Online Master's Programs in Music Education

An online master's in music education teaches students key concepts in music theory and education. This degree is designed for people who have a passion for creating and sharing music with those around them. Music educators are a critical part of arts education in schools at all levels.

This page details what to expect in an online master's in music education degree program, including sample courses, average time to program completion, and how to find top programs. In addition, there is information on career opportunities, certifications, and professional resources for students.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Music Education

Students in music education learn to create lesson plans, direct choirs and orchestras, investigate new techniques in teaching, and research trends and issues in music theory. A master's in music education is designed for students interested in becoming teachers, directors, or joining the music industry.

Common Classes and Coursework

Curriculum in Music Education

Students create site-specific music curriculum, taking into account philosophical, psychological, and sociological factors. Professors help their students incorporate modern teaching techniques and methods. This course prepares students to create lesson plans and tailor their curriculum for specific schools.

Analytical Techniques

This course examines the formal and compositional makeup of masterworks in music through an empirical lens. Students learn to break down the underlying framework of these pieces and how to present techniques to a classroom. Some courses require individual analytical projects as well.


Students learn to score modern wind, brass, and string instruments, as well as mixed ensembles through reading, writing, and analytical listening. Key concepts include melodic projection, chord spacing, and instrumental techniques. This course prepares students to compose, arrange, and direct orchestras and other musical groups.

Intro to Music Technology

As technology evolves, this course helps students understand the most significant advancements and achievements in music teaching. Students learn about music production, recording, audio, sound editing, computer-based notation, and music distribution through social media. This class prepares students to create and produce music, and educate others on the interplay between technology and music.

Music Education Research

Research is a key part of music education, both in the pursuit of music analytics and understanding the latest trends and methods in teaching. Students learn how to research, and to apply that research to scholarly writing and analytical studies.

Skills You Will Gain

Students who earn a master's in music education often become teachers or go on to earn a doctorate. This degree program prepares students for these paths by teaching essential skills and helping students master core competencies.

The skills students develop relate either to music theory and composition, or to educational practice and philosophy. Some of the core competencies that students will tackle are:

  • Curriculum development
  • Organizational and motivational skills
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Public speaking and leadership skills
  • Music composition and analysis
  • Strong written communication skills
  • Research methodology and application

If students decide to pursue a doctorate, they must know how to conduct research, have a thorough grasp of compositional and teaching theory, and develop strong writing skills to help them create a defensible thesis.

Students who become educators must be organized, disciplined, and highly motivated. Music teachers are leaders — both in the classroom and often in front of a choir or band — and have to communicate their musical knowledge thoroughly and effectively. An online master's in music education helps nurture these skills and, more importantly, teaches students to prepare for what lies ahead.

Average Degree Length

The amount of time it takes to earn a degree depends on many different factors. One is flexible scheduling. Many online learners hold jobs in addition to pursuing a degree. Those students typically take a lighter course load, allowing them to keep up with both work and school.

Most master's degree programs require about 32 credit hours to complete, though this may vary based on the program

Most master's degree programs require about 32 credit hours to complete, though this may vary based on the program. Students generally need to complete core courses for their major and choose some complementary elective classes as well. Some degree programs offer accelerated timelines, which allows students to take more credits at a faster pace and finish the degree program early. Taking courses during the summer also decreases how long it takes to earn a degree. Keep in mind some schools require approval for taking summer courses.

Students should speak with an advisor or counselor to determine the best course of action. Program advisors can help students find a schedule and course load that works for them.

How to Find a Top Program

When searching for the right degree program, students should take a close look at each university. There are certain characteristics that most top programs share to a certain degree, including:

  • High Graduation Rates

    Look for universities with high graduation rates; it demonstrates that the institution consistently helps students finish their degree.

  • Research Programs

    Research programs show that universities and colleges devote their time to being on the cutting edge of new information. Research institutions tend to draw knowledgeable professors and invested students.

  • Test Pass Rate

    This shows that a college prepares its students for key examinations and seeks to help them maintain a high GPA, which in turn helps them when searching for a career or moving on to a doctoral degree.

  • Employment Rate

    Colleges with high employment rates for recent graduates tend to have large alumni networks and supportive career counseling, all of which help students when they begin their job search.

