The 10 Different Types of Music Degrees - Inside Music Schools (2022)

by Steven Lipman

Choosing your Music Degree: Knowing What You Want to Do

Attaining a music degree starts with knowing what you want to do.

Music is absolutely an art form, but its application in education – and the world – is about as varied as music itself. You may be studying commercial songwriting, which ultimately incorporates more psychology-based training than other music majors. Or, you want to pursue research in musicology, in which case you would most likely need to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

And for students who want to focus their education on playing well and exploring deeply into performance or creation, an arts-oriented degree is what you’re looking for. That said, it should be clear that studying music in college doesn’t just mean getting a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance.

Colleges, conservatories, and universities are always developing new majors and curriculums for performance and creation, technical skills and engineering, and for the business world. Our evolving educational system has changed the playing field drastically to suit the increasingly diverse needs of music education, especially when technology and science are involved.

And You Can Choose Whatever Path You Want

All you need to study music in college is a burning passion for it, and a drive to improve constantly. Whether you’re a player or composer, an engineer, or a business-minded individual, there’s a specific music degree for you—you just have to focus your interests, and then choose the right program for you.

What’s a “major,” and what’s a “degree”?

First and foremost, we should clarify the difference between a major and a degree.

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A degree is a credential you receive after completing a course of study. During your course of study, you are in pursuit of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, or a Master of Science.

Majors express the subject you are studying in pursuit of your degree. Whereas a Bachelor of Music is a degree, your major might be in Composition, or Music Performance. The whole degree-major name might be a Bachelor of Music in Composition, for instance.

What is the right program?

You may have a music school near your house, or your brother or sister may have gone to one school hundreds of miles away and you feel like your legacy should take you there as well.

Unfortunately it’s not that easy to choose the right music school. As creative people, we are sensitive to our environments. Putting yourself in the right one for you is perhaps the most important part about investing in a music education.

Some programs are more competitive, and others give you a career advantage with top-notch internships. Famous faculty is a huge advantage, as is the case with Wynton Marsalis’s jazz program at the Juilliard School located in the Lincoln Center in New York City. Students of Marsalis receive incredible insights developed by decades of work and phenomenal success. This would be an incredible program for a jazz player’s performance degree, but may not be the best for someone who wants to study classical composition.

With all that said, choosing the right program for you is harder than it looks. There are hundreds if not thousands of options to choose from just in the United States, and your ideal music school is bound to be one of them. Which one depends on several factors:

  • what you are looking for
  • your skill
  • your dedication
  • the curriculum
  • the faculty
  • the student body

Types of Degrees

One thing to find out is which type of degree you think suits your interests best. And there are ten different types of degrees which can have music as its focus.

Bachelor of Music (BM)

The Bachelor of Music is the most common type of music degree. It’s these types of degrees that are almost exclusively offered at conservatories and music departments at universities. Students who pursue this degree will expect to concentrate on performance, composition, and theory. However, this type of degree is available in almost any concentration depending on the institution.

Some schools offer a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory, or in Music Production, for instance. Still, the main difference between a Bachelor of Music and any other type of degree is its concentration on music-related material. Students who pursue a Bachelor of Music will take less non-musical courses here than in other degree tracks.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) is a generalized degree which offers an education that is usually not performance-focused, but there are exceptions to this rule.

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Perfect for students who want a well-rounded education, the BA in Arts is great for the following types of concentrations:

Bachelor of Arts In Music – A generalized degree which can encompass performance, but also music history, theory, and composition.

Bachelor of Arts in Music With A Concentration – These degrees offer more classes in a specific focus, often based on the goal of further study, or a career.

  • Musicology – The study of musical history, and its cultural and sociological implications
  • Music Theory – You learn the rules of music, with all its ins and outs
  • Composition – The art of composing music is your focus

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Then there’s the Bachelor of Fine Arts. This degree is the realm where performance majors may study. It is also the realm where composition or theory majors can also obtain BFAs in Music for a deeper exploration into their craft. This delves generally deeper than a Bachelor of Arts—but less than a Bachelor of Music.

