Music Degree Guide: 2023 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities

Music Degree Guide: 2023 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

A degree in music, depending on the concentration, can open several doors to different fields and industries, especially in the 21st century with the influence and incorporation of modern technology. Traditionally, getting a degree in music is associated with becoming a professional musician, such as classically trained instrumentalists and vocalists, or contemporary performers.

The career path of music majors, however, can be defined by the music degree types they are going to take. Since music is a broad field of study, students can choose from a diverse pool of programs that emphasize performance, critical interpretation, analysis and research, technical aspects, and concentrations (University of Texas, n.d.). Music degree holders who major in programs related to music production can become music directors, studio managers, and program directors. Sound Recording Technology (S.R.T.) majors can also find employment opportunities in studios, working with different artists and even orchestras.

In this guide, we aim to help students learn more about their music degree options, music degree tuition, admission requirements, career outlook, etc., as well as how to choose the right music degree programs.

Music Degree Table of Contents

  1. What is a music degree?
  2. Cost of Music Degree
  3. Music Degree Jobs
  4. Types of Degrees in Music
  5. Music Degree Requirements
  6. What to Look for in a Music Program
  7. Majors Related to Music

What is a music degree?

Music degree definition goes beyond its artistic form. A degree in music encompasses the study of various specializations related to communication, entertainment, education, artistic expression, technology, and even business. Different music degrees and programs also incorporate fundamental teachings. Among these is psychology-based training for those who want to pursue commercial music composition, more technology-based for those interested in music production and engineering, discovering the best music for studying, and the cultural and historical aspects of music for those who want to pursue musicology (Lipman, 2021).

What can you do with a music degree?

Majoring in music opens up a number of opportunities that go beyond being a professional musician or performer. As a music degree holder, one can venture into music production, talent or event management, and even music therapy. Education is also one of the fields where music majors have been seeking employment. In fact, as of May 2020, there are more or less 2,000 music degree jobs occupied by music directors and composers across the United States—from elementary to college levels.

Meanwhile, students who choose to take arts management or arts administration can get into the business side of the industry. They can be talent scouts or managers, brand developers, marketing and media relations, and others. Furthermore, those who have a passion for teaching can become independent instructors or music teachers, as well as university, college, and conservatory professors. (Majoring in Music, n.d.).

Another area where music degree holders can get into is the medical field, by becoming a music therapist. Music therapy is one of the practical applications of music in medicine. As a profession, music calls for more than music degree skills as it also requires board certification or a degree in respiratory therapy unlike the majority of other music degree careers (American Music Therapy Association, n.d.).

Cost of Music Degree

Most of the time, when people think about the cost of a degree or college education in general, some only consider the tuition and other fees charged by the institution, such as books, facilities, etc. The cost of a college degree, however, also includes other expenses, such as housing, transportation, food, and others. Just like other degree programs, the cost of music degree programs varies across locations and institutions (CollegeData, 2021).

Some of the most notable institutions that offer music degrees like Berklee College of Music can go as high as $70,162.80 inclusive of tuition and other mandatory fees like books, software bundle, as well as optional expenses, such as student insurance plan (Berklee College of Music, n.d.). The Juilliard School can cost $84,502 for new students enrolling in the academic year 2021-22. This cost includes residence hall fees and meals for on-campus students (The Juilliard School, 2021). There are also universities, colleges, and conservatories that offer more affordable music programs, such as the University of Maine at Augusta where the annual tuition for a bachelor’s degree in music falls under $10,000. You may also want to look into affordable online colleges with competitive music programs.

How much does it cost to get a music degree?

To further give you an idea of how much a music degree can cost you, we gathered the average figures based on the current trends in college pricing. In the table below, you will find the average cost for associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in in-state, out-of-state, and public institutions across the United States for the academic year 2020-2021.

CertficationCost of Examination
Certified Professional Coder (CPC)$299 to $399
Certified Outpatient Coding (COC)$399 ($325 AAPC Students; one free retake)
Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)$399 ($325 for AAPC Students; one free retake)
Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)Non-member price: $399
Certified Medical Coder (CMC)$200

Is a degree in music worth it?

A music degree is worth it not only to those who have creative talent but more so to those who have want o pursue a career in arts. An analysis conducted by CNBC of career outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, music teachers are included in the top 15 high-paying professions for creative people, along with producers and directors (Renzulli, 2019).

