Earning a Master's in Music Education Online

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As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, most musicians compose, record, and perform music as a secondary occupation while earning a steady income through other means. Earning a master's in music education online can open up valuable new career paths to musicians in search of steady, reliable incomes. This guide offers a detailed explanation of the many factors you should evaluate and consider before committing to an online music education degree. It also covers salary information, job growth potential, and other vital economic considerations for master's degree holders, including ways to find supplementary sources of funding. In addition, the guide explores the academic requirements for earning an online music education master's degree.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Music Education?

If you love music, can sing or play one or more instruments well, and enjoy helping learners discover and unlock their musical talents, you fit the profile of a student pursuing an online master's in music education. Beyond increased earning potential, a master's degree offers career development opportunities that a bachelor's may not deliver. Advanced degree programs delve into a broader and more complete set of strategies for teaching music to students at all developmental levels, which can enhance your marketability and appeal to employers.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Music Education?

Pursuing Specialization

Online music education master's degrees afford learners the opportunity to explore an expanded set of instructional strategies. As with any form of education, but especially in a creative field like music, different students respond to different teaching methods. After completing a master's program, you will possess a more complete and well-rounded set of teaching tools to draw from in your practice.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Data published by PayScale notes that master of music education graduates enjoy higher average rates of pay than teachers with bachelor's degrees in the same field. Advanced degrees also make you more attractive to employers, and in some jurisdictions like New York state, licensed music teachers with bachelor's degrees must now go on to earn a master's to maintain their credentials.

Online Learning Technology

Online master's in music education programs require that you engage with cutting-edge digital instructional technologies. Gaining experience with these internet-connected platforms can advance your career, as you can incorporate them into your own educational programs.

Prerequisites for Online Music Education Programs

While admissions standards vary by school, plan to encounter the following general prerequisites for an online master's of music education:

    • Work Experience: While previous teaching experience may not be required, many schools prefer applicants with a background in music instruction or at least a tangible demonstration of their interest in becoming a teacher. In some cases, schools may accept professional music performance experience as a substitute.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Schools vary in their standardized examination requirements. Some require applicants to submit GRE scores, while others make it optional or do not ask students for test results at all. In cases where GRE requirements apply, schools typically give more weight to verbal and analytical writing results. Scoring at or above the 50th percentile on these sections can help your application.
    • Coursework: To proceed into a master of music education online, schools typically expect applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in either music or music education. Academic performance requirements vary, with more selective schools generally preferring candidates with cumulative GPAs in the 3.0 range. In other cases, schools might only apply GPA cutoffs to your grades in music theory and music history courses.
    • Recommendations: To better assess your candidacy, graduate music education programs usually ask applicants to submit one to three letters of recommendation. These letters should come from credentialed individuals, such as certified music teachers, undergraduate professors, and professional musicians. If the school requires multiple letters, it often helps to source them from professionals in a variety of positions.
    • Essays: An admissions essay or personal statement of purpose comprises another common application requirement. In this composition, tell a compelling story that explains your reasons for wanting to become a music teacher. Make it authentic and support it with specific background information relevant to your educational, professional, and life experiences.
    • Interviews: Schools rarely request formal admissions interviews for online music education master's degrees, but they may ask for audio or video recordings of your performances, rehearsals, or classes you have taught. Similarly, they may request music compositions you created for students or lesson plans from previous instructional experiences.
    • International Students: Many American online music education schools accept international students; however, a recognized agency based in the U.S. may audit and verify your undergraduate educational credentials. If English is not your native language, you may need to submit TOEFL scores or other proof of fluency in English.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Music Education?

PayScale reports an average annual salary of approximately $51,000 for working professionals with a master's in music education. As with most occupations, earnings tend to rise as you gain experience, but completing a master's in music education online delivers important theoretical knowledge base. You will return to the instructional theories and methods learned in your master's program time and again in your professional career, especially if you pursue a traditional career path that involves hands-on work with music students.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Music Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

High School Teacher

Median Pay: $59,170

Job Growth: 8%

High school teachers prepare and deliver in-class lessons. They also design, administer, and assess assignments, tests, and examinations while contributing to various extracurricular programs and administrative duties.