The most common Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music degrees are:

  • 1. Music Performance – Students who want to perfect their craft with intensive study and demanding performance instruction will work for a BFA in Music Performance.
  • 2. Music Composition – Even more than the BA, a BFA in music composition will allow you to compose more music, and dive deeper into the art.
  • 3. Music Theory – A BFA in Music Theory

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students who have a passion for recording, producing, or synthesizers and sound design might get a Bachelor of Science in Music. Science degrees with a musical concentration are often connected to a specific application. Examples of this are music production or a technology-based career.

You can also obtain a music business degree with a Bachelor of Science, for students who want to work in music production, artist development, or media distribution.

The most common Bachelor of Science in Music degrees are:

  • Sound Recording Technology (SRT) – This is for students who see themselves working in studios recording artists, orchestras, and any other number of musical outfits.
  • Sound Design – These students explore digital technology, developing new formats to store and record music for a variety of uses.

Master of Arts (MA)

The Master of Arts in Music is a degree that requires obtaining a bachelor’s degree. As an additional educational credential, these programs are for students who want to obtain an advanced degree in any number of musical applications.

Concentrations in the Master of Arts degree are largely the same as the Bachelor’s of Music, but with more intense study. And, with certain degrees you are able to start teaching music in educational settings such as elementary, middle, and high school.

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Master of Science (MS)

The Master of Science is a secondary degree you receive after your first college degree. Students who want to further their skills in audio engineering, sound recording technology, and several other fields might find this the best option.

Master of Music (MM)

The Master of Music degree is a course of study more closely focused with musical pursuits. In some cases these degrees require less courses outside of music, and in some cases—though not all—you receive more musical training than a Master of Arts.

Doctorate Degree (PhD)

A Doctorate of Music degree, sometimes just called a Doctor of Music, a Doctoral Degree, or PhD (which stands for the Latin term philosophiae doctor or Doctor of Philosophy) is awarded to students who have made a significant contribution to the world of music in terms of composition, recordings, and research.

A focus of all PhD degrees is adding knowledge to the field, furthering an understanding of music overall. This is done through publishing dissertations which explore at a scientific or philosophical level a subject regarding music.

Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA)

While a PhD is a more academic degree, the Doctorate of Musical Arts is focused more on performance, composition, or theory than any other degree. Master musicians will embark on these degree tracks to become authorities in their instrument and creative pursuits.

Contact Us:

Did you find this blog helpful? Do you want to attend a music collage or conservatory? If the answer to that is a “yes”, your next step is simple. Visit insidemusicschools.com and allow our team of industry insiders to guide you towards your goal of being a professional in the music industry. Through expert counseling, and real world experience, we will make sure you are prepared for the journey

Artist Degree (AD)

The Artist Degree, also known as the Artist Diploma, is a highly-focused credential which is usually obtained after a Bachelor’s Degree. There are typically no courses outside of music with these degrees. In the majority of cases, professional musicians will take on this degree track to further sharpen their skills. And, the students of these degrees are generally already authorities in their field.

Which degree is right for you?

The right music degree for you is whichever helps you achieve your goals. Just like knowing which is the right music school, the perfect degree should help you embrace your particular interests above all else.

That’s because studying music requires passion and guidance, and that’s where I can help.

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My name’s Steve Lipman, and I know what it means to get into the “right school.” As a music school admissions consultant with over 40 years in the college admissions industry, I can guide you with portfolio and repertoire development, admissions counseling, and audition preparation to help you to get into not just the best music school, but the right one for you.

Reach out today at your earliest convenience. I get back to all requests promptly – talk soon!

Steven Lipman
(Video) 7 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned at the "World's Best Music School"

Founder & President at Inside Music Schools | Insidemusicschools.com

Head of admissions and faculty member at Berklee College of Music for 40 years, Steve Lipman and our team at Inside Music Schools speak music as their primary language. We approach each client contact with open eyes, ears, and minds. As the country’s premier music school consultant, he advised students from the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Turkey, U.K., Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Israel, and Italy.

FAQs

How many degrees are there in music? ›

And there are ten different types of degrees which can have music as its focus.

What degrees are good for music? ›

Here are some music degrees to consider pursuing if you want to enter the music industry:
  • Associate of Arts (AA) ...
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) ...
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) ...
  • Bachelor of Music (BM) ...
  • Bachelor of Music Education (BME) ...
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) ...
  • Artist degree (AD) ...
  • Master of Arts (MA)
25 May 2021

How many majors are there in music? ›

The 12 Major Scales

The major scale pattern works just the same way if it starts on any other note. Since we have 12 different notes in the musical alphabet and the major scale can start on any of them, we get 12 major scales.

