Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Should Music Teachers Get Master’s Degrees?

Below is an article from guest author, Brian Jenkins.

Why should music teachers spend the time and money to get a Master’s degree? So that they can teach at the postsecondary level and be called a “music professor!” Nah, but a Master’s degree in music qualifies music teachers for good paying college, university, and junior college positions. Many holders of master’s degree in music have gone on to teach at prestigious universities and conservatories.

Public School Jobs

Of course their are no guarantees of a college level teaching position, but there are plenty of opportunities in public schools. In most school districts, new teachers with a Master’s degree enter the salary scale at a higher level than teachers with Bachelor’s degrees. They will typically earn about five percent more per year than “Bachelor’s degree” teachers. And what does a Master’s degree cost? On average, about $12,500. Keep this in mind when determining if that 5% bump in salary is worth it.

Teaching Music at the Postsecondary Level

A Master’s degree in music is usually the minimum required teaching credential for college and conservatory teaching positions. The typical college music department includes teachers of music education, performance, theory, and composition. Some larger colleges have further specialization areas such as music therapy, church music, commercial music, and other allied fields.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s May 2009 report, the median salary for postsecondary music teachers was $60,400. Teachers in the 75th percentile made $82,590 and those highly qualified teachers in the 90th percentile made $112,340.

Master’s in Music Degree Programs

Degree programs typically combine studies in an area of specialization such as music education, musicology, history composition, performance, ethnomusicology, or conducting with academic study in topics such as music theory, music history, and music pedagogy. These programs explore music studies in great depth. Students can focus on general music, instrumental music, or choral music.

The Master’s degree with a specialization in education is a variation of a traditional degree that combines theoretical music instruction with student teaching. These programs usually take from one to two years to complete.

Master’s Degree in Music Admissions Qualifications

Some colleges allow students to enroll in a Master’s of music degree program without even having a Bachelor’s degree in music. Typically, these applicants are required to take post-Bachelor’s degree certification courses and have at least one year of teaching experience. Individuals with a non-degree based conservatory education who can satisfy an undergraduate equivalent may be allowed to enroll in some Master’s degree programs as well.

If you’re considering enrolling in a Master’s of music degree program, check to see if the program has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). If it has, you can be sure it’s a legitimate program.

Some schools offer online Master’s of music degree programs. However, they do require some on-campus courses. (The School of Music at Boston University is currently the only school offering a 100% online Master’s of music.) These programs offers working professionals more flexibility than traditional, on-campus programs.

Keep this information in mind if you’re considering going back to school to further your career as a music teacher!

Brian Jenkins writes about college degrees in music for

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