Ideal for: Passionate, patient individuals with a strong commitment to helping young people with learning and personal growth.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

Working in technical schools, community colleges, and universities, postsecondary teachers instruct high school graduates in advanced programs leading to degrees, certificates, or diplomas.

Ideal for: Subject matter experts seeking to work with mature learners in a specialized field.

Department Chair (College / University)

Median Pay: $84,747

Job Growth: 9.4%

While many department chairs hold teaching duties, they also occupy positions of authority and leadership in their academic departments. They shape departmental policies and pedagogies, supervise faculty members, and liaise with higher-level institutional administrators.

Ideal for: Accomplished professionals with extensive administrative and postsecondary teaching experience.

Nontraditional Careers for Master's in Music Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

Music Ministry Director

Median Pay: $39,621

Job Growth: N/A

Music ministry directors select, compose, and conduct music in religious settings, such as churches. They also assist members of the faith community in selecting music for events such as weddings and funerals.

Ideal for: Musicians with strong religious beliefs and ties to their faith communities.

Music Director or Composer

Median Pay: $50,590

Job Growth: 6%

Music directors conduct performances in both studio and live settings. Composers create their own original music compositions for artistic and commercial purposes.

Ideal for: Skilled musicians with high levels of creativity and technical proficiency.

Musician or Singer

Median Pay: $26.96/hour

Job Growth: 6%

Singers and musicians perform music for live audiences and in recording studios. Some play their own original material while others perform pieces written by professional composers.

Ideal for: Creative, skilled, and performance-oriented professionals comfortable with appearing before audiences.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, Projections Central

Paying for an Online Master's in Music Education

To help finance your online music education degree, look beyond loans, savings, and gifts from family members to supplemental forms of aid like grants and scholarships for emerging music teachers. Various organizations offer these, including businesses, charities, professional associations, and philanthropic organizations. Accelerated degree-completion options represent a nontraditional strategy for controlling costs; this approach can reduce your total tuition fees while enabling you to join the ranks of the paid workforce faster.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

Various organizations maintain scholarship programs for music education students. Consider these five funding opportunities if you meet the qualifications and eligibility requirements:

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Music Education Program

Students can typically complete online master's programs in music education in about four semesters of full-time study. Actual timelines vary depending on whether you study part time, full time, or on an accelerated timeline. Structural specifics also vary among programs, but major milestones usually include field observation, applied project, and capstone project requirements in addition to core coursework. The virtual classroom experience sharpens and expands your experience with advanced digital platforms, building additional skills you can use later in your career.

Major Milestones

  1. Proficiency Examination

    Some programs require incoming students to take proficiency examinations that test their knowledge of music theory. Faculty members use the results of these non-competitive examinations to stream students into applicable prerequisite courses, if necessary.

  2. Core Coursework

    Online master's of music education programs include intensive studies of various pedagogical theories and techniques, along with examinations of music theory, music history, and other relevant subjects.

  3. Field Observation

    Many programs require learners to attend music classes in an observational capacity to help build student understanding of the practical applications of music pedagogy.

  4. Applied Project

    This milestone typically involves a teaching practicum, in which students lead music classes under the supervision of a licensed and experienced music education professional.

  5. Capstone Project

    Designed to function as the equivalent of a master's thesis, the capstone project encourages students to apply the knowledge they gained throughout the program by researching and creating a sample curriculum for future use in an educational setting.

  6. Licensure

    Students who do not already hold valid state teaching licenses become eligible to apply for them after enrolling in a program.

Coursework

Online master's in music education programs typically balance music pedagogy instruction with classes in music history and music theory. The sample curriculum below details some typical core course requirements.

Foundations of Music Pedagogy

This course builds foundational knowledge in essential pedagogical theory concepts related to teaching music. Students explore various strategies for instructing musicians of various ages and skill levels.