What are the 7 scale degrees? ›

Each note of a major scale is also named with scale-degree names : tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, and leading tone.

What is the highest level of music? ›

Records
  • 500,000 units: Gold album.
  • 1,000,000 units: Platinum album.
  • 2,000,000+(in increments of 1,000,000 thereafter) units: Multi-Platinum album.
  • 10,000,000 units: Diamond album.

Is a music degree hard? ›

You may think majoring in music is going to be significantly more fun and less stressful than majoring in business or economics, but the truth is: majoring in music is extremely time consuming! Being a music major requires an incredible amount of energy, focus and determination.

What is better BA or BM? ›

The Basic Differences in Music Degrees

Bachelor of Music (BM) degree at a university is more similar to the depth and rigor required by a conservatory. Bachelor of Arts (BA) is a liberal arts degree with a concentration in music.

What is the difference between music BA and music BM? ›

A BM is much more music-focused and generally for people who are preparing for a professional career in music. A BA is less about music and more about general academic curriculum, usually for those who pursue music as a hobby and not a profession-to-be.

What is a major in music? ›

What Is a Music Major? A music major studies a particular instrument – whether trombone or voice, piano or violin – and also takes music theory and composition courses, music history classes, and classes related to sharpening aural skills.

Is a BA in music worth it? ›

Yes, a music degree is worth it for most aspiring musicians. Music degrees are essential for employment in the music industry as well as building well-rounded musicians. However, in some areas of music, a degree may not be necessary.

Is music an easy major? ›

Between classes, rehearsals, and performances, music majors are often quite busy and rarely have downtime for themselves. Therefore, it is not the easiest major for any student.

What are the 12 scale in music? ›

Western music typically uses 12 notes – C, D, E, F, G, A and B, plus five flats and equivalent sharps in between, which are: C sharp/D flat (they're the same note, just named differently depending on what key signature is being used), D sharp/E flat, F sharp/G flat, G sharp/A flat and A sharp/B flat.

What are the 48 scales in music? ›

There are 12 major scales – one for each of the 12 notes in an octave. There are 3 types of minor scales: natural, harmonic and melodic, so 3* 12 =36 minor scales. This gives a total of 48 scales.

What are degrees in music theory? ›

In music theory, the scale degree is the position of a particular note on a scale relative to the tonic, the first and main note of the scale from which each octave is assumed to begin. Degrees are useful for indicating the size of intervals and chords and whether an interval is major or minor.

What is the 2nd scale degree called? ›

The supertonic is the second degree of the scale. Not every scale has a supertonic. For example, a scale like the minor pentatonic scale does not have a second degree. Therefore, there is no supertonic in the minor pentatonic scale.

What is a submediant in music? ›

In music, the submediant is the sixth degree ( ) of a diatonic scale. The submediant ("lower mediant") is named thus because it is halfway between tonic and subdominant ("lower dominant") or because its position below the tonic is symmetrical to that of the mediant above.

What is the hardest grade in music? ›

Nowadays there are multiple examination boards, but all their exams share the same core content and are calibrated to the same Grade scale. In brief, Grade 1 is the entry-level exam and Grade 8 is the hardest.

What is the hardest level of music? ›

Level 5 (Hard)

Can you do a PhD in music? ›

Ph.

PhD Music is a full research-based course which focuses on studying every aspect of music in detail and researching something new in it. The research work in music includes areas like Historical Musicology, Composition, Analysis, Music Cognition, etc.

Do music majors have to take math? ›

Music. If you are good at playing musical instruments, you should consider making music your major. Students of music learn about the history of music, music theory, and how to play musical instruments. So, they do not need to take any math courses.

Can music majors make money? ›

Music is a good major for students who would like to get into music education and performance after graduation. The salaries of music majors range anywhere from $10,028 to $241,414 per year.

What are the easiest majors? ›

The 16 Easiest College Majors – 2023 Rankings
  • Psychology.
  • Criminal Justice.
  • English.
  • Education.
  • Religious Studies.
  • Social Work.
  • Sociology.
  • Communications.
2 days ago

What is a Master's degree in music called? ›

The Master of Music (M.M. or M. Mus.) is, as an academic title, the first graduate degree in music awarded by universities and conservatories.

