Music Education: Graduate Programs

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
A music teacher writes words on a blackboard.

The world of music education includes many exciting and rewarding employment opportunities and chances for advancement with additional degrees or endorsements. From instructing younger children to adults, music education is a multifaceted, and diverse program that brings lots of enjoyment to those involved.

Useful Degrees for Music Education 

For most public or private school positions, a bachelor’s degree in music education is typically the basic requirement for employment; however, if one desires to move into a position at the collegiate level or a leadership role, an additional degree will be necessary.

Master’s/Doctorate in Music Education

If one seeks to find employment instructing college-age students in music skills and practices, acquiring a graduate degree in music education is the first step. This consists of gaining a master’s degree or in some cases, working toward a doctoral degree. This level of education is extremely particular as courses are not generalized but structured for specific competencies (voice, instrument, conducting, theory, etc.) Another potential avenue of advancement in this field is becoming a dean within a department or the university.

Master’s/Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction

Another way music educators can advance or move forward in their career is to obtain a degree within the field of education. A graduate degree in curriculum and instruction opens the door to other positions that a music educator may qualify for within a school setting.

For instance, if one obtains a master’s or doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction, one could potentially hold a position in generating curriculum, becoming an instructional coach, and more. Additionally, with an advanced degree such as this, one could even become a professor of education at the collegiate level.

Master’s/Doctorate in Administration and Leadership 

For those planning to move to a leadership position within the school or district (administrator, principal, supervisor, director, etc.), it is necessary to acquire a graduate degree in administrative leadership. This typically consists of courses designed to further one’s understanding of the inner workings of schools, the role of the principal, and various national and state requirements and laws of education.

In addition to the advanced degree, many states require potential leaders to hold an official certification in administrative leadership. This can be achieved via passing a Praxis exam or other approved exam set forth by one’s state.

Benefits of Music Education Graduate Degrees 

Work at the University Level

The benefits of working at the college or university level are genuinely endless. Music educators get to share their love for music, and benefits of music education with students each and every day. As mentioned previously, instructors form relationships with students that are rewarding for all involved.

The instructor has the opportunity to instill specific music skills and knowledge into a student and watch as the student progresses in their abilities. The student can learn from the instructor’s experiences and improve their skills in the process.

Earn a Higher Salary

For many school systems across the country, there are incentives offered to teachers for advancing their education. With each additional degree, one has the chance to increase their salary. Some states even provide salary increases by the hours of coursework one has taken above and beyond the bachelor’s degree. Also, with the potential to obtain a higher position with an advanced degree comes the potential for an even greater salary increase.

Increase Teaching Skills and Technique

Through acquiring an advanced degree, whether music education degree or not, one is automatically adding valuable skills to their “teacher toolbox.” Whether those degrees are related to music or general education, the music educator will find that their abilities have been enhanced to better serve students in their educational endeavors.

Increase Versatility 

With the acquisition of a graduate degree, music educators increase their versatility within their current position and for any future position they may hold. The more versatile one becomes as an educator, the more valuable they become to a school or district.

Job Positions for Music Educators

When pursuing a master’s in music education, doctorate in music education, or degrees to support your music education career, there are several avenues in which one can find a career. Of course, it is important to find a position in the music emphasis one specializes in and enjoys. Below are some potential job options for those with a degree in music.

Elementary, Middle, or High School General Music

One of the most prevalent positions for those holding a degree in music education is teaching general music. The curriculum found within general music consists of foundational music skills like beat, rhythm, and pitch. Additionally, students are exposed to cultural music, music genres, and classroom instruments.

General music teachers are typically certified to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade (this may vary depending on each state’s unique specifications for music education.) More often than not, general music educators are the first to develop music skills in students. Through that, they are responsible for building a foundation for a lifelong love and appreciation for music.

Choir Director

Many public and private schools offer specific classes for the development of singing skills and performance only in the form of choir. Almost anyone with a degree in music education can be considered for this position as the majority of undergraduate coursework consists of skill advancement and experience in a choir setting; however, anyone seeking a position as a choir director must be able to sufficiently lead and conduct a group of people in harmony and synchronization.

Band Director

Another position available to music educators is the band director position. Band directors are responsible for beginning and advanced instruction of orchestral instruments to varied age levels within a particular school. The band director must have knowledge of how instruments (trombone, trumpet, clarinet, flute, bells, and more) are played and maintained.

Instructor of Music at the College Level

At this level, professors of music would instruct students within their specialized areas of music (voice, instrument, church music, and so on.) For the music educator, one would have the opportunity to teach what they excel at and utilize those skills in helping students advance those same passions.

The teacher and student typically form valuable relationships that can last many years. It is truly a rewarding and worthwhile position to hold for this reason. Music educators seeking to teach at the college level will likely be required to hold at least a master’s degree.

If you’re ready to enroll in a graduate program, be sure to explore our available 190+ master’s, doctoral, and licensure programs to help find the program that is right for you!

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