musicology and ethnomusicology Colleges By State

musicology and ethnomusicology Degrees

In its most basic form, Musicology is the study of music. Historically, Musicology has been thought of as the science of music, or musical scholarship. It includes the analysis of instrumental and vocal performance, as well as the study of music theory and composition. Musicology is multidisciplinary; its studies invoke the methods and subject matter of numerous fields, from Gender Studies to Neuroscience. Its largest sub-disciplines are Systematic Musicology, Historical Musicology, and Ethnomusicology.

Ethnomusicology is Musicology's most international sub-discipline. It was originally called Comparative Musicology in reference to its cross-cultural emphasis on non-Western traditions. Ethnomusicology encompasses the sociocultural, material, psychological and biological contexts of music. It transcends any one genre and the technical aspects of acoustic production to focus on the human dimension of music-making across space and time.

Musicologists and ethnomusicologists primarily work in academic settings. Most engage in teaching in some form, and some seek certification with the Music Teachers National Association to demonstrate their professional status. This certification is optional, but accreditation is not. Musicology programs should be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

Bachelor's Degree in Music

Most schools don't offer Musicology or Ethnomusicology per se until the graduate level. Students interested in these areas typically pursue generalist Music studies at the bachelor level. A Music major introduces the basics of performance and analysis and supplies a broad overview of the breadth of Musicology research. For aspiring ethnomusicologists, a major in Anthropology or Folklore is also a viable option.

Music majors usually choose a particular instrument on which to focus their efforts. They may be expected to join a musical organization such as a chorus or choir. Those who plan to study Musicology or Ethnomusicology in graduate school should learn to read a foreign language during their time as an undergraduate. As a condition of graduation, students may need to participate in a senior recital.

Bachelor-level courses in Musicology might include:


  • Applied Music I & II

  • European History

  • Music History I & II

Master's Degree in Musicology or Ethnomusicology

Students who attend graduate school for a master's in Musicology or Ethnomusicology typically earn a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Music (M.Mus.). These programs can take as little as three semesters, but more commonly take at least five, for a total of 2+ years of study. Some doctoral programs begin as master-level programs, letting students earn an M.A. degree while working towards their Ph.D.

Graduate programs in Musicology or Ethnomusicology include coursework in the major, as well as supportive non-major studies in Music which comprise about a third of one's classes. These supportive classes could include, for instance, courses on theory, composition, music education, or performance.

To get into a graduate program in Musicology, students need to demonstrate solid reading proficiency in at least one foreign language. Once the program nears completion, students must submit a final project to showcase their ability to research and write at a professional level on topics within their major. This project is usually a written thesis or the equivalent.

Graduate classes in Musicology/Ethnomusicology may include:


  • Music Iconography

  • 18th Century Opera

  • Music in Film

What can you do with a master's degree in Musicology or Ethnomusicology? You may be able to get a job as a:


  • Professional Music Researcher

  • Adjunct Professor of Musicology

Doctorate in Musicology or Ethnomusicology

Because the discipline is academic and research-focused, most musicologists earn a doctorate like the Ph.D. or Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA). Getting a doctorate enables a career in academia or other research setting. It is the most common level of graduate degree held by professional musicologists. The DMA in particular is ideal for those seeking a performing arts career. Some programs have a dual Ph.D.-DMA track.

Some programs combine Ethnomusicology and Musicology in the same major or department; others keep them separate. Some offer a sub-discipline, such as Historical or Systematic Musicology. To get into a doctoral program in Musicology, it is necessary to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Admission to doctoral candidacy also generally involves passing written and oral qualifying examinations.

Once students enter a doctoral program, they declare an area of specialization and then choose a doctoral committee to oversee their progress. A doctorate in Musicology typically involves one or more years of core seminars and work as a teaching assistant. The prescribed coursework is followed by multiple years of research and writing, culminating in the publication of a lengthy dissertation.

In order to graduate, candidates must defend their dissertation and pass a comprehensive, major-specific exam. Ethnomusicology doctorates may additionally have special fieldwork requirements for graduation. After they get their degree, some musicologists decide to participate in a postdoctoral fellowship to deepen their specialization of choice.

Recent doctoral dissertations in Musicology, provided by the American Musicological Society, include:


  • The Business of Musical Instrument Making in Early Industrial London

  • Place, Polity, and Identity in Swedish Music and Art, 1890-1910

  • Cyclic Pitch Organization in the Twelve-Tone Music of Aaron Copland

What jobs can you get with a doctorate in Musicology or Ethnomusicology?


  • Professor of Ethnomusicology

  • Professor of Music History & World Music

  • Music Research Consultant