What is a Bachelor's degree in music called? ›

Bachelor of Music (BM or BMus) is an academic degree awarded by a college, university, or conservatory upon completion of a program of study in music.

Is a music degree a BS or BA? ›

Any student accepted for admission to CSUSB can declare music as major and pursue the BA in Music degree.

What is a BCH degree? ›

This degree is really the equivalent to the MD in the United States–it's the standard degree. The BS, ChB and Bch degrees (which are are equivalent to one another) stand for Bachelor of Surgery (Ch=Chirurgie, which is latin for surgery). These degrees are awarded for passing the surgical portion of the exam.

What can I do if I want to study music in college but I have no experience? ›

You can always take private lessons for a year or two, and then apply to college. Or attend college in another major, take private lessons, and then try to switch to the music major.

What are degrees in music theory? ›

In music theory, the scale degree is the position of a particular note on a scale relative to the tonic, the first and main note of the scale from which each octave is assumed to begin. Degrees are useful for indicating the size of intervals and chords and whether an interval is major or minor.

Can you do a PhD in music? ›

Ph.

PhD Music is a full research-based course which focuses on studying every aspect of music in detail and researching something new in it. The research work in music includes areas like Historical Musicology, Composition, Analysis, Music Cognition, etc.

What is a master's degree in music called? ›

The Master of Music (M.M. or M. Mus.) is, as an academic title, the first graduate degree in music awarded by universities and conservatories.

What is the name for scale degree 5? ›

Each note of a scale has a special name, called a scale degree. The first (and last) note is called the tonic. The fifth note is called the dominant. The fourth note is called the subdominant.

Is there an 8 degree scale? ›

You know that the common scales each have 7 different pitches or degrees, plus degree 8, which is just the same pitch as degree 1 an octave higher. We can keep going above degree 8 as far as we like, with scale degrees 9, 10, 11, etc.

What is the 8th scale degree? ›

The 8th degree of the scale doesn't have its own name as it's actually just the tonic but an octave higher. This means that you just start again and carry on counting the degrees from the 1st again.

How many years is PhD in music? ›

PhD (Composition, Musicology): a research project undertaken across three to four years, culminating in a portfolio of 75–120 minutes of music and an analytical/contextual commentary (c.

How long is a music PhD? ›

8 PhD Programs in Music

The degree can take two to four years to earn, depending on the program. What is a PhD in Music? This program is designed to focus on advanced studies in different aspects of music. At completion, students should have an extensive comprehension of a variety of concepts and repertoire.

Is getting a PhD in music worth it? ›

A doctorate of musical arts is the highest level one can achieve. Those who choose to go this route almost always enter the teaching field in some capacity. Those with doctorates are excellent candidates for jobs at colleges and universities.

Is music education a hard major? ›

He warns that it is a difficult program, and that students with little prior music experience may face more challenges than he has, but believes that anyone can succeed as a music education major as long as they put in the time and effort. “It just takes a lot of perseverance and dedication.

What is the difference between music BA and music BM? ›

A BM is much more music-focused and generally for people who are preparing for a professional career in music. A BA is less about music and more about general academic curriculum, usually for those who pursue music as a hobby and not a profession-to-be.

Is music an easy major? ›

Between classes, rehearsals, and performances, music majors are often quite busy and rarely have downtime for themselves. Therefore, it is not the easiest major for any student.

What is the 2nd scale degree called? ›

The supertonic is the second degree of the scale. Not every scale has a supertonic. For example, a scale like the minor pentatonic scale does not have a second degree. Therefore, there is no supertonic in the minor pentatonic scale.

What does technical degree mean in music? ›

Technical Names: Examples in Major Scales

Before we move on to some examples, keep in mind that the term 'degree' in music refers to the position of a note within its scale. So the first degree is the first note of the scale; the second degree is the second note of the scale and so on.

What is a submediant in music? ›

In music, the submediant is the sixth degree ( ) of a diatonic scale. The submediant ("lower mediant") is named thus because it is halfway between tonic and subdominant ("lower dominant") or because its position below the tonic is symmetrical to that of the mediant above.

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