Music in College: Types of Music Degrees and What You Can Do with a Music Degree

Over the years I’ve been asked countless times “what exactlyyy can you do with a music degree?” by students, friends, and family members. With college applications due in a few short weeks, I figured it was a good time to write a blog about the different types of music degrees and all the possible job opportunities.

Types of Music Degrees

There are numerous types of music degrees you can pursue, the most common being a Bachelor of Music (BM), Bachelor of Music Education (BME), and a Bachelor of Arts in Music (BA – which is not as in-depth as and is often less rigorous than a BM). There are also some schools that offer a Bachelor of Science in Music (BS – these are often degrees in sound recording technology or sound design), a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA – this is for musical theater), or even a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS). The BA, BS, and BPS can all have emphases in distinct areas of music or be more “general” degrees.

Music Performance Degrees (BM, BA with Performance Concentration)

When I was in high school, I thought you should only get a degree in music performance if you wanted to play on movie soundtracks, in a Broadway pit, or in a professional band or orchestra. Thankfully, that is not the case – while you can do all of those things with a music performance degree, there are also numerous other jobs you can obtain.

Having a degree in performance does not mean you can only perform – many (most) musicians with a performance degree also end up teaching in one capacity or another. Others become music librarians, enter the music business or publishing fields, or go into arts administration. If your ultimate goal is to teach at a university or privately on your instrument, the BM or the BA with a performance concentration would be the best option because you’d receive the most detailed instruction on your instrument.

Composition and Music Theory Degrees (BM)

You can also obtain a BM degree in Composition or Music Theory. Many students with these degrees become composers of all sorts (film, video game, television, commercial, classical music, musical theater), arrangers, copyists, music editors, and professors of composition/theory in universities.

Music Education Degree (BME)

If you want to teach music in a K-12 school, the BME is the right degree to pursue. All BME degrees include a culminating internship at a local elementary, middle, or high school. Note that some BME programs take longer than four years because they require a lot of classes.

Music Therapy Degree (BM in Music Therapy/BMT)

Music therapy is a health-care profession that specializes in using music to help patients of all ages improve medical, physical, neurological, developmental, and psychiatric illnesses, disorders, and impairments. To become certified as a music therapist, students must graduate with a degree in music therapy, complete 1,200 hours of required fieldwork (usually included within the degree program), and pass the national exam administered by the certification board for music therapists.

Other Jobs in Music (BPS, BS, other BA offerings)

There are many other music degrees offered by universities, such as those in commercial music, jazz, sacred music (worship directors at a church), music technology, music production, music business/management, and more.

Many students graduating with a BPS, BS, or a BA in music become artist managers, label managers, licensing representatives, music or booking agents, contractors, producers, publishers, or librarians, as tour or venue managers or publicists, work at music stores or recording studios, work as administrative staff at colleges, fine arts centers, theaters, or other music venues – there are so many options!


In sum, music degrees are super versatile. If you graduate with one type of music degree and decide it is not for you, you can work in another area of music or go to graduate school for a degree in a different area of music.

Even if you do not go into the music industry, many of the skills you learn are valuable and transferable to other career paths. For example, you learn how to work under pressure in performances, how to collaborate with others, apply conflict resolution strategies in chamber music and ensembles, how to focus in the practice room, and how to work towards big goals like recitals, capstones, or senior projects.

Take advantage of advising sessions with your prospective school’s music unit or your major professor – they can always help you find which degree and career in music is the best fit for you!

Stay tuned for more blogs on music in college in the future! Some upcoming blogs include: walking you through a typical applied college lesson, what classes you would take as a music major, how to prepare to be a music major, and where to find music scholarships. Are there any other questions you have regarding music in college? Let me know in the comments – I’d be happy to help!

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Brenna Wiinanen

Brenna Wiinanen, flutist, is an active performer, teacher, and researcher whose experiences have led to numerous masterclasses, performances, and conferences around the world.

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