Online PhD in Musical Arts

An online musical arts PhD program offers students the knowledge and skills they need to become successful music teachers, composers, or directors. Most musical arts curricula feature instruction in music analysis and theory, qualitative and quantitative research methods, orchestration, and arrangement. Some on-campus musical arts programs offer specializations, such as piano performance, that are designed to give students professional-level skill in a particular instrument so they can offer instruction on the university level. These programs require applicants to participate in an audition either in person or, in some cases, by video recording so long as there are no edits within movements.

The advantage to the online format is it allows students to complete their course work in their own time without having to upend their daily schedule to attend class on campus. This is especially beneficial for students who are working or who have other obligations, such as to their families. Distance education offers students the chance to get an education, advance their careers, and increase their earnings while also attending to their other responsibilities.

About Online PhD Programs in Musical Arts

Although the program is online, students are not completely isolated. Many programs have faculty members who are recognized authorities in music education or theory, and these professors are frequently available to respond to students' questions by email or instant message. Course material for these programs is offered through online course management software, such as Blackboard. These materials, such as assigned readings, videos, or audio files, can be downloaded at any time in the semester after they're initially uploaded. Some programs, such as Boston University's online Doctor of Musical Arts, require students to travel to campus for a seminar at the end of the curriculum.

Year One:

  • Analytical Techniques. This course may expose students to systematic and empirical investigations into compositional procedures of masterworks selected by the professor.
  • Foundations of Music Education. A foundations of music education course covers the historical and contemporary philosophical ideas and problems in music education. The goal of the course is to inform students about previous music education theories and practices so they may develop better curriculum and more effective assignments.
  • American Music. An American music course may cover colonial American music, the attempt to create a distinct American style of music, and the affect African American, Indian, European, and other influences have had on music.

Year Two:

  • Orchestration. An orchestration course includes instruction in orchestral techniques, such as writing music for brass, wind, and missed ensembles. Students may learn about melodic projection, chord spacing, and other techniques involved in writing music.
  • Quantitative Research Methods in Music Education. This course covers quantitative research design, reliability and validity, sampling techniques, and how quantitative research relates to music education.
  • Critique in Music Education. Students in a critique in music education course learn how to apply the previous knowledge they've gained from previous courses to developing research strategies.

At the end of a student's studies they enroll in a dissertation course. This class requires students to select a dissertation topic and covers research techniques. Students will also create a preliminary bibliography. Once the course work is completed, students will be given a certain amount of additional time to complete their project under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Musical Arts

A doctoral degree in musical arts is a good choice for students who are looking to work as music teachers on the college or university level. It may also be beneficial for individuals who are interested in careers as music directors or composers. A career as a post secondary music teacher can be just as challenging as it is rewarding. Depending on their specialization, music teachers may be responsible for teaching classes on music theory or arranging orchestral performances. It's an ideal occupation for individuals who are passionate about music and want to help others either become better performers or gain a deeper understanding of music theory.

The downside to a doctoral degree in musical arts is the career it leads into doesn't pay as well as other occupations that require a graduate degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that post secondary music teachers earned a median annual salary of $62,300, while the top 10% of earners received more than $124,880, in May 2011. Meanwhile, a doctoral degree in law may lead to a career as a lawyer. According to the BLS, lawyers earned a median annual salary of $112,760 in May 2010. However, if you're passionate about music then the salary may not be a deciding factor in what degree you choose.

Application & Admission Requirements

The admissions requirements for an online musical arts PhD program may vary depending on the institution. However, most programs have some general requirements. An applicant must have bachelor's and master's degrees from regionally accredited institutions and teaching experience at the primary, secondary, or post secondary level. There may be additional requirements as well. For example, Boston University's online doctoral degree program in musical arts requires a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0, and students must also submit a statement of research interest, official transcripts, three letters of reference, GRE or MAT test results, and a video and response statement. Finally, applicants have to participate in an interview with at least two faculty members.

Career Options & Job Market

Graduates of an online PhD program in musical arts have several career options from which they can choose. For example, a doctoral degree may qualify an individual for employment as a music instructor at a college or university. Post secondary teachers teach courses in a variety of subjects to college-level students, work with them individually to meet educational goals, plan lessons and assignments, provide academic advice for students, and publish original research in academic journals. Music teachers may be required to have expertise in a certain instrument or the ability to arrange music for an orchestral performance.

Post secondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $62,050 in May 2010. The top 10% of workers received more than $130,510, according to the BLS. Employment of post secondary teachers is expected to increase 17% from 2010 to 2020 as more people enroll in college to advance their careers, the BLS reports. However, keep in mind that these statistics are not specific to music teachers. Actual salary or employment opportunities are determined by location, hiring institution, condition of the economy, and an applicant's credentials.

Where to Find Information

  • National Association for Music Education is one of the largest arts education organizations in the country. It advocates and promotes music education programs in local, state, and federal government and provides resources for teachers including My Music Class, an online lesson plan library.
  • Music Educator's Journal is a quarterly published peer-reviewed journal that features articles about teaching philosophies and techniques and music education in schools.

How to Get Funding

Not every student can afford to pay for tuition by him or herself. Fortunately there are a number of governmental financial aid programs available for students who need help paying for their education. Below are three examples of financial aid programs. Although these are good places to start, we suggest you talk with someone in your school's financial aid office to determine your doctorate funding options.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan.
    The Federal Direct Stafford Loan program offers online musical arts PhD program students low-interest loans while they pursue their degree. The loan program has a fixed interest rate of 6.80%, and the maximum loan available is $20,500 per academic year.
  • Federal Perkins Loan strong>. Full-time students who have the greatest need for financial assistance can apply for the Federal Perkins Loan, which offers a maximum of $3,500 per academic year and an interest rate of 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. A university's financial aid office will have campus-based loan programs that can help students pay for tuition and learning supplies. Many schools are also active participants in every program offered by the federal government.

Essential Advice

  • Take your time. Enrolling in any academic program can be expensive and time consuming. To get the most on your return you should consider your future career plans, financial aid options, and if you have the time necessary to dedicate to Ph.D. studies.
  • Is this for you? If you can, talk to people who are currently enrolled or have graduated from the program you're considering. Ask them what their degree has done for their career and if they think it was worth the time and expense. If they work in the profession you're wanting to enter then you can ask them how they feel about their work. These people can offer you the type of insight that isn't possible to have unless you've already gone through the degree program.