Musicians and music professionals are finding out the joys of an online Master’s in Music. This graduate degree, which can cover everything from music theory to education to even composition, is a way for passionate individuals to continue to advance their career in the music industry. Whether they work for an orchestra or have dreams of someday owning their own record label, this degree will help them in their goals.
Most music professionals work full-time and don’t have a lot of money to put away for a graduate degree. That’s why looking at online degrees is always a good choice. These programs have a lot of flexibility in terms of whether a student studies full-time or part-time, takes live or on-demand courses, and even how long the terms last. They’re also extremely affordable; on average, students spend 20 to 30 percent less on their graduate degree if it is earned online.
Research for this ranking was conducted by using information found on the National Center for Education Statistics and its College Navigator Database. Searching only for schools that had an online Master’s in Music, an initial pool of 15 schools was created. The final 10 schools were chosen based on their affordability; they are listed below based on the highest to lowest in-state graduate tuition rate.
Ranking Low-cost Online Music Master’s
10. Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Online Master of Music in Music Education, Conducting Specialization
Colorado State University provides students with an online Master’s in Music that is built for students who are interested in becoming conductors. This program is open to students with a bachelor’s degree in music education from a regionally accredited school. This is a hybrid program; while half of the courses can be earned online through the school’s asynchronous courses, students will be expected to attend the campus for two summers in order to demonstrate their understanding of conducting. They will also be expected to attend one graduate recital during the summer as well. Students can graduate in around two years with part-time study during the academic terms and full-time study during the summer. Graduation requirements include 30 credit hours of coursework, a graduate recital, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Foundations of Music Education, Music of the Romantic Era, and Methods of Music Research.
9. Liberty University
Online Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology
Music professionals who are interested in an accredited online Master’s in Music will find such a program at Liberty University. This school’s online program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and was designed to help musicians cross over to new cultures in the music field. Ethnomusicology is a field of study within the music discipline that prepares students to become researchers and scholars on cross-cultural music. Students who complete the degree online will be taught by the same trained musicians and scholars who teach the course on campus. There are no residency requirements for the degree; students will take all of their courses as either live lectures or on-demand offerings. This school also makes it possible for part-time students to complete the degree in under two years. This is possible because courses are offered in an eight-week format with eight different start times every year. Students can expect to complete 42 credit hours of coursework, a thesis or creative project, a practicum that takes place in their community, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Ethnic Music Theory, Resources and Materials in Ethnomusicology, and Arts in Global Engagement.
8. Kansas State University
Online Master of Music in Music Education
Kansas State University offers a Master’s in Music online degree for musicians interested in becoming educators in the future. This hybrid degree, which does require a week-long residency at the school’s campus every summer, was built on the idea that online courses would set the stage for a student’s education while the summer intensives would ensure that students spent time with their classmates and professors. There are several options for students who wish to specialize; these include Choral, Elementary/General, and Instrumental tracks. Online courses are delivered through live lectures and on-demand classes and the entire program can be completed in as little as two years. The degree requires 32 credit hours of coursework, a creative project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include History of Choral Music and Repertoire, Theories of Music Teaching, and Composition and Improvisation in the Elementary Curriculum.
7. Berklee College of Music
Online Master of Music in Music Production
Professionals who enter Berklee College of Music will be met with an incredible online Master’s in Music that focuses on music production. This is a program aimed at providing students with all of the information necessary to prepare and execute a professionally produced piece of music. With a curriculum focused on all aspects of modern music production, including the business side of the industry, this degree was made for professionals who wish to move into contemporary music in both the mainstream and indie scenes. This degree is available 100 percent online and can be taken as a full-time or part-time degree; students who choose to study part-time often finish this degree in around three years. Students will graduate once they have completed 36 credit hours of coursework and their culminating experience. Sample courses include Creative Recording Techniques in Music Production, Advanced Mixing Techniques, and Critical Analysis of Music Production Techniques.
6. West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Online Master of Arts in Music Industry
West Virginia University provides students with a music master’s online that focuses on the music industry. This is an incredible online degree for students who wish to enter the industry after graduation. As an interdisciplinary degree, this degree touches on all aspects of music, from the history of the field to production to even emerging technologies. The program is offered wholly online and provides students with three separate modules as well as room for electives. Professionals will also focus on building their own final capstone, which is known as the “Industry Project.” This project is designed by the student and, upon approval from the department, will showcase a student’s ability to identify and solve a problem that is apparent in the music industry. Students will complete 30 credit hours of coursework and the industry project, as well as a comprehensive exam, prior to graduation. Sample courses include Music Industry Regulations, Music Performance Organization and Commerce, and International Music Industry.
5. Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio
Online Master of Music Education, Online Teaching Artistry Specialization
Music educators interested in an online music master’s degree will find the program at Bowling Green State University to be a great choice. Designed to be completed 100 percent online and within 15 months, students will find asynchronous courses delivered in an eight-week term format as well as a world-class faculty. Students will note that this degree was designed for in-service music educators; an undergraduate degree in music education along with a valid teaching license is required for entry into the program. The curriculum has been formulated to ensure that music educators spend time in real-world scenarios with the addition of two field experiences, which take place during the traditional academic school year. This is a requirement that is completed in a student’s area of residence. Students will also be required to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a project, field experience, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Human Learning in Music, Special Topics in Analysis, and Using K-12 Assessment Data to Improve Practice.
