2020 Best Online Bachelor's in Schools for Music Degrees

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 11/24/2020

Although a degree in music is not a requirement for musical performers, it certainly opens the door to more opportunities in the music industry. Earning an online music degree gives musicians a stronger foundation in their craft while also preparing them to work as professionals. An online degree in music can also lead to careers in music producing, managing, and directing. Scroll down to find a ranked list of online music studies programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. Then keep reading for more information on accreditation, career options for those who love music, and frequently asked questions.

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2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Music Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Music Badge

The 7 best value online bachelor's degrees in music degrees can be found at these colleges and universities. Graduates of the #1-ranked school, Washington State University, earn a median salary of $87,483 after earning their Bachelor of Arts in Humanities - Music. SUNY Empire State College, ranked #2 on the list, costs $10,943 annually, with alumni reportedly earning median salaries of $75,323.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Washington State University $11,550 $87,483
# 2 #2 SUNY Empire State College $10,943 $75,323
# 3 #3 The New School $48,760 $89,529
# 4 #4 University of Toledo $17,573 $73,836
# 5 #5 Liberty University $11,700 $61,382
# 6 #6 University of Michigan-Flint $23,812 $66,016
# 7 #7 University of Maine at Augusta $9,269 $59,294
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo
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2020 Online Colleges Offering Music Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Washington State University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,550
  • Median Salary: $87,483
  • Locations: Pullman (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Washington State University's online Bachelor of Arts in Humanities provides students with several concentration options, including one in Music. The degree program allows students to create a customized study plan that aligns with their interests and career goals. The interdisciplinary curriculum aims to develop students' communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Students take general education courses and choose from a variety of concentration courses, including those in the fundamentals, structure, and composition of music, music style, the history of music, and instrument instruction. The classes are accessible in a fully online format through the Blackboard learning management system. Program participants use Blackboard to view lesson materials, submit assignments, and check grades. While there may be deadlines for certain classes, students work individually and can study at their convenience. Career counseling, academic advising, tutoring, virtual mentors, and tech resources are available to distance learners. Incoming first-year students can apply by submitting an online application and high school transcripts. Those with at least 27 college credits and a minimum 2.5 GPA can apply as transfer students. Transfer students with 60 or more previous college credits must also submit a writing portfolio. There are three separate deadlines for student applications, which correspond to the program's three start dates.

#2 SUNY Empire State College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,943
  • Median Salary: $75,323
  • Locations: Saratoga Springs (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Students at SUNY Empire State College can earn an online music degree through one of three bachelor's programs offered at the school: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Professional Studies. Students in these programs collaborate with a faculty mentor to build a study plan that best suits their academic and career ambitions. The programs aim to develop students' musical techniques while advancing their research and communication skills. A total of 124 credits are required to complete each track. Coursework is delivered asynchronously through the Moodle learning management system, allowing students to balance their studies around other responsibilities. The online platform streamlines students’ syllabi, assignments, required readings, discussion boards, and grades. Students can also find information for technical support, library services, and virtual tutoring on Moodle. The application process requires students to complete an application and submit proof of a high school diploma, previous transcripts, and an essay. Applicants with an associate degree are able to transfer up to 40 credits, while those with a bachelor’s degree may transfer up to 93 credits. Students can also earn credit toward their online music degree through prior work experience.

#3 The New School

  • Annual Tuition: $48,760
  • Median Salary: $89,529
  • Locations: New York (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Graduates of the integrated program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) can further their education and career opportunities with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater at The New School. The program is offered on campus, online, and through a blend of on-campus and online courses. Study abroad options are also available. The program requires 120 credit hours, with 60 of these earned as transfer credit from AMDA. The remaining credits are fulfilled with at least 48 in the liberal arts and no more than 12 outside the discipline. Many of the liberal arts courses are asynchronous, relying on class discussion forums instead of live components. Both Canvas and Zoom are used to deliver course content. Classes, which are taught by distinguished faculty with backgrounds in academia and industry, are kept small to support each student’s individual learning experience. Students are also supported by career development services, dedicated academic advisors, mental health counseling, and financial aid. To apply, students must submit an application, a personal statement, an essay outlining their personal and professional goals, a resume, and official transcripts. An optional letter of recommendation may also be submitted.

