Music Education Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an associate or bachelor's degree program in music education? Read about the program requirements, the pros and cons of associate and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Study Music Education: Degrees at a Glance

To work as a music teacher in a public school, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree with coursework in both music and teaching. You'll also need to earn state licensure, usually by meeting certain educational requirements and passing exams. If you want to work as a private music teacher, the only requirements are knowledge and ability, although an associate or bachelor's degree may be helpful.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of jobs for kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers will grow by about 17% between 2010 and 2020, which is average compared to other professions. However, the number of positions for high school teachers will only increase by about 7%. The median annual salary for K-12 teachers ranged from about $52,000 to $54,000 as of May 2011, depending on grade level. Self-enrichment teachers, including private music teachers, earned a median salary of only $36,000.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for?People who want to work as private music teachers or transfer to bachelor's degree programs in music education Individuals who are interested in becoming private or K-12 music teachers
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)- Self-enrichment teacher ($36,000 - a degree is optional)* Same jobs available to associate degree holders, as well as the following:
- High school teacher ($54,000)*
- Elementary or middle school teacher ($53,000)*
Time to Completion Around 2-2.5 years, full-time About 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Coursework only (most programs have minimum GPA requirements) Student teaching
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- ACT/SAT scores or school placement test
Same as for the associate degree, as well as the following:
- Audition
- Interview
Online Availability No online programs, although some individual courses may be available online Rare

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

Associate Degree in Music Education

Most associate degree programs in music education are designed so that you can transfer your credits to a bachelor's degree program after graduating. This is critical if you want to become a K-12 music teacher, since a bachelor's degree is required for this career. Associate degree programs typically focus on building your technical music proficiency and general music theory knowledge, and you'll usually have to take a selection of general education electives as well. It's important to note that associate degree programs in music education usually don't provide you with much instruction in music teaching techniques; it's generally assumed that you'll hone these skills in your bachelor's degree program.

Pros and Cons


  • You may have the option of transferring to a bachelor's degree program in music education
  • You'll earn your associate degree in music education more quickly than you could earn your bachelor's degree
  • You'll get to try your hand at college-level music and general education coursework before you commit to a 4-year program


  • This degree won't qualify you to become a music teacher in a public school
  • Transferring associate degree credits to a bachelor's degree program in music education is not guaranteed
  • Most programs don't offer many courses in music teaching methods

Courses and Requirements

If you enroll in an associate degree program in music education, you will be able to take a variety of music courses in areas such as music theory, jazz, Broadway and voice. You'll also get a foundation in general studies and have the opportunity to take electives. Some sample music courses you might take include the following:

  • Piano
  • Music theory
  • Wind ensemble
  • Introduction to music literature

Online Course Info

There are not currently any online associate degree programs in music education, nor are there any associate degree programs in this area that allow you to take the required music courses online. Due to the hands-on nature of music education training, this type of instruction is difficult to deliver remotely. However, it is possible to take non-credit (continuing education) music courses and bachelor's-level music courses online. You may also be able to fulfill some of the general education requirements for your degree online.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The steps you'll take to get ahead vary depending on where you are in your career and what your goals are. If you're already working as a private music teacher, you might consider pursuing certification from the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). According to this organization, certification can help you establish your credibility for potential clients and even increase your earning potential. To get certified, you'll need to demonstrate your abilities by uploading videos in which you showcase your teaching techniques. If your aim is to get into a bachelor's degree program in music education, you'll want to work hard at honing your performance skills so that you can audition successfully.

Bachelor's Degree in Music Education

In a bachelor's degree program in music education, you will most likely concentrate in a particular area, such as choral or instrumental studies. You will also be able to choose from a wide range of courses, including music history and theory, conducting and aural skills. In addition, you will be able to perform in recitals, as well as gain experience teaching music and work with instrumental or choral groups. Bachelor's degree programs in music education can also help prepare you for state licensure. In order to get accepted into some programs, you may have to pass an audition and a music education interview.

Pros and Cons


  • You'll meet the education requirements to become a public school music teacher, so you may be able to earn a higher salary than you would get if you only worked as a private teacher
  • If you become a public school teacher, you'll most likely reach a larger audience of students than you would as a private teacher
  • Bachelor's degree programs in music education typically provide you with much more comprehensive instruction in teaching methods than associate degree programs do


  • A bachelor's degree is unnecessary if you only want to teach private music lessons or work for an organization like a church or community center
  • If you work in a public school, you may have to teach some students who are not interested in music
  • Earning a bachelor's degree alone won't qualify you to teach in a public school; you'll also need to meet state licensing requirements

Courses and Requirements

In a bachelor's degree program in music education, you'll be able to take classes in a variety of areas, including voice, piano and music education methods. Near the end of the program, you will have the opportunity to get classroom experience while working as a student teacher. Some common music education courses include the following:

  • Music theory
  • Music methods
  • Practice of teaching music
  • Music for special education students

Online Course Info

It is possible to earn a bachelor's degree in music online, but programs of this kind are rare. You may complete some course requirements via Skype or by creating videos of your work for your professors to evaluate. It's also possible that you'll need to complete some requirements locally. For example, you may hone your skills by performing with a music ensemble in your city.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As is the case for associate degree holders, bachelor's degree students may benefit from pursuing certification from the MTNA. It's also a good idea to prepare a strong teaching portfolio before you hit the job market. This can include sample lesson plans and examples of student work, which you can collect throughout your studies. If you already have some private music teaching experience, this will provide you with a good source of portfolio materials. If not, you may be able to collect some samples during your student teaching experience.

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