Online PhD in Music

Music can be an addicting past-time, a serious hobby, or a fascinating study, but turning the subject into a career can be difficult without the proper level of education. For example, to teach music in secondary school, a candidate must hold a doctoral degree. Although traditional Ph.D. programs can be time consuming and expensive, students with limited ability to invest on that level have an alternative means of earning the same level of education in music. Boston University is one of the few schools to offer an online PhD in music to distance learners, providing them the opportunity to achieve the highest level of academia in the subject.

Online doctoral programs in music are designed to adequately equip students with the tools necessary to be effective music educators. This lays the foundation for careers in teaching music to students in secondary school, doing private teaching, and more. Beyond just teaching advanced classes in music theory, arranging, and/or vocal performance, students with a PhD in music are able to research, write, and publish works in their specific area of expertise. For the music enthusiast committed to making a lifestyle from their passion, getting a PhD in music can be exceedingly influential in boosting their career.

About Online PhD Programs in Music

Boston University utilizes a combination of curriculum and modern technologies to deliver the online Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education program to distance learners everywhere. The course focuses on music theory and musicology, as well as application techniques for teaching in classrooms. Experienced faculty members, who are generally renowned authorities in what they teach, deliver the courses to distance learners. Students will participate in research-intensive assignments and converse with fellow classmates and their professors throughout the duration of their program. This particular degree program consists of 11 courses to be completed in five and a half semesters.

Year One:

  • Graduate Theory Review. In this course, students will participate in a theory proficiency exam reviewing fundamental music theory and analysis.
  • Analytical Techniques. This course covers the systematic and empirical investigations that lead to formal and compositional procedures of specific masterworks selected from the tonal repertoire.
  • Introduction to Music Education Research. Students will receive a thorough introduction to various research informing music education, and how to critique and apply that research towards the development of their scholarly writing skills.

Year Two:

  • Qualitative Research Methods in Music Education. In this course, students will be introduced to key concepts and issues surrounding qualitative research. They will also acquire skills in conducting observations and interviews as well as experience with narrative and ethnographic techniques.
  • Orchestration 1. This course teaches contemporary orchestral techniques with emphasis on scoring for brass, modern winds, mixed ensembles, and strings.
  • Quantitative Research Methods in Music Education. Students will be given a thorough introduction to quantitative research methods and their application to the contexts of educational research.

The online doctorate program in music Education can be completed in as little as five and a half months if completed continuously. During this time, students will write their dissertation. However, students participating in the online DMA should expect the duration of the program to be a minimum of three years.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Music

The benefits of earning a PhD in music relate primarily to teaching. For example, teaching in a post-secondary institution requires a candidate to have a Ph.D. in their subject. Students with a desire to share their passion for music with others by teaching, an online PhD can be their ticket to that career. Additionally, having a PhD in music can enable students to research and write materials to be published in magazines or other outlets. Outside of career moves, the opportunity of an online Ph.D. can give students the ability to pursue the deepest level of knowledge in their specific area of study despite what their local opportunities or time commitments would allow for a traditional program.

On the flip side, a Ph.D. is an expensive investment and a higher return from a well-paying career can be difficult to obtain. Getting a degree at this level also requires a significant investment in time. Even if part (or the entirety) of the degree can be earned through distance learning, earning a Ph.D. will require hours each week to be dedicated to studying and completing assignments. Most importantly however, students committed to investing their time, money, and attention on this program should understand that the options for turning it into a career are fairly limited in focus. Aside from teaching and publishing written works, it can be difficult to approach a specific career relative to this level and type of degree.

Application&Admission Requirements

In order for students to be admitted to PhD programs in music, most will be required to present evidence of acceptable work and education history. Typically, schools require applicants to have proof of a certain number of years of experience relevant to the degree program as well as at least one letter of recommendation from a previous professor or professional work-associate. In addition to the standard requirements for application, students are typically required to complete an essay of purpose or intent that meets minimum word count requirements (which varies for each school).

Career Options&Job Market

A PhD in music generally translates into a career in post secondary teaching. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for post secondary teachers forecast to rise 17% in the next decade. On average, post secondary teachers earn $72,660 annually and College professors slightly more at $73,360 annually. The pay for a post secondary teaching career will vary depending on the experience and education and if a teacher reaches the top 10% of the pay bracket, they could make as much as $130,510 annually, according to the BLS. Both of these positions require a doctoral or other type of professional degree for a candidate to apply.

Where to Find Information

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides the statistics and information related to post secondary teachers.
  • Boston University. This will take you to Boston University's website for the online Doctor of Musical Arts, Music Education.
  • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).The NASM organization is responsible for the accreditation of schools and programs for the quality and rigor of their music studies. This site provides information about their accreditation standards and more.

How to Get Funding

Scholarship opportunities for students earning a doctorate are somewhat limited but can be a significant contribution towards the cost of the degree. In addition to the possibility of being compensated by their employers, a student working on a graduate degree may be able to apply for the following types of scholarships. In the case that PhD music majors don't qualify for these, additional scholarships can be searched for on various websites specifically serving that capacity, such as

  • Career-Specific Scholarships. For students pursuing a PhD in music, this may be the most likely type of financial aid they can expect to apply for and receive. Varying on the specific source, these scholarships can award up to several thousand dollars annually but generally will not cover all of the graduate's tuition.
  • Fellowships. Graduate students typically rely heavily on fellowships and assistantships to help fund their doctoral degree. Fellowships offered by institutions and organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts provide funding for students specifically for their program of study.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Every college provides its own specific scholarships to students based on academic qualifications and most have fully staffed offices ready to answer any financial aid questions students may have. Otherwise, information about the types of financial aid specific to the college and available to students may be posted on its website.

Essential Advice

  • Being involved in a professional association will provide students with special access to opportunities to develop their abilities and strengthen their resume.
  • Bolstering their academic strength in writing skills can greatly improve a student's ability to apply for a graduate program in music. With research and focus, a student can develop a unique, stand-out application.
  • By contacting professors and researching their interests, a student can gain an advantage in strategically choosing their instructors in advance of their classes.
  • Applicants can also contact current or former students of the PhD program of interest at that institution to determine what to expect from the program.