#4 University of Toledo

  • Annual Tuition: $17,573
  • Median Salary: $73,836
  • Locations: Toledo (OH)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students pursuing the online Bachelor of Liberal Arts at the University of Toledo can concentrate their studies in music while also receiving a broad education in the arts. The curriculum includes online seminars and coursework in music, with a personalized study plan designed in collaboration with an academic adviser. A capstone project is required for graduation and may be fulfilled through an internship or first-hand experience in the field. In total, 120 credits are required to complete the degree, which generally takes students four years. Students can accelerate their programs by transferring previous academic credits, applying prior learning experience for credits, and testing out of required courses. Coursework can be found on the Blackboard learning management system and may include audio or video lectures, written assignments, quizzes, and discussion forums. While in the program, students can benefit from online success coaches and technical support, as well as academic advisors, tutoring services, and library access. Prospective first-year students must have at least a 2.5 GPA and minimum ACT/SAT scores of 20/1030, respectively. Students can apply using the Common Application and must submit their transcripts and test scores for consideration.

#5 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Median Salary: $61,382
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Bachelor of Science in Worship Studies at Liberty University is designed to educate students in the fundamentals of worship in the evangelical community. The curriculum includes instruction in musical knowledge, the art of conducting, engaging worship strategies, and learning opportunities with local ministries. Courses are taught by instructors with experience in ministry and worship. Students must complete a total of 120 credits in order to graduate, although transfer credits can be applied for up to 75% of the required coursework. Classes are held on the Blackboard platform, with learning material accessible 24/7. The asynchronous online format allows students flexibility; they may structure their studies around personal or professional responsibilities. As each course runs for eight weeks, students enrolled full-time can graduate in as little as three and a half years. Graduates of the program may be prepared for careers as church music directors, music ministers, or worship pastors. Online students benefit from the ability to pursue their studies at a convenient pace, and electronic textbooks are provided at no cost. Resources for distance learners include IT support, virtual tutoring, and access to the online writing center. To apply to this online bachelor’s degree program, students must submit official transcripts indicating at least a 2.0 GPA, an online application, and a high school self-certification form.

#6 University of Michigan-Flint

  • Annual Tuition: $23,812
  • Median Salary: $66,016
  • Locations: Flint (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Michigan – Flint offers an online bachelor’s in music as one of the discipline options available in their Bachelor of Applied Science degree. This online music degree can be completed fully online and requires at least 124 credit hours for graduation. Students with an Associate in Applied Science, Associate in Applied Arts and Sciences, or a similar two-year degree should have at least 16 credit hours that are applicable towards UM–Flint’s general education requirements. Approval of credit transferability is at the discretion of the BAS Committee. Students must take at least 33 upper-division courses and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA in their concentration and in their overall work at UM. In addition to having an AAS or similar degree and at least 16 transferable credits, students must meet transfer student admission requirements. These include a completed application, transcripts from all previously attended universities and colleges, and non-academic information, such as talents and leadership qualities.

#7 University of Maine at Augusta

  • Annual Tuition: $9,269
  • Median Salary: $59,294
  • Locations: Augusta (ME)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The contemporary and popular music program at the University of Maine at Augusta offers an online bachelor’s in music with concentrations in Composition, Audio, Sonic Arts, Performance, and an option for multiple concentrations. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year for semester starts in the fall or spring. To graduate, students must complete 121 credit hours, 83 of which must be in the major, and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. The curriculum allows students to engage in music composition, arrangement, performance, transcription, audio production and recording, and songwriting. Courses are offered in subjects like theory, various digital audio workstations, and music history. Coursework is offered through multiple learning management systems, such as WebCT, FirstClass, and Blackboard. Some classes are offered via Interactive Television (ITV) that can be attended/viewed in real-time at UM sites, in centers across the state, or on the student’s own computer. Video conferencing is also sometimes used. Students must be admitted according to university requirements, but they must also audition for the music program or submit a portfolio for review. The audition can be live or filmed and uploaded.