  • Academic Support

    Students should look for schools that offer academic support, like counselors, tutors, and writing centers. These resources help students pass classes, manage their responsibilities, and get the best grades they can.

Music Education Careers After Earning A Master's Degree

Degree holders have a host of career options in music education. Many graduates enter into teaching positions, but others become private instructors, music directors, consultants, or join the music industry.

Music Teacher

Design and implement their curriculum for students in the classroom. Necessary skills include organization, critical thinking, public speaking and communication, and thorough knowledge of music.

Average Annual Salary: $41,801

Band Director

Audition students, select music, and lead musical ensembles. They must teach the fundamentals of note reading, tonality, and harmony. Band directors can work with a number of groups (jazz, marching band, orchestra), usually in a school setting.

Average Annual Salary: $46,236

Music Director

Work in schools, churches, radio stations, and others. Directors should be highly motivated and organized, as they have to keep track of their ensemble members, lead practices, select music, and promote their group.

Average Annual Salary: $40,290

Postsecondary Music Teacher

Work closely with students to refine their knowledge of music and its applications. Teachers must grade papers, prepare lessons, and mentor students.

Average Annual Salary: $45,316

Music Librarian

Acquires, organizes, and preserves documents and resources pertaining to music, such as sheet music or recordings. These librarians must have a thorough knowledge of the music industry and impeccable organizational skills.

Average Annual Salary: $59,500

Additional Certifications for Music Education

Other music education licenses and certifications allow students to demonstrate proficiency in a specific skill set, further their education, and prove their qualifications for careers that require extra training or licensing.

Teaching License

Many states require teachers to become licensed. The licensing process can include an exam, additional classes or continuing education, a background check, and approval by a state board. Requirements vary from state to state, so graduates should always research specific rules and learn whether states have reciprocity.

Music Teachers National Association Certification

The MTNA certification provides proof of musical knowledge and professionalism, and can help music instructors recruit and keep students.The program requires knowledge of five music education standards. Candidates must prove proficiency in all five standards before earning the certificate.

Tutoring Certification

Graduates who wish to become private music tutors should consider joining a professional tutoring organization. These organizations provide certification title:"for tutors to prove their proficiency, knowledge, and skill set. Certification title:"also gives tutors credibility and demonstrates a higher level of professionalism.

Professional Organizations & Resources for Music Education Students

Professional organizations provide many benefits to music education students, including access to helpful resources, career boards, mentoring opportunities, and peer networking events. The mission of these organizations is to support and promote music educators and their craft.

  • American String Teachers Association ASTA supports orchestra teachers and players, from student-teachers to professional teachers to performers. ASTA provides teaching resources, a career board, continuing education opportunities, insurance programs, and access to local and national events.
  • Chorus America Focused on the choral field, Chorus America provides advocacy, research, and leadership development. This organization gives support to choral conductors, administrators, board members, and singers through online resources and peer networking.
  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music An international organization that promotes scholarship and analysis of popular music, IASPM offers conferences, publications, and research projects to advance the understanding of popular music, its production, and its consumption.
  • International Society for Music Education ISME seeks to build a worldwide community of music educators. This organization promotes access to music education, respecting musical diversity, and developing musical skills.
  • Music Teachers National Association A collaborative community for music educators, MTNA welcomes students and professionals. MTNA focuses on networking, leadership, mentoring, and continuing educational opportunities for members.
  • National Association for Music Education One of the world's largest arts organizations, NAME provides advocacy at the local, state, and federal level, has resources for professionals and students, and provides career opportunities.
  • National Association of School Music Dealers NASMD brings together retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers who dedicate themselves to serving the school music market. NASMD offers an annual convention and opportunities to network with other professionals.
  • National Band Association The NBA is the largest professional organization for bands in the world. This organization promotes band excellence, encourages composition and performance, and assists directors at all levels of experience.
  • National Federation of Music Clubs NFMC has club and individual members of all ages from around the world. Members include composers, musicians, teachers, music students, and performing artists, all of whom have the opportunity to study music and performance.
  • Society for Music Theory SMT approaches music theory from a scholarly and pedagogical standpoint. The organization offers many publications and strives to include input from all disciplines, including scholars, composers, performers, teachers, and students.
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