The Best Online Bachelor’s in Music Programs

| TBS Staff

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An online bachelor’s degree in music can help you transform your passion for music into a financially viable career. With on–demand streaming and music apps, individuals around the world consume more music than ever before. According to Forbes, Americans listened to approximately 32 hours of music per week in 2017, an increase from 23.5 hours per week in 2015. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as the digital marketing industry expands, marketing agencies need more composers to write music for commercials and other advertising videos. The BLS projects that jobs for composers and music directors will increase 6% between 2016 and 2026, about the average rate for all jobs in the United States.

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Online Bachelor’s in Music Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

The Best Online Bachelor’s in Music Degree Programs

Valley City State University View School Profile $$ Valley City, ND 41% Valley City State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Its online music program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

VCSU’s highly flexible online bachelor of arts and bachelor of science in music features concentrations in musicology, performance, theory and composition, and recording and production. The program also gives students up to 30 elective credits to customize their music degree. Students must complete a recital, production, thesis, or composition capstone in their final year.

While VCSU offers all academic coursework online, students must participate in lessons and ensembles on VCSU’s campus. Alternately, learners can choose to complete these requirements on other college campuses and then transfer the credits to VCSU. Most courses feature both synchronous and asynchronous learning; students can choose to attend online classes in real–time or watch archived lectures later. Classes mandate set due dates and exam dates.

Texas State University View School Profile $$ San Marcos, TX 55% Texas State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Located in San Marcos, Texas State’s partially online bachelor of arts in music provides a rigorous education that prepares students for careers in music, education, performance, and sound recording technology. Music students must participate in ensembles and attend musical performances every semester. Texas State also expects students to participate in upper–level competency reviews, perform in senior recitals, and complete proficiency exams in piano and music theory.

Prospective students who wish to pursue this online bachelor’s degree in music must complete an audition as a part of the application process. Applicants also need previous credits in math, English, science, social studies, foreign languages, fine arts, and physical education. Unless applicants ranked in the top 10% of their graduating high school class, they must submit SAT or ACT scores.

Berklee College of Music View School Profile $$$$$ Boston, MA 59% Berklee College of Music is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).

Berklee offers online bachelor’s degrees in music business, music production, interdisciplinary music studies, songwriting and producing music, and music composition. The college also offers specialized online bachelor’s degrees in guitar, songwriting, and electronic music production and sound design. These online music bachelor’s degrees require students to take core music classes in composition, theory, basic ear training, harmony, and piano/keyboard. Students majoring in interdisciplinary studies can design their own music major. All music students must complete a capstone project in their area of specialization.

Online tuition at Berklee costs around $20,000 less per year than tuition for the college’s on–campus programs. The college also allows online students to enroll part or full time. Berklee offers rolling admissions for online students. The school accepts up to 60 transfer credits from other accredited higher education institutions.

University of Maine at Augusta View School Profile $$ Augusta, ME 13% University of Maine at Augusta is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).

UMA’s school of music offers on–campus, online, and low–residency programs. The university’s online bachelor of music in contemporary and popular music with a concentration in music education integrates composition and pedagogy with techniques in woodwinds, strings, brass, percussion, and voice. This major prepares students to take the Praxis general exam, the Praxis music content exam, and the principles of learning and teaching exam. While the music education concentration offers mostly online coursework, students must complete their student teaching experience in Maine.

UMA requires applicants to complete an audition. Students with no previous background in music can apply for the online associate in music without an audition. Students completing the music bachelor’s degree online also complete advanced studies in their instrument of choice.

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Choosing an Online Music Program

Earning your music bachelor’s degree online involves several courses in music history, theory, composition, and advanced techniques. Undergraduates typically focus on a specific instrument or type of singing and then take several courses in this area. Most music programs require students to complete a certain number of ensemble hours each semester; these hours involve rehearsing and performing with small groups of other singers and musicians. Music majors must also take core education classes in English, math, history, and social studies.

Because the music industry spans so many different occupations and genres, academic programs in this field typically allow students to specialize in a specific area. Common concentrations include composition, music production, music business, music education, and songwriting. Many programs allow students to take 20 or more elective credits so they can further tailor the degree to their interests.

Other requirements may include participating in a senior recital, writing a thesis, or composing an original piece of music.

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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in Music Program?

Online music bachelor’s degrees vary significantly depending on the school. However, most programs cover core concepts and skill sets, including music theory, basic conducting, and music history. The section below lists more information.

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Music

Music Theory
Music theory classes focus on reading, transcribing, composing, and analyzing music. Since most musicians and other professionals in the field rely heavily on music theory, these classes prepare students for a variety of careers.
Piano Techniques
This class provides basic skills in piano scales, chords, sight–reading, harmonization, and improvisation. These skills prepare students for careers as composers, teachers, directors, producers, songwriters, and professional performers.
History of Music
History of music classes examine music from ancient to modern times. Students learn about aesthetics and concepts specific to various time periods and regions. The course prepares students for careers in music education and composition.
Basic Ear Training
Students in this course learn how to identify and notate basic rhythms, pitches, and harmonies. The class also emphasizes other skills necessary to composing and performing, including identifying different time and key signatures.
Basic Harmony
This class helps students grow into more creative and skilled performers, composers, arrangers, and producers. Topics of study include harmony in contemporary music, chord progression, and improvisation.
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Careers with a Bachelor’s in Music

Graduates with online music bachelor’s degrees may pursue several different career paths. Many music majors continue their studies and earn graduate degrees in music or a related field. Others find jobs as music teachers for elementary and secondary schools, voice coaches, or instructors for specific instruments. A few music majors work as professional musicians and performers; these individuals play for symphonies and orchestras, for smaller bands, or for themselves as freelancers.

Sound Engineering Technician
Sound technicians work for radio stations, television studios, concert venues, recording studios, and film companies. They maintain and improve audio, video, and broadcasting equipment to ensure that events and recordings proceed smoothly. Sound technicians usually need an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  • Median Annual Salary: $42,650
  • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Composer
Composers write music for film, television, marketing campaigns, professional musicians, operas, orchestras and symphonies, and other groups. While the education requirements for this occupation vary, many employers seek composers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in music and composition.
  • Median Annual Salary: $50,590
  • Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Musician
Musicians perform for audiences, create recordings, rehearse with small and large ensembles, and spend several hours per week practicing their instrument or vocal skills. They often travel for performances. Many musicians who work for operas, symphonies, and other professional groups have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Median Annual Salary: $56,000
  • Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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