Musical Arts Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in musical arts? Find out about program requirements, online options and info on courses and musical arts degrees.
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Studying Musical Arts: Degrees at a Glance

For aspiring musicians, songwriters and people with a general love of music, a musical arts associate's or bachelor's degree program can provide opportunities to gain knowledge and experience in music composition, performance and production. Whether you're a singer or saxophone player, a musical arts program can help you refine your skills while learning about important aspects of the music industry and preparing for a number of careers in the business.

The music industry is fiercely competitive, and many people are unable to support themselves in this field. While you may have dreams of being a world-renowned rock star or celebrated composer, the reality is that most jobs in the industry have modest salaries. For singers and musicians, it is hard to even determine a salary because they typically don't have steady, full-time work. However, if music is your passion, a degree in musical arts could be a rewarding choice.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working as performing musicians, music tutors, audio technicians or disc jockeys, or those who plan to transfer to a 4-year college People who want to work as music teachers, music therapists, composers or directors
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual or hourly salary) - Singer or musician ($32.00 per hour)*
- Sound engineering technician ($56,000)*
- Disc jockey ($40,000)*
- Audio equipment technician ($46,000)*
- Elementary school teacher ($55,000)*
- Middle school teacher ($56,000)*
- High school teacher ($57,000)*
- Music therapist ($43,000 based on mean annual salary for all recreational therapists)*
- Music composer or director ($54,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 35-40 credit hours in musical arts coursework (64 credits total)
- Performance workshops
- 50-66 credit hours in musical arts coursework (120 hours total)
- Keyboard or piano proficiency exam
- Performance review
- Internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED - High school diploma or GED
- Audition required for some programs
Online Availability Some coursework available online Some coursework available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Musical Arts

Associate's degree programs in musical arts are designed to provide students with a basic overview of the theoretical, performance, production and business aspects of music. Some of the things you'll learn include the basic principles of music theory, how music is produced electronically, how to read music notation and how to identify elements of music from around the world. You may be required to participate in performance workshops, and you could also join an ensemble or choir.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • After graduating, you could start your own business working as a music tutor for private clients.
  • Credits earned from your associate's degree program can likely be transferred to a 4-year institution if you earn your associate's degree from an accredited college. This will enable you to continue your education and earn your bachelor's degree in an additional 2 years.
  • Associate's programs in musical arts are commonly available at community colleges, making it easy and affordable to obtain your degree near your home. Community colleges frequently offer night and weekend classes to make it easy to fit your education into your schedule.

Cons

  • There is no guarantee you will find a job in the music industry after graduating from an associate's program. This is especially true if you want to work as a professional musician or songwriter.
  • Many of the skills you learn in an associate's program can be learned on your own through practice. Many musicians are entirely self-taught.
  • Associate's programs typically only offer beginning and sometimes intermediate music classes, which will not benefit you if you are already skilled at playing an instrument.

Courses and Requirements

While pursuing your associate's degree in musical arts, you'll take a variety of courses to provide you with a solid foundation in the basics of musical performance and the music industry. Some of the courses you might take include:

  • Introduction to music literature
  • Beginning music theory
  • Diction for singers
  • Electronic music production
  • Music notation
  • Introduction to Western music

Associate's programs also include performance workshops as part of the curriculum. When completing music workshops, you'll work alongside a teacher to improve your vocal or instrumental skills.

Your program may also include basic business classes, such as principles of marketing. These courses will benefit you if you intend to start your own music tutoring business and will help you manage and promote yourself to clients.

Online Availability

Due to their hands-on nature, associate's programs in musical arts don't exist exclusively online. However, hybrid programs do exist, and you may be able to complete at least a portion of your coursework online at a time that is convenient for you. You could possibly even complete all general studies courses, such as English and math, online while completing your music courses on campus.

Stand Out With This Degree

If your school has a band or choir, consider joining. This will give you extra practice time and experience working with other musicians. Upon graduation, you can even list your participation on your resume or gather a letter of recommendation from your choir or band instructor.

If you intend to attempt a career working as a musician or vocalist, try booking shows at local venues while you are still in school to get your name out to the public as early as possible. This could also be beneficial to aspiring music tutors since audience members might want to learn from you after hearing you play or sing.

Bachelor's Degrees in Musical Arts

Bachelor's programs in musical arts are geared toward students who are musically talented and already know how to play an instrument or sing above the intermediate level. In fact, auditions are commonly required for entrance, and only the top performing students are chosen for admission. Bachelor's programs also typically allow you to choose an area of concentration, such as composition, history, performance or recording. Upon graduating with your bachelor's degree in musical arts, you'll be able to apply concepts of music theory to original compositions, relate elements of music history to modern songs, analyze how music effects society and record songs using modern technology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree in musical arts will qualify you to teach music in public and private schools up to the high school level after you complete any teacher preparation and licensure requirements in your state. This is one of the few careers you can count on in the music industry for stability.
  • Schools often offer both internships and study-abroad programs within the music department.
  • An undergraduate program will provide you with 4 years to advance your skills while working alongside a mentor, and all of your performance classes will give you hands-on playing or singing experience.

Cons

  • Earning a bachelor's degree in musical arts will not guarantee you a job in a competitive industry. If you're not interested in teaching, you may need to fall back on a different career or work side jobs to support yourself.
  • Obtaining a bachelor's degree in musical arts can be an expensive endeavor; private school tuition can cost around $34,000 per year.
  • Music programs can be stressful since you are submitted to faculty and staff critiques, as well as strict deadlines for completing compositions or memorizing pieces for performances. If you do not handle stress or criticism well, a musical arts program may not be a good fit for you.

Courses and Requirements

Your area of concentration will determine the courses you take while pursuing your bachelor's degree in musical arts. However, some general studies courses you might take during the first phase of your degree include:

  • Elements of music
  • Music history
  • Composition and performance
  • Song interpretation
  • Musical acoustics
  • Music industry studies
  • Studio arranging

In addition to completing coursework, some schools require you to complete an internship before a degree is rewarded. Your internship may be carried out at a recording studio, opera house, music venue or production company depending on where your interests lie and your school's affiliations.

Online Availability

There are no bachelor's degree programs in musical arts available fully online. However, you may be able to enroll in some of your general studies courses online to accelerate graduation or free up your schedule. Many schools offer general education classes, such as science or history, online. You might even be able to take some of your music theory, history and composition classes online, but all performance classes will definitely need to be completed on campus.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Many schools offer honor programs within their music departments. Honors programs showcase the top ranking students within a department, and participating in one will give you experience to put on your resume. To qualify for a spot within an honors program, you must maintain a high GPA and fill out an application through your school.

Volunteering at an after-school program or hospital to teach music can give you real-world experience in preparation for a career as a music teacher or therapist. Volunteer work can also be listed on resumes and may appeal to potential employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Fine Arts
      • A.S. General Studies - Fine Arts
  • Marysville, CA

    Yuba College

  • York, PA

    York College of Pennsylvania

  • Rock Springs, WY

    Western Wyoming Community College

  • Altus, OK

    Western Oklahoma State College

  • Carson City, NV

    Western Nevada College

  • Milwaukee, WI

    Milwaukee Area Technical College

  • Scottsbluff, NE

    Western Nebraska Community College

  • Saratoga, CA

    West Valley College

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Fine Arts

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