4. Indiana University
Online Master of Science in Music Technology (MSMT)
Indiana University offers a unique online Master’s in Music for students who are interested in music technology. The program, which is only offered online, is built to prepare students to use new and emerging technologies within the music field. The curriculum is built to educate students on multimedia technology, computer-based music software, and production techniques. It is a great program for musicians and multimedia artists interested in learning more about how to use technologies to create new sounds or to add to the production value of their projects. Students will complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written exam in order to graduate. Sample courses include Music Software, Introduction to Music Technology, and Multimedia Production and the Internet.
3. Georgia College
Online Master of Music Technology in Music Therapy
Students interested in becoming music therapists will enjoy the online Master’s in Music provided by Georgia College. This program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and the American Music Therapy Association. Students will need to hold an undergraduate degree in music therapy in order to be eligible for this program. As a 100 percent online program, students can expect to complete all of their coursework as either live or on-demand courses. The final project for this program offers students two options: thesis or a clinical project. The clinical project is a field experience that takes place in their community while the thesis is a research paper done entirely online. Students will also be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Music Therapists and Technology, Music and the Exceptional Child, and Leadership, Supervision, and Management.
2. Stephen F. Austin State University
Online Master of Music in Theory and Composition
Stephen F. Austin State University offers musicians the perfect online master’s in music degree. This program offers the ability to concentrate in theory and composition, providing students who wish to become composers or academics the knowledge they need in order to make their career goals a reality. This is a special online offering from SFA that is highly competitive, with all applicants undergoing an audition and interview process. Students must also hold an undergraduate music degree that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Once in the program, students will be offered a curriculum that utilizes both live and on-demand coursework as well as live office hours and other online features to ensure they are supported by the faculty and staff at the department. This program requires 30 credit hours of coursework, a final project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam; it can be completed in two years with part-time study. Sample courses include Introduction to Graduate Music Theory, Post-Tonal Analysis, and Scoring and Arranging.
1. Eastern Illinois University
Master of Arts in Music in Music Education
Eastern Illinois University offers a cheap music master’s degree for music educators who are ready to advance their knowledge of the field. This is a mostly online program; there is one residency requirement of one week during the summer term. All other courses are provided through the school’s virtual portal. An undergraduate degree in music education from a regionally accredited institution and a valid teacher’s license are required for this degree. Courses are taught in the eight-week format to ensure that students can complete all the necessary requirements within two years of part-time study. The degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a workshop, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Psychology of Music Teaching and Learning, Curriculum and Assessment, and History and Philosophy of Music Education.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Music Degree?
With a Master’s in Music, the door to the field is wide open for every professional. From music educator to composer, nearly every job in the field is waiting for a music professional with graduate experience. Here is a list of just some of the options currently available:
- CEO of a Record Label
- Sound Engineer
- Music Educator
- Music Attorney
- Music Communications Director
- Program Director
- Film Composer
Please note that many of these positions will require further education, such as with the attorney and communications director positions. Many positions also require creative personal projects as part of a professional’s portfolio, so professionals who want to work creatively in the field must keep that in mind.
It’s also important to stress that music is a business, and therefore many business-minded music professionals are needed in the business. Music educators are needed for conservatories and academies. Freelance writers are also needed to review and discuss the changing landscape of music as well. Even publications are looking for qualified professionals with a background in music to discuss the music industry and the business.
Of course, it is also possible to become a musician. As a professional with a graduate degree, individuals will be far more prepared for the industry, whether as an instrument player, a singer, or both. They will have learned the ins and outs of the business while at school, may have interned at a record company, and will, therefore, understand how to give themselves the best shot possible to be a successful musician or singer.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The average music professional makes around $55,000 a year. However, the actual salary range is anywhere from $20,000 to over $200,000. This includes every career position from a session musician to music attorneys and communications directors.
Salaries are often hard to pinpoint in this field because many professionals work as contractors or freelancers. This means that instead of earning a yearly salary, they are paid separately for every project they undertake. Many professionals work with artists for months at a time and can make anywhere between $40,000 to $100,000, depending on their level of expertise and resume.
What are the Various Disciplines of Music?
Music is a field that incorporates a variety of other disciplines, especially if one considers the magnitude of the different factors that affect the industry itself. Music, of course, is the predominant discipline, and this includes the theory, composition, philosophy, history, choral, instrumental, production, education, performing, and conducting aspects.
But there are other disciplines that play just as an important role. Music technology and media are large components of the music industry; the current industry utilizes both disciplines in order to sell records and concert tours. Business, economics, and law also play a role because the music industry has a lot of regulations and business needs that must be met in order to keep the industry alive and afloat.
Is a Degree in Music Necessary to Become a Professional?
An online Master’s in Music may not be necessary in order to become a professional in many cases. For instance, if a professional wants to be a recording artist or an independent music producer, a graduate degree may not be the best move for them; in this case, creating and publishing their own songs is a perfectly viable way to get into the industry.
Music professionals who wish to become conductors, composers, educators, producers, or music industry agents and managers will benefit from graduate degrees such as the ones listed on this ranking. That’s because a graduate education ensures that professionals understand the current industry and what drives it, something that can be time-consuming to research on one’s own. It also provides students with the ability to network with professionals who have years of experience in the business and may have connections that will prove valuable.
Music is one of the creative arts that requires a great deal of training, especially when chosen a profession. Professionals can move from being musicians to working for a record label or even conducting their own orchestra, but they need the proper education in order to be qualified to do so. With an online Master’s in Music, these professionals can transform their careers to whatever their heart desires.