Music is the universal language of the world, communicating across cultures and country borders. Music is able to capture emotions without words and take us on journeys without ever asking us to leave our seat. If you've ever dreamed of making a career of singing, songwriting, composing or performing, consider earning an online music degree. Your notoriously unpredictable schedule as a musician—either playing gigs or traveling with the band—need no longer keep you from earning a college degree. Technology has made it possible for you to earn a music degree entirely through distance learning. Through your online studies, you can learn many different music techniques, from jazz composition to classical tunes to the Spanish Guitar. Some online music programs even offer live streaming courses so you can learn how to play an instrument or master advanced performance techniques. A solid base in musical studies will improve your own standing and career opportunities as a musician.
THE CAREER PATH
Music professionals have the opportunity to touch souls and to communicate across differences. Whether they work in a classroom directing high school marching band productions or perform on a stage as part of a professional group, music professionals use their skills to tell stories and connect with individuals on a deeper level. Many music professionals choose to specialize in performance in a particular type of instrument, like percussion, brass, or strings, or they choose to focus their energies on a subject other than performance, such as music production or education. There’s a variety of options for music professionals, all discussed by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Musicians & Singers – This is probably the type of professional that first popped into your head, but most people don’t think of all the different types of musicians and singers: from classical musicians to opera singers, to musicians in bands and solo performers. Musicians often play more than one instrument and may play in many different settings from orchestras to bands. Collective musicians practice, rehearse and perform together. Singers perform vocal music in a variety of styles, from opera to jazz. Some singers may be backup singers or musical theater performers that sing a story instead of speaking through dialogue. Not all musicians and singers are expected to have an advanced education, but it certainly helps—especially for classical performers and those applying for competitive positions. On average, musicians and singers make hourly wages around $26.00 an hour, or $50,000 a year. The demand for musicians and singers is expected to be on par with the national average for other positions, with job growth projected around 6% by 2026.
- Music Directors – These professionals work with a variety of musical groups, such as bands, choirs, and orchestras, to ensure that the group plays with one coherent sound. Music directors are typically required to have at least a bachelor’s or master’s level education, depending on the position and the setting of the work. Directors that work in public schools may be expected to obtain the appropriate teaching license. Music directors, like musicians, make an average of $50,000 each year and are projected to see job growth around 6% in the coming years.
Alternative options in the field of music include music therapy, music production, and music composition.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Although most individuals assume that the way into a music career is through natural-born talent, that isn’t always the case. Dedicated professionals can break into the industry with a little bit of passion and a lot of hard work. That being said, successful music professionals are creative and persistent, with the discipline to keep working towards their goals no matter what obstacles or distractions they encounter. Many musical professionals also have the physical stamina that it takes to participate in long, arduous performances.
Whether you have been training to be in musical performance since your childhood, tuned into your talent from an early age, or you could be prepared to tap into a career in music from an alternative perspective. Whatever journey lies ahead, an online music program could be the key to your successful career. If you have a passion for communicating through the language of music, and you are ready to combine your talents with hard work and perseverance, then you should consider how you can pursue a career in music.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Music degrees online have a core in liberal arts, so expect to develop a strong foundation in cultural studies. Most programs will include music composition, production, theory and literature. Your area of focus in music—such as business, education, performance or history—will dictate your other classes. As a music major, you will likely learn how to play several instruments, ranging from drums to bass to piano. You may also become a master of one particular instrument, such as the cello. Even your voice is considered an instrument, so you could take classes to teach you pitch and tone. Throughout these lessons, you'll see the importance of harmony and arrangement.
The most popular music degree online is a master's in music education. These online programs are designed for licensed teachers, who generally must earn an advanced degree to keep their credentialing or receive a raise. If you have a bachelor's degree but want to teach, a degree in music education may help you land a job teaching choir or band.
If you're a performer bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, you can explore an online music business degree. These business degrees, which include the study of music production, staging, distribution, pricing, marketing, and entertainment law, have been designed to help a new generation of performers master the secrets of turning their sweet tunes and on-stage personas into more steady employment.
Online music therapy degrees represent another advanced study area. Music therapists master techniques and interventions that help promote positive change in cognitive, sensory, and psychosocial functioning in the disabled and injured. Most online music therapy programs are offered at the master’s level. In this major, you usually complete a community internship in a hospital, clinic, or retirement village in addition to your online coursework.
The best music programs will provide ample opportunities for enhancing skills through hands-on practice and performance. Our rankings reveal that an online music degree costs between $30,000 and $50,000, on average, so students should compare each degree program.