Earning a Master's in Music Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Music Online?

An online master's in music can benefit professional musicians' careers in several ways. An advanced degree can diversify employment options, allow for specialization in an area of expertise, and increase earning potential. Ideal candidates for a master's in music demonstrate advanced instrumental or vocal skills and plan to pursue further education in a specific area of music, such as education, performance, music theory, music production, or conducting. Most master's in music graduates seek employment as educators, professional touring musicians or composers, or work at nonprofit, music-centered organizations. Accredited online programs allow students to pursue their master's degrees on a flexible and convenient basis.

Some schools also offer accelerated programs, wherein students earn the same degree as those in traditionally paced programs, but in less time. In either case, an online program helps learners save time and money as they pursue an online master's in music.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Music Graduates

Master's in Music Salary

An online music master's degree can increase your earning potential, but precise salaries depend on each professional's specialization and geographic location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top-paying states for art, drama, and music teachers include California, District of Columbia, and Massachusetts. Earning potential also depends on prior work experience. For example, according to PayScale, entry-level music teachers make a median annual salary of $39,000, while late-career professionals with at least 20 years of experience earn approximately $58,000.

Top-Paying States for Art, Drama, and Music Teachers

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
California 11,010 $101,680
District of Columbia 470 $99,440
Massachusetts 5,190 $97,510
New York 10,940 $95,090
New Hampshire 620 $91,140
United States 95,110 $78,720

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Median Pay by Experience Level for Music Teachers

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $39,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $45,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $50,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $58,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Music Careers

Professional musicians with an online master's in music qualify for a variety of exciting careers. Many musicians are driven, self-starting entrepreneurs who support themselves with their original compositions and performances. Some start their own business as artist managers or publicity agents, or find employment in event-planning and concert promotion. A master's degree in music also prepares graduates for more traditional jobs in the field, such as a high school or college music teacher or orchestral conductor, or administrative roles in college music departments. Professional musicians should demonstrate excellent time management and social skills, and they often must work odd hours and on weekends.

High School Music Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $59,170

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

These professionals typically teach several classes a day in the instrumental or vocal department. They design curricula to meet school and state requirements, and teach students to enjoy the performing arts. Depending on the high school's type and size, a master's degree in music may position you for leadership or administrative roles with more responsibilities than the average teacher.

Postsecondary Music Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Postsecondary teachers work in colleges and universities, often with undergraduate and graduate students who may or may not pursue music degrees. As such, postsecondary music teachers offer courses to accommodate all levels of students, from specialized, high-level instruction to general music history and music appreciation classes. Teachers at colleges and universities often hold a master's degree or higher.

Music Conductor or Classical Music Composer

Annual Median Salary: $50,590

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Conductors lead and coach performing musical groups, usually in ensemble settings. Such groups may include orchestras, jazz big bands, or marching bands. Composers write music for various performers and scenarios, such as for television, commercials, and movies. They may also write for orchestral groups, performing artists, or film scores.

Department Chair (College/University)

Annual Median Salary: $92,360

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Department chairs assume leadership roles in their respective departments. They oversee and advise professors and other instructors in the music school. They may also manage the department's finances and collaborate with other university administrators. Department chairs may take on teaching responsibilities, providing lectures, assignments, and exams for certain classes each semester.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Music Program?

Online master's in music curricula vary between schools. Some courses might entail more academic work, while others might be performance-based. Each school's course offerings reflect the strengths of its faculty members. When researching online master's in music programs, make sure to read faculty biographies and course descriptions to understand whether each program meets your academic needs.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Music

Psychology of Music

This course helps students explore the scientific principles and theories surrounding human listening habits and sound perception. Coursework benefits master's students interested in music education, who want to understand the different ways musicians can learn. Upon completing the course, students better understand musical development, creativity, and human memory.

American Vernacular Music

In this historically based class, students learn about popular and folk music. Starting with music of the mid-1800s, this course explores brief histories and essential performers in jazz, country, folk, blues, rock, rap, and Latin music. Master's students learn to apply vernacular music methods to their own performances, including learning-by-ear and improvisation.

Technology and Music

Master's students learn the roles of digital technologies in musical performance, creativity, and listening. Students with an emphasis in music education may benefit from this course, which explores modern pedagogical tools and software for today's classrooms. Learners may also work with popular software such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and EarMaster.

Music and Community

This course examines the political, social, and cultural components of music. Students learn about musical movements, music-driven protests, and other important socio-historical moments. Some programs require students to complete a research project, based on original fieldwork, with a musical community in their area. After completing the course, students understand how music works to foster community and define group identities.

Jazz Composition and Arranging

Usually required for master's in music students focusing on composition, this course teaches students traditional jazz music theory and arranging conventions. By studying the works of great composers such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Benny Goodman, students examine the chord progressions, melodies, and improvised solos that became gold standards in the jazz genre.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Music Prepares For

  • Music Teacher Certification: Certification requirements for music teachers vary by state. Those teaching in public elementary, middle, or high schools must obtain state licensure, while private schools may not require it. In either case, master's students can benefit from earning their teaching licensure to diversify their employment options.

  • College Administrator Certification: Some professionals who pursue careers in higher education administration after their master's program choose to earn an administrator certification. This credential increases professionals' employment opportunities beyond just music or positions in music departments and may help current educators advance their careers or transition into administrative roles.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations are excellent resources for students, recent graduates, and current professionals. These membership organizations offer quality networking opportunities, continuing education programs, annual and regional conferences, career coaching, and active job boards. Most also offer extensive online resources, including software downloads, tutorials, and full-text journal articles.

  • College Music Society: This organization works to uphold high standards of music education through its consortium of colleges, conservatories, universities, and independent musicians and scholars. Members access an active job board, a national conference, regional conferences, online networking opportunities, and student chapters.

  • National Association for Music Education: Founded in 1907, NAME represents one of the world's largest education organizations. The association offers continuing education opportunities, online publications, and annual conferences. Members also qualify for discounts on home, auto, and life insurance.

  • College Band Directors National Association: CBDNA provides a space for musicians, band directors, and educators to discuss philosophies and professional practices pertaining to music and education. The group focuses on performances by organized ensembles at the college level, namely those in the wind band genre. Members participate in online discussions and attend conferences, symposiums, and workshops around the country.

  • American String Teachers Association: ASTA gathers string teachers, performers, orchestra directors, and scholars with an interest in string music performance. The organization offers professional development opportunities, online teaching resources, and a national conference.

  • Society for American Music: Founded in 1975, this society serves academics and musicians interested in music education, performance, and scholarship. Members attend annual conferences to present research and network with graduate students and other professionals in the industry. The society also offers extensive online resources, access to academic publications, and fellowship opportunities.