Musicology Education and Training Program Information

Musicology is the academic study of the history, culture and social science of music. Degrees in musicology are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, providing instruction in topics such as musical analysis and music and culture. Read on to learn about program admission requirements, curriculum and career options.

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Essential Information

Musicology studies are available through university music departments. Many programs offer subspecialty options in such areas as historical musicology or ethnomusicology. Students usually must know how to play at least one musical instrument and need to read music. An audition may be required for admission.

At the bachelor's degree level, students gain foundational skills through courses in music history and musical analysis, as well as with the liberal arts courses required for the degree. Master's programs, which take about two years, allow students to investigate areas that interest them and complete a thesis. They also hone their music analysis skills. At the doctoral level, students focus on one area for a dissertation and often teach undergraduate classes. These programs require at least four years of work.


Bachelor's Degrees in Musicology

A 4-year degree in musicology provides students with foundational skills in the advanced study of music and prepares them for graduate study or for entry-level teaching positions. Many programs include concentrations or tracks for students to focus on one or more areas of musicology, including advanced musical analysis, music history and ethnomusicology (the study of music as it pertains to particular cultural or social groups). Programs typically offer Bachelor of Arts in Musicology or Bachelor of Music in Musicology degrees; both types of programs offer a broad liberal arts education in addition to the major courses in music history and ethnomusicology.

Educational Prerequisites

Most schools require students to have graduated high school or to have passed the General Educational Development (GED) examination prior to enrollment. In addition, most music departments require that students are already proficient in one or more instruments and are capable of reading musical notation. Many programs therefore require students to audition before acceptance.

Program Coursework

In addition to learning music theory and gaining instrumental practice, students take theory-based courses that explore the cultural implications of music. In general, study of a foreign language, French and German in particular, is required. Students may also take related electives in their major; course topics could include the following:

  • Music of Brazil
  • History of the concerto
  • History of jazz music
  • Evolution of the ballad
  • History of opera

Popular Career Options

Many graduates qualify for entry-level positions in teaching music at the elementary through high school levels (with applicable state teaching certification) or in private instrument instruction. Private lesson instructors don't need state certification, and they can either go into business for themselves or teach at music stores and extracurricular schools of music. Other careers may require further education; some popular career choices include the following:

  • Music librarian technician
  • Music journalism
  • Piano, voice or guitar teacher

Master of Arts in Musicology

A Master of Arts in Musicology averages two years in length for full-time students. Students learn advanced musical theory, aural analysis techniques and the history of jazz and classical music in the Western world. Students who are interested in other forms of music or music from non-Western countries can focus on ethnomusicology.

Educational Prerequisites

All applicants must have completed bachelor's degrees in a related subject, such as music or history. In addition, most programs require students to submit their scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Students must also demonstrate competence in music reading and fundamental keyboard and voice skills. Many programs require students to audition.

Program Coursework

In their first year, students learn how to analyze historical musical texts and documents, and courses emphasize a heavy foundation in music theory and notation. Students also study the diversity in styles and in music notation methods through courses in ethnomusicology. In their second year, students choose a focus of interest and complete a thesis. Course topics may include the following:

  • Composition
  • Music education
  • Baroque music
  • Aural training techniques
  • Music literature

Possible Career Options

Graduates are prepared for a number of professional fields or for further graduate studies, depending on their focus of research. Some popular career options include:

  • Music publishing
  • Music librarian
  • Associate professor of musicology

Ph.D. in Musicology

A student who wishes to teach or research music history at an advanced level can pursue a doctoral degree in musicology. Most programs take an average of 5-6 years, but some students with advanced standing may complete a program in 4-5 years. Students are expected to complete a dissertation in a research topic of their choice, under the advisement of a faculty member; most students sub-specialize in either music history or ethnomusicology. In addition to working on their dissertations, students are expected to teach a number of undergraduate classes.

Educational Prerequisites

All doctoral candidates must complete a bachelor's or master's degree in a related subject. Most programs also require students to submit a writing sample, have knowledge of at least one foreign language, be able to read music at a high level and have strong proficiency with the piano.

Program Coursework

Depending on their areas of specialization, students may study advanced topics on the evolution of music through history or the folk music of a particular country. Ph.D. programs may include the following topics:

  • Music of the Renaissance
  • Music of the Caribbean
  • Counterpoint music theory
  • Improvisation
  • Music and society

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Since the field of musicology is broad, graduates with doctoral degrees have a variety of possible career paths. Many graduates pursue careers in teaching or in research at the university level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), though competition for tenure-track positions at a university was expected to be keen, employment of postsecondary teachers in general was expected to increase 17% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the mean annual wage of a general history postsecondary teacher in 2012 was $73,090.

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