Online Music Degree Overview & Career Information

A career in music is most often associated with being a performer. Musicians and vocalists perform in careers that range from short-term gigs on a freelance basis to performing as a member of a symphony orchestra under a seasonal contract. A successful career in musical performance requires not only talent and skill, but also a firm knowledge of music and music theory. Music performers must continually practice and train to hone their skills for jobs. While a career in music is typically associated with playing an instrument, singing or performing, the field of music offers a variety of occupations.

For example, music production degrees are interdisciplinary programs that introduce students to the technical and artistic skills for turning raw music into a quality recording. In school recording studios, students learn how to use digital and analog recording systems, as well as software like ProTools to edit and create music. Most programs also include coursework in liberal arts in addition to classes in music theory, where students learn how to compose their own scores, compositions, and songs. Marketing classes discuss postproduction issues like artist branding, sales, and public relations.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Music

Students in an online music bachelor’s degree program study a particular aspect of music creation in depth. These online degrees may focus on performance, music production, music composition, or an interdisciplinary combination of topics.

Program Requirements

During the four-year, 120-credit-hour program, students also complete general education requirements. Applicants are usually required to have basic music performance skills or coursework, as well as a high school diploma.

Curriculum

The foundational courses in many online music programs focus on musicianship and music theory. Students specialize in a particular instrument or set of instruments, such as voice, percussion, or bass. Students are also required to spend time in performance ensembles, such as the university chorus or jazz orchestra. Online students can expect on-campus auditions or performances; alternately, they may have to record videos of their performances. Other online music bachelor’s degrees focus in a different area within the production of music, such as music business, music and technology, music therapy, or music composition. While students complete courses in topics like music history and musicianship, the core of classes focus less on live performance.

Graduates of an online bachelor’s program may become music composers, choir directors, conductors, musicians, or singers. Depending on the degree specialization, graduates may also be qualified for positions as music producers or software developers. Students who focus on education may become high school music teachers.

Online Master's Degrees in Music

Online master's degrees in music are available in a few different areas. In many online programs, students have the ability to shape the music master’s degree around their own particular musical interests.

Program Requirements

To be eligible for admission to most online master's degree programs in music, applicants should have an accredited bachelor’s degree in a music-related field. Many online programs require a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Music therapy master's programs require board certification. Along with the academic requirements, students are also required to submit letters of recommendation from colleagues or past teachers, as well a statement of intent. They take approximately two years to complete and may prepare graduates to teach music at the K-12 level.

Curriculum

Current music teachers pursuing a master's in music can deepen their understanding of music instructional techniques, musicology, and different types of music. Online music therapy master's degree programs are more specialized and less common than music education. In most cases, they are aimed at current board-certified music therapists who want to advance their skills. These online programs take two to three years to complete. In online music therapy programs, students deepen their understanding of neurology and learn to work with people who have a variety of disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, or multiple sclerosis. Therapists learn how to use music to help their clients maintain functioning and improve memory and cognition.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Music Degree

Accreditation is a stamp of approval which means an outside organization has independently verified that the school or program in question meets agreed upon academic standards. Musicians do not need licenses, so it is not technically required that they pursue an accredited degree. However, online students who hope to get a teacher’s license or who intend to transfer their credits from one school to another or use their undergraduate degree to apply to a graduate degree program will need to ensure they are considering regionally or nationally accredited degree programs. Prospective online students will want to look for online programs accredited by organizations recognized by the US Department of Education. The National Association of Schools of Music is one group that grants accreditation to music programs that meet its standards.

Career Specializations for Music Studies Graduates

A career in music demands dedication and a willingness to be flexible regarding one's earning expectations, especially for those who are self-employed. Greater financial stability and rewards are offered in jobs such as music education, music production, and music management. In any case, whether it's a music career in performing, teaching, or working in multimedia technologies, music is a highly desirable choice for those who would like a career that highlights their musical talent and interest. A college education in music, whether online or campus-based, can help students hone and expand their skills and knowledge.

The world of music as a business has expanded dramatically to include the need for people in positions such as music producers, managers, promoters, and record label developers. In this ever-growing industry, a music background obtained through an online degree program serves to prepare and distinguish those seeking to enter such a highly competitive vocation. Because of new and expanding media technologies, the demand for those who are well prepared in music and related fields will have the best chance to land jobs in music production, management, and as multimedia music specialists. There are typically no formal education requirements to become a musician or singer, but one exception is classical music performance; a bachelor's degree in music may be required to work as a classical singer or musician. Graduates of online music technology and production programs may find work as composers for video games, commercials, and films.

