Top music education SCHOOLS IN U.S.

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music education Degrees

People who are passionate about music want to share that love with others. They may seek a music education degree so that they can teach music to students of all ages.

Teaching may involve introducing students to music appreciation. It may also involve teaching singing, how to play various instruments or leading a band or other ensemble. Earning a music education degree makes it possible to teach in public or private schools or in a studio. Students from the age of preschool through adults may be interested in receiving instruction. Accordingly, it's helpful for the music teacher to get the best education possible so that they can offer an enriching experience to students.

The path to earning a degree begins by selecting among a number of music education colleges. Several institutions promise an excellent education on campus, and some even provide some distance learning options. However, the best colleges for music education are the ones that have received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music. This respected organization thoroughly reviews the music education degree programs offered at universities throughout the United States. Those programs that the Association deems to be the most outstanding receive accreditation. Receiving accreditation means that the program features well-qualified faculty and an academically rigorous curriculum that provides students with a quality educational experience. Degrees earned at these institutions will be recognized by potential employers across the country.

Music education colleges can be found everywhere, making it possible to find the right program for any learner. Competition for music education jobs is expected to be fierce in the next decade, so it's important to carefully consider all of the options before selecting a degree program.

Bachelor of Arts in Music Education

The undergraduate degree in music education takes between four and five years of full time study to complete. Students enrolled in this degree program encounter three main areas of study: general studies, music and teaching. The general studies component covers subjects like science, history, English, mathematics and any other liberal arts courses considered necessary to complete a well-rounded educational program. The musical requirements of the degree may include intensive study of the student's chosen instrument, music theory and performing ensembles.

In the teaching component, students acquire valuable classroom management and instruction techniques. At the completion of the degree, the student has received a broad based education that fully prepares them to meet the challenges of the working world.

Prerequisites vary between degree programs, but the most basic requirement is a high school diploma or GED. Many programs will only accept students who met certain academic standards in high school, such as a minimum GPA. Because music appreciation and skill are important determining factors of success, music education colleges rely heavily on an audition process for admitting new students. Some schools require a recording of the student playing as part of the basic admissions materials. From there, students may be asked to attend a live audition that will further demonstrate their current skill level and aptitude. Some institutions will also require an interview or essay as a part of the admissions selection process.

Once admitted, the student will likely encounter the following courses and subject matter:

In the School of Education:


  • Introduction to Music Education

  • Educational Psychology

  • Human Growth and Development

  • Materials and Methods for Teaching Music

  • Assessment and Evaluation in the Classroom

  • Teaching Music to All Types of Learners

  • Field Experience/Student Teaching

In the School of Music:


  • Music Theory

  • History of Music

  • Piano

  • Voice Study

  • Dictation and Sightsinging

  • Conducting

  • Various band, orchestra and choral ensembles

Upon completion of the four year music education degree, the student is qualified to follow these career paths:


  • Teaching in public and private schools from the elementary to high school level

  • Providing private lessons

  • Music director

  • Musician

Masters in Music Education

People who want to teach students at the college level or simply want to enhance their knowledge and skills may decide to earn a Masters in Music Education. Some students who hold a music related four year degree may return to school for a graduate degree in music education when they decide to become a teacher. Regardless of which path is appropriate, many music education colleges offer appropriate programs.

The majority of these graduate degree programs require one and a half to two years of full time study. Some programs allow the student to choose an area of specialization like choral music, instrumental music or general music for grades K-12. Other concentration areas might include music history or research. Prerequisites for admission to a masters in music education program include holding an undergraduate degree, submitting an essay and providing a DVD of the prospective student teaching and performing. Letters of recommendation and an interview may also be required.

Curriculum varies widely among programs. Nonetheless, students may encounter subject matter like:


  • Introduction to Music Education Research

  • Orchestration

  • Pedagogy of Music Technology

  • Curriculum Development

  • Music History and Theory

  • Independent Projects

Career options for the student who earns a masters in music education include:


  • Teaching all learners from kindergarten through university level

  • Leading bands, choruses and other ensembles

  • Opening a music studio or teaching in an already established studio

  • Music supervisor for television shows, movies or commercials

Doctor of Musical Arts

Reserved mainly for students who have an interest in conducting research connected to music education, most doctoral programs require a minimum of one year to complete. These are typically highly individualized degree paths that are tailored to the student's specific research. Accordingly, it may require several years to achieve this degree.

Students hoping to enter such a program should already have a master's degree and should have already spent several years teaching. Some doctoral programs require a valid teaching license, and all require a rigorous admissions process that may include several essays, interviews or auditions.

The doctoral program may include certain core courses like:


  • Statistical Procedures

  • Qualitative Research

  • Research Design

  • Music Psychology

Career paths include:


  • University level teaching and research

  • Director of a music education department at a university