Psychology of Music

In this class, students explore human psychological experiences related to composing, playing, and listening to music. Learners cover these topics at an introductory level that assumes no prior formal training in psychology.

Music Education Administration

Students explore various strategies for creating and refining lesson plans, responding to different student needs, and handling the administrative aspects and supervisory requirements of being an educator.

Musical Theory

This course teach students advanced and detailed topics in music theory such as pitches, scales, chords, modes, musical notation, rhythm, form, and harmony.

Music History

Typically presented as a survey course, this class guides students along a high-level review of music history. Though the course is global in scope, most instructors emphasize Western musical traditions.

Licenses and Certifications

Beyond formal instruction in music education, you must meet several other requirements to begin your career as a music teacher. For instance, you need a teaching license to lead classes in American public schools, though private music academies and conservatories may demonstrate flexibility in this regard depending on their internal policies. Additional prerequisites that demonstrate your competencies, proficiencies, and qualifications may be optional, but acquiring them can open the door to more career opportunities.

The following list offers examples of both required and optional qualifications:

    • Demonstrated Proficiency in a Music Specialization: Attaining high-level proficiency in a music specialization, such as a specific musical instrument, can increase your employability. For example, advanced piano skills enable you to become a piano teacher, whereas a teacher with a generalist background would not qualify.
    • Professional Music Composition or Performance Experience: Professional experience like songwriting credits and credited appearances as a band director, instrumentalist, or vocalist on a published release broadens your appeal to employers, especially if you plan to pursue employment in private settings and specialized music academies.
    • Teaching Licensure: You will require a state-issued teaching license to work as a music teacher in American public schools. This requirement extends to both elementary and secondary teachers and to "floating teachers" who lead music programs at multiple schools.
    • Background Checks: Some states also require teachers working in public systems to undergo background checks and criminal clearances. These background checks typically look for cases of alleged or proven child neglect or abuse.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations for musicians and music educators offer excellent resources to both aspiring and established teachers. In addition to networking opportunities, these organizations also support the ongoing success of members through professional development programs and career services like job boards and job placement assistance. In most cases, students qualify for membership, often at discounted rates.

Consider joining one or more of these professional organizations:

  • American String Teachers Association: ASTA offers extensive resources to practicing teachers, including a mentoring program, career center, job listings, annual conferences, and orchestral festivals.
  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music: Beyond its well-established international footprint, IASPM maintains a dedicated U.S. chapter. Members can access the organization's acclaimed academic journal and attend annual conferences and networking events.
  • International Society for Music Education: ISME's mandate focuses on inclusivity in music education and aims to make music instruction available to anyone who wishes to pursue it. Student members enjoy low-cost access and become eligible to apply for ISME grants.
  • Music Teachers National Association: Founded in 1876, MTNA offers extensive educational resources, discounted admission to conferences and competitions, professional development and support services, and access to many exclusive music journals and publications.
  • National Association for Music Education: NAFME works to ensure the accessibility of music education to students across the U.S., regardless of their background or personal circumstances. Members enjoy access to excellent networking, lifelong learning, and advocacy resources.

Additional resources that can help you launch and build a successful music teaching career include:

  • Children's Music Network: Founded by a consortium of music educators, professional musicians, and parents of music students, this nonprofit organization offers extensive classroom resources and information on relevant events across North America.
  • Fun Music Company blog: Designed for music teachers working with students in elementary schools, this popular blog contains a wealth of information, including in-class strategies and lesson plan templates.
  • Music Lessons Resource: This comprehensive online resource maintains dedicated sections for both teachers and students, including a blog and links to additional teaching and classroom preparation resources.
  • Naxos Records: Naxos ranks among the world's leading classical music publishing labels, and the company's education portal features outstanding teaching resources, like detailed descriptions of musical instruments and a comprehensive glossary of musical terminology.
  • TeacherVision: Serving teachers who work with K-12 students, TeacherVision features categorized resources on topics including music appreciation, music theory, teaching strategies, musical styles, music history, music education standards, and many others.