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Doctoral
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PhD in Music Composition

Aspiring composers may be interested in enrolling in a doctoral program in music composition to obtain either a Ph.D. or Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Composition. Get information on doctoral coursework, program prerequisites and career options.

What Does a Ph.D. in Music Composition Entail?

As a Ph.D. student, you may follow a general music composition curriculum, or you may choose to specialize in a specific area, such as composition for film or television, electronic music composition or music theater composition. Most doctoral music composition programs are highly personalized and require specialized research, guided elective courses and a dissertation. In addition to creating your own compositions, you may take courses in the following topics:

  • Music criticism
  • Research methods
  • Aesthetic inquiry
  • Advanced orchestration
  • Computer music composition

Some music composition Ph.D. programs provide you with the opportunity to collaborate on projects with students from other programs or within your own department. For example, you might compose music for a technology student's multimedia application or score a piece for an acting student's performance. Some programs even encourage and facilitate collaboration with professional artists and performers outside the school. Generally, online Ph.D. programs in this field are not available.

A few schools may instead offer a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Composition rather than a Ph.D. The requirements for both of these programs are similar, but a DMA may require pedagogy projects in lieu of a dissertation.

Common CoursesOrchestration, computer composition, aesthetic inquiry, music criticism
Admissions RequirementsMaster's degree in music composition or a related field
Career OptionsComposer for operas, film or television; music professor
Median Salary (2018)$49,630 (for music composers) and $69,960 (for postsecondary music teachers)*
Job Outlook (2016-26)6% growth (for music composers) and 12% growth (for postsecondary music teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Any Prerequisites?

In most cases, a master's degree, usually in music composition or a related field, is the only major requirement for enrollment in a doctoral program. Completion of master's-level coursework in music composition and theory is also typically expected of prospective doctoral students.

What is My Career Outlook?

As a music composer, you can create a variety of different types of music, from operas and symphonies to film scores and television jingles. You may choose to use traditional methods of transcribing music on pen and paper, or you may prefer to utilize computer software for composing and editing. Additionally, a doctoral degree in music composition provides you with the preparation necessary to teach postsecondary music courses.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), music composers and directors earned a median annual salary of $49,630, whereas postsecondary music, drama and art teachers earned a median annual salary of $69,960 in 2018.