping you discover your next steps.

  63. Jacque-Andre

    Hi, I am a French Horn player, but I study Hotel management. I am a Senior now and after getting my BA degree in Hotel Management I am planing to Major in Music and spend my life in Musical studies. I noticed there are different types of musical studies so I am a bit confused what to choose, with knowledge that I am planning to continue studying for MA and PHD. So I have to be very careful with my decision about what to choose. I need help about which is better for me for the future that can offer me better opportunities. I have a question also: Is there any program that makes a combination of both the Bachelor of Music (BM) and the Bachelor of Music Education (BME)? I like to teach, be professional player and Conducting.Thanks.

    • You can double major at many schools. What we suggest you do is start by looking at the schools on MajoringInMusic.com. Ask any of your questions directly to them by using the forms for this purpose on their pages.

  64. Valarie

    Hello,
    I am currently in a undergrad program studying to be a music educator and I love it! I know teaching music is what I really want to do but I also don’t want on be stuck in one career , I want to have options. I will be graduating in less then two years and I know I want to get my masters in something related to music or even voice (I am a vocal major). My thing is I want to major in something that I know that can possible help my future students but I also want to have options for other possible careers. So can please help on suggestions about majors for my masters that will relate to my undergrad degree in music education.

    • Hello, we suggest you explore music therapy and arts management. Your music ed background could be beneficial in both fields. With music therapy, keyboard, vocal, and guitar proficiency are necessary. To get started, see articles on MajoringInMusic.com pertaining to both fields.

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