Online students who plan to teach music at a public school will need to complete a bachelor's degree and a obtain a state teaching license. Some states require teachers to hold master's degrees in either their subject area or in education. Graduates of online music education programs may use their degrees to satisfy these requirements and further their careers as teachers in either elementary or secondary schools. Music teachers may choose to become certified through the Music Teachers National Association. The certification process takes up to one year and requires the submission of a professional profile. The MTNA professional certification program is designed to establish competency for the music teaching professional.

Graduates of online doctoral programs may continue to work in elementary and high schools but may also work in research and academia at the postsecondary level. Many of the graduates of online music education degree programs will go on to teach or become band directors at a school or college. Some will facilitate music programs for community centers, nursing homes, or children's after-school programs. Another area of music education is music therapy, in which music educators help individuals overcome mental and physical obstacles.

Frequently Asked Questions About Music Degrees

What will I learn in an online music studies program?

The curriculum of online music programs includes classes in music theory, music history, psychological and sociological aspects of music, conducting, theory and application of music education, music technology, and trends in music education. While the curriculum and organization of online music education degree programs vary, many programs require students to complete an internship or thesis project after they complete the coursework component of the degree.

Music programs delivered on campus are typically hands-on, as students practice and perform their instruments and receive feedback and guidance from classmates and instructors. Students in on-campus music technology and production programs may have opportunities to put their knowledge to work in real recording studios. Online programs try to re-create this experience by using streaming video, collaborative software, and other technologies. Some online programs may require students to enroll in individual lessons and join performance groups at local colleges and universities for credit. Consider your learning style and needs when researching online programs.

Although on-site training is not commonly required for online music schools, students interested in working professionally in the music industry, especially as performers, are advised to gain some professional experience before graduation. Working musicians must be prepared to find gigs, conduct themselves professionally, and network effectively, so students should begin practicing for their careers as soon as possible. Students hoping to work in other aspects of the music industry, like management or marketing, can also benefit from gaining professional experience before graduation to become more attractive to employers.

The following list provides a sample of some of the courses students will take in an online music studies program:

  • Legal Aspects of Music and Entertainment: Students specializing in music business or law will need a strong background in this area. Courses cover issues like copyright as they pertain specifically to the music industry.
  • Music Distribution: For both performers and managers, this course covers the various aspects of recording and publishing music. Students study forms of distribution, principles of pricing, and structures for royalties.
  • Music Management: This course is intended to provide students focusing on music business or management with a foundation of skills to prepare them for their careers. It covers topics like contract negotiations, artist publicity, and public relations.
  • Music Theory: This is an essential basic course that all music students can expect at the beginning of their education. Students learn the fundamentals of music, including melody, harmony, composition, and style.
  • Sight-Reading: Music students concentrating on performance will need to acquire the skill of sight-reading for their academic and professional careers. Sight-reading is the ability to sit down with a piece of music and begin playing even when you haven't seen the music before.

Do I need a degree to become a musician?

Generally speaking, a degree is not required to become a musical performer, such as a musician or singer. This is one field where skill and talent are just as important, if not more so, than education, although performers who do pursue degrees may gain an advantage by studying the business aspects of the music industry as part of their degree curriculum. The one exception to this rule is in classical music, where performers are usually expected to have a formal education.

Besides performing as a musician, what can I do with a degree in music?

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in music may want to consider pursuing careers in music production or music management, or they may want to assume leadership roles by becoming music directors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, conductors' annual salaries range from $23,100 to $125,200, depending on the musical organization. Those with bachelor's or more advanced degrees in music also have the option of going into music education. High school teachers earn a median annual salary of $61,660, which is approximately the same amount earned by college music professors.

What is a musicologist?

Musicology is the academic study of music, as opposed to the study of musical composition or performance. Musicologists may study the history or origins of music, or perhaps music theory. Most musicologists work in academia, conducting research on their music specialties and teaching courses, thus a doctoral degree in musicology is usually required. Annual salaries for musicologists vary widely depending on the professionals' roles and responsibilities.

References

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