The music industry has also proven to be more resilient and flexible as it continues to thrive amid the pandemic. Although stage performances, such as concerts, have been hit by the restrictions brought about by COVID-19, the global revenue of the music market increased by 7.4% as the majority of consumers turn to music streaming apps and channels (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, 2021).

Source: RIAA 2020 Year-End RIAA Music Industry Revenue Report

Music Degree Jobs

As previously mentioned, job opportunities for music degree holders are varied and not just concentrated in the recording and performance-based careers. In this section, we will delve into the career options of music majors in different fields and industries.

Is music in high demand?

The demand for music continues to grow amid the changing environment of its consumption. While live performances, such as concerts, have been restricted due to the pandemic, music streaming channels and other digital platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok, have become virtual stages for musicians to continue working.

According to IQ Magazine, the compound annual growth rate (C.A.G.R.) of global music revenue from 2016 to 2021 has been projected to be dominated by music streaming with a 20.7% C.A.G.R. Meanwhile, digital downloads and physical albums have been predicted to decrease significantly over the years.

Despite the massive shift in the overall landscape of the music industry that has significantly slowed down the gigs of live performers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment growth rate for musicians remains at 1% for 2019 to 2029 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).

What jobs can you get with a music degree?

  1. Musician. Musicians are those who play musical instruments or singers who perform in front of live audiences, such as arenas, concert halls, clubs, etc. Professional musicians also record their music in studios with the help of a production team. Musicians are also called performing artists.
  2. Composer. Skilled in the art of songwriting, composers write songs for recording artists and live performers. Furthermore, they can also create songs for marketing purposes, such as television and radio advertisements.
  3. Record producer. This profession combines creativity, technical knowledge, and management skills. They are involved in the entire process of producing a song from songwriting, recording, as well as providing direction from preparation to the marketing stage.
  4. Audio engineer. Another profession for music degree holders that require technical skills and knowledge of the technology used in producing music, as well as for sound effects. Audio engineers are responsible for balancing and doing adjustments to sound sources through the process of sound mixing, equalization, and others.
  5. Music director. Music directors are in charge of the production of stage performances, such as theater shows. As conductors, music directors lead a band or orchestra during rehearsals to the actual symphony concert.
  6. Music teacher and professor. According to C.N.B.C., professors of music are among the highest-paid among professionals in the creative field (Renzulli, 2019). Music teachers can provide lessons on a variety of subjects, such as general music, vocals, playing instruments, and others. If not employed full-time or part-time in a school, university, college, or conservatory, music teachers can work independently or as freelancers from their homes or their own studio.
  7. Music therapist. Music therapist involves working with individuals with disabilities to address their physical, cognitive, psychological, and social needs. To establish a career in this field, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in music therapy as well as acquire a board certification from the Certification Board of Music Therapists (American Music Therapy Association, n.d.).

What kind of salary can I earn with a music degree?

Many people think that a music career is riddled with uncertainty, unlike careers in other industries, such as business, medicine, and information technology. This statement is true, especially for independent workers in the music business. According to a study by Gross, Musgrave, and Janciute, a career in the music industry is characterized by financial precariousness “based on varying levels of income, inconsistent contracts, and frequently working for free.” Furthermore, “the inability to turn what appeared to be reasonable levels of perceived success into any financial peace of mind deeply worries these workers” (Gross et al., 2018, p. 15). This is also true for fresh graduates who typically earn 37% lower than the national average salary in the United States (College Factual, 2021). There, however, are jobs for music majors that offer competitive wages.

The average yearly salary of music majors in the United States is $53,000. There, however, is a significant gap between the top 10% of earners and the average wage earners. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, music professors or instructors who work in universities, colleges, and conservatories earn an annual mean wage of $85,590. Moreover, junior college professors and music instructors can earn up to $90,980. Music therapists, on the other hand, can earn between $42,740 to $55,817. The salary range for this profession is based on a number of factors, such as the level of education, certifications, years of experience, and other relevant credentials (, 2021).

Salary for music degree holders can vary not only across industries but also in terms of location. In the U.S., New York City has the highest average annual wage ($64,202) and also the highest average entry-level salary for music majors ($31,000). Along with New York, the other cities that belong to the top five cities where music majors are paid competitively are San Francisco, Boston, Portland in Maine, and Seattle (Zippia, 2020).

