What Degree Do I Need to Become a Musician?

A formal education isn't typically required to become a musician, but it can help you to perfect your musical abilities and performance techniques. Read on to learn about some of the degrees you can earn to begin your career as a musician. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Musician Education Overview

You generally do not need a degree to become a musician; persistent, life-long training is usually how individuals develop the skills needed. While not essential to a career in music, formal training may help you improve your skills and increase your chances of landing a job as a studio musician or orchestra member. In fact, it may be necessary for certain positions in the music industry. For example, composers and music directors may be required to hold bachelor's degrees, while university-level teachers must hold graduate degrees. Many colleges and universities offer musical education programs at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels.

Important Facts About Music Degrees

Prerequisites Academic transcripts, test scores, resume, letters of recommendation; some programs require pre-screened recordings of work
Online Availability Some programs are available completely online
Key Skills Physical stamina, discipline, dedication, interpersonal, and promotional skills
Continuing Education Required to maintain licensure for school teachers
Median Salary (2019) $41,479 (for all musicians and singers)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% growth (for all musicians and singers)**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Undergraduate Degrees


In an associate's degree program in music, you'll learn basic concepts and techniques in songwriting and instrumentation. You may take courses in music theory, ear training, and ensembles. Many programs allow you to focus your studies on one aspect of music, such as string instruments, keyboard, piano, or vocals. Associate's degree programs in music are often intended for students who wish to continue their educations in bachelor's degree programs.


Alternatively, you might enroll directly in a bachelor's degree program to strengthen your musical abilities. Many college music departments offer majors in music education and theory, composition, performance, or general music. A general bachelor's degree program in music, for example, may entail broad coursework in music theory, composition, and aural training. You can also expect to take advanced-level courses in conducting, performance, orchestration, and instrumental methodology. Additionally, you'll receive applied instruction in the instrument of your choice.

Graduate Degrees


A master's degree in music is an option for those who wish to learn about more advanced aspects of musical composition and theory. Depending on your interests, you'll focus on one emphasis, such as jazz, piano, guitar, or orchestral conducting, and you'll complete specialized coursework in your emphasis. Many programs require you to take part in a graduate recital before earning your degree.


You could also earn a doctoral degree in music. A Doctor of Musical Arts, for example, typically requires you to choose a specialization like performance, composition, education, or a specific instrument. Such programs are geared toward students who want to lead renowned bands or orchestras, teach college-level courses, or work in music administration. You'll study complex topics relevant to your specialization, such as music analysis and design, composition methods, and advanced theory. Doctoral programs typically culminate in a final project, such as an extended musical composition or a major performance.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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