The Best Online Music Degree Programs

With the constantly developing online education world, there are endless degrees that can be completed either mostly or entirely from a distance. Even degrees that are considered hands on or are for a specific group of people are emerging online. Recently, what is considered the most acclaimed art school in the world, The Juilliard School, began offering their own Music program at the Bachelors level.

Other schools have started to do the same, either at the undergraduate or graduate level, but since this is mostly new territory, it can be hard to decipher which schools are top notch and which schools need to develop more. Not all schools have a name that is so highly regarded as The Juilliard School, and even if they are, that doesn't mean this new program matches their other offerings. Therefore, we've compiled a list of top schools that offer music as a Bachelor's or as a Masters Degree options.

There are significantly more Master's programs, so they are categorized in two separate lists. In both rankings, we considered the quality and rigor of the courses, the flexibility of courses and residency requirements and the cost. Another consideration was given to any unique qualities that gave the school more value or lead to a more valuable experience.

Juilliard has existed for over 100 years and is well-respected worldwide. In the past few years, they have expanded their education offerings to the online format. Though they are just getting started, their background in education is of a high caliber, so there is a lot to learn from them. Specialties can range from specific instruments as an individual to group work and music composition. The course offerings can meet many needs but keep in mind that the high acclaim comes with a high cost. Since they are brand new in this field, this entry is more of an honorable mention than a true ranking, but they've paved the way for art education and will likely adapt to this new setting as well. The cost per credit varies by program.

You can find additional information on The Juilliard School here

If entertainment is more of your desired career route, Full Sail University has a program ideal for that path. It has been considered one of the top music programs in the United States by national publications and frequently attracts students who are interested in music but may want to work in the office or in meetings to make things happen rather than on the stage. Online programs allow you to design your program and work on a portfolio to graduate and to use in the real world. The online network also builds connections for potential jobs in the future. Their offerings include topics in technology, audio, music, and show production and recording arts. After earning a bachelor, students can continue into a masters program there, as they offer several degrees at both levels. Tuition includes the costs of textbooks, lab and technology fees, and materials needed to complete projects. 

You can find additional information on Full Sail University here​. 

Though based in San Francisco, Academy of Art University offers many programs for distance learners. Included in their offerings is BFA programs in Music Production, Music Scoring and Composition and Sound Design. In each of these programs, you have the flexibility of creating a full time or part schedule and you can complete those courses at your own pace. In the Music programs, students learn techniques in not only the creation of the music but also the technical aspects that come from editing and production. Graduates have gone on to work for large companies, such as Apple and Sony Pictures. 

You can find additional information on the Academy of Art University here​. 

Valley City State University is one of the surprising leaders in online music education. They offer an extensive set of courses and are constantly adding more to meet the demands of unique students. They offer the flexibility of starting as a certificate student and can move onto the full Bachelor's program online if they choose. Students can take the majority of the program online but are required to audition for the program. They also have the option to come to campus to complete certain ensemble requirements, or they can transfer in credit if they've done this at another school. The average completion time is on par with a campus program at four years. The tuition rate varies based on state/country of residence, books and materials needed.

You can find additional information on Valley City State University here

Though it doesn't have as long of a history as Juilliard, Berklee has a similarly positive reputation but is geared toward a different crowd. Berklee is about half the age of Juilliard, but they specialize in modern music and reach a younger audience, while still teaching students who go on to be quite successful in the field. Graduates, such as Quincy Jones or Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, have contributed to the accumulation of Grammys to date and are sure to be winners again every awards season.

These awards are not all for the typical headline-grabbing award segments, and that is what makes Berklee one of the best programs out there. Students can choose from over 150 courses online on varying topics such as songwriting, music production for TV or music business. It doesn't lead to a degree but can be applied to certificates, and the experience is sure to add worthy skills to working on a regular basis.​

You can find additional information on the Berklee College of Music here

The University of South Dakota Masters of Music has options for customization, such as the option to focus on areas such as Instrumental Music Education and Vocal/Coral Music Education. The program is also entirely online. There is a choice between projects to complete the program with: either a thesis or the graduate music education project which allows the participant to apply their project to their given area of teaching and use it in that real world setting. Students can complete the program within two years if desired or take a slower pace. There are also specializations available for Conducting, Performance, Piano, and History of Music and Instruments. 

You can find additional information on the University of South Dakota here​. 

Liberty University is regularly featured as an excellent school with a strong online presence. For Music programs at the Masters level, there are Master of Art programs to meet many interests, such as Music Education or Music and Worship. The program is almost completely online, aside from up to four residencies that are known as intensives. Programs are 30-45 credits in length, with the potential to transfer up to 12 credits in from previous education. In those sessions, students can take an abbreviated course that consists of workshops and collaboration with fellow students, as well as individual work with instructors. At the end of the program, graduates can expect to pursue careers in various fields, such as a minister of music, a worship pastor or even a contemporary Christian artist. 

You can find additional information on Liberty University here​. 

The UF School of Music offers a Master's in Music Education. It is meant for educators who are looking to further their knowledge and skill and relay that to the next generation of music students. Courses teach the graduate students how to connect to their students, as well as lessons specific to music techniques and the culture of music worldwide.

A great advantage of this program is that it is entirely online. Most online programs have residency requirements, but the University of Florida avoids this by offering a flexible schedule that allows students to work at their own pace while also being able to share their learning right away in a practical and useful way. 

You can find additional information on the University of Florida here

East Carolina University is located in Greenville, North Carolina, but their online program stays online. This is another rarity that offers studies completely online with flexible study options. They have various focuses that all fall under the Master of Music and have the option to prepare you for education licensure if pursuing a Music Education degree. Programs of study include Jazz Performance, Vocal Pedagogy and Performance. A specialty program they offer is in Music Therapy, which prepares its students for therapy licensing board exams. The typical course of study starts at 30 credits and goes up from there, consisting of core courses, courses specific to your chosen concentration and electives. 

You can find additional information on East Carolina University here

Eastern Illinois offers the opportunity to complete their program almost entirely online, with a week residency requirement on their campus in Charleston, Illinois. Their Masters of Art in Music comes with several options for concentrations, including Music Education, Composition, Conducting or Performance. With just one week required on campus, the rest of the coursework is flexible in terms of the needs of the student who can take courses on a part-time or full-time basis.

Faculty and staff members are attentive to the individual needs of their students and help them complete the best work possible. Their course rigor ensures an academic approach to music with the ability to transition that knowledge into a daily working knowledge to be applied and to be used in live performances. The program work covers differing fields related to music in a way to give the students a fully fleshed out perspective of music and the ability to carry out their degree in a meaningful way. 

You can find additional information on Eastern Illinois University here

Kent state encourages a flexible mentality which they establish from the day of application. You can study completely online, and the application doesn't require a GRE. There are even timelines in which you can graduate in less