Types of Degrees in Music

Knowing the type of music degree you want to pursue is not only important for laying down the foundations of your career, but also in choosing the best school that matches your chosen concentration or specialization. In this section, let us explore the different types of music degrees and diplomas available to you.

What kinds of music degrees are there?

1. Associate Degree in Music

Average time to complete: Two years

Different schools offer different types of programs such as music performance. This program focuses on music composition, music theory, and performing, which can equip students with skills and knowledge to get into entry-level jobs as composers, stage production staff, or even as professional music performers.

Other programs, such as associate of arts in music industry studies, teach students the general fundamentals of music education. Students who take this degree can get employed in talent management and production companies. Alternatively, students who completed their associate programs can pursue their education and earn a higher degree in music.

Entry-level jobs: Stage performer, songwriter, talent scout, assistant producer

2. Bachelor’s Degree in Music

Average time to complete: Four years

There are different types of bachelor’s degrees in music. One of them is the Bachelor of Music or B.M., which is more commonly offered by different music schools. Under this degree, students take courses in liberal arts, music history, and music theory. Some institutions also offer music education, business, composition, and other courses in their curriculum.

Bachelor of Arts in Music introduces students to programs that help develop their talent and creativity. The concentration of studies under this degree varies according to the curriculum offered by a university, college, or conservatory. General music studies is one of the concentrations offered, which delves more into honing the students’ musicianship and performance capabilities.

Students who are more interested in the technical aspect of music can choose a concentration under Bachelor of Science in Music. Some institutions offer a concentration in music technology, which incorporates the study of audio production, sound mixing, rendering, etc.

Another type of bachelor’s degree for those who want to study music is Bachelor of Professional Studies or B.P.S. This degree is relatively new and is currently offered more as an online program. Unlike the other classifications of bachelor’s degrees, B.P.S. gives students the freedom to create their concentration, which can be a combination of more than one field of studies, such as music composition and business management (Stein, 2021).

Entry-level jobs: Vocalist, instrumentalist, audio engineer, music journalist, music teacher

3. Master’s Degree in Music

Average time to complete: Two years

A master’s degree in music opens broader career growth opportunities to music degree holders. A master’s degree in music education delves further into the subjects of music history, music theory, orchestration, and musical arrangement. This program also teaches organizational leadership roles in music, which is essential in teaching a class, school band, or orchestra. By taking this program, you can develop your educational skills by incorporating academic research, instructional design, and exploring different teaching methods. Typically, master’s degree holders in music have mastered at least one musical instrument, which makes them qualified to provide individual or group lessons at a higher rate.

High-level positions: Middle school and high school band director, community college instructor, music director

4. Doctoral Degree in Music

Average time to complete: Three to four years

There are two types of doctoral degrees in music–Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) and Ph.D. in Music. The first one is a doctoral academic degree that focuses on advanced studies of a particular area of specialization, such as music composition, conducting, and music performance. Professionals who choose to earn D.M.A. have to study graduate-level music pedagogy, music theory, and music history.

Ph.D. in Music, on the other hand, concentrates more on research than academic studies. This doctoral degree is often granted to those who want to pursue advanced studies and research in the subjects of music theory, historical musicology, and ethnomusicology.

High-level positions: Postsecondary professor, college dean, music director

5. Certificate in Music

Time to complete: Less than a year to three years

Students and professionals earn additional credentials to give them a competitive edge in advancing their careers. In music, there are several certifications for both students and professionals in all degree levels. Among these is the music industry certificate, which equips students with the basic skills and knowledge of marketing, art management, music production, etc. This certificate can help students find entry-level positions in different areas of the music industry, such as advertising firms, recording companies, and others.

Other undergraduate music certificates incorporate hands-on training in the areas of performing, songwriting, and music appreciation, among others. Graduate certificates are typically more artist-based and involve applied studies and instrument or voice rehearsals.

Entry-level jobs: Composer, private music instructor, conductor

Source: Data USA

Music Degree Requirements

The vast selection of music degrees also calls for different requirements that often depend on a university, college, or conservatory. Furthermore, general requirements also vary across postsecondary institutions. In this section, we will guide you through some of the music degree prerequisites you need to know before applying to your chosen school.

Admission Requirements

  1. Proof of graduation. Postsecondary institutions require first-time college applicants to provide proof that they have completed and passed their secondary education coursework. Among the certificates of completion accepted are a high school diploma and official G.E.D. transcript.
  2. Prescreening and live audition. Music schools consider auditions as an important factor in deciding whether to accept a student’s application to be part of their music degree program. Different schools also have different prescreening and live audition repertoire requirements for each specialization. For example, vocal majors and piano majors are required to perform pieces from a list provided by the university, college, or conservatory. This information is often accessible on the website of your chosen institution.
  3. Personal statement. This requirement is your opportunity to describe yourself and your creative qualifications to get into the music degree program of a university, college, or conservatory. You can either write an essay or do a video presentation where you talk about the reasons why you choose the school you are applying to, your career aspirations, and your experiences relevant to your chosen degree and major.
  4. Recommendation letter. This is written preferably by someone with a credible professional background who can attest to your passion, skills, creativity, and your potential to succeed in your chosen degree and major. You may request your music teacher or coach to provide you with a recommendation letter as part of your admission requirements.
  5. Transcript. Unlike other disciplines, G.P.A. is not considered a deciding factor for incoming freshmen who wish to pursue a music degree. Although there are music schools that require at least 2.0 G.P.A., independent conservatories place more importance on pre-screening and auditions, college essays, and interviews.
  6. S.A.T. or A.C.T. score. This is also an optional requirement for a growing number of universities, colleges, and conservatories.

Skill Requirements

  1. Creativity. Students who want to take a music degree in college must be able to incorporate their artistic abilities into what they do. As a music major, chances are you will have activities that will challenge your creative thinking abilities, such as creating music, writing lyrics, performing, and other projects. Creative thinking is also a valuable career skill because it is widely transferable.
  2. Musical skills. Typically, music majors know either how to play at least one musical instrument or possess the ability of a vocalist. This is an important skill not only for those who are majoring in specific musical instruments or singing but also for those who want to take music composition, production, and directing.
  3. Collaboration skills. The ability to work effectively with other people is a crucial skill to have and develop as a music degree holder. Whether you aspire to be a professional musician, singer, composer, or record producer, you will always have to work with someone or with a team to accomplish a project or task.
  4. Problem-solving capability. As someone who plans to establish a career in the music industry, the ability to solve a problem is a vital skill. Being able to quickly assess situations, anticipate issues, and resolve problems that can arise from the most uncertain circumstances is a valuable skill that can help you later on in your chosen career.

What to Look for in a Music Program

Choosing the right program starts with choosing the right school. It is important to keep in mind that not all postsecondary institutions that offer music degrees offer the same programs. Furthermore, some schools have different approaches to music programs, especially those that involve music industry studies and music technology, which are continuously and rapidly changing.

Available Specializations

As previously mentioned, music is a vast field of study with a broad range of specializations to choose from. While talent and passion definitely play a vital role in choosing your major, it is also important to take into consideration if your major aligns with your interests and career options. As such, an ideal way to assess if you are choosing the right specialization is by checking if the subjects you need to take align with your academic and career goals.


Renowned music conservatories like Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, and Curtis Institute of Music are certainly accredited. But what if you do not plan to go to the conservatories, universities, colleges, and community colleges that are known to be certified to teach music? You can go to the official website of the National Association of Schools of Music. N.A.S.M. is a professional accrediting agency for institutions that offer music programs across the U.S. As of date, the agency has accredited more than 600 academic institutions that you can search on its official website by city and state.

Student-Teacher Ratio

The number of students being taught simultaneously in a given situation greatly affects the learning environment. While the average class size varies from school to school, the range between 5:1 to 10:1 is the ideal student-teacher ratio based on the best institutions that offer music programs in the United States (College Factual, 2021).

Financial Aid Options

Federal and state financial aids are available to students studying music in colleges, universities, and conservatories. Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for federal grants, federal loans, and work-study programs offered by their respective schools. Some organizations offer scholarships to students who are taking music majors and pursuing a career in the music field, especially those who demonstrate remarkable achievements and potential. You may find some of these organizations on the official website of the National Association for Music Education (N.A.F.N.E.).

Majors Related to Music

Career Outlook for Music Degree Holders in a Post-Pandemic World

Popular opinion states that studying music in college is a waste of time as the career options are limited to working in an industry that is often described as volatile. While it is true that the music business has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the small labels and gig economy workers, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes the digitization of the music industry and the widespread use of social media platforms have also opened new doors that give them a better advantage at establishing their careers.

By reading this article, we hope that we have shed some light on the reality that a music degree can lead to extraordinary career opportunities where you can monetize your talent and creativity while doing what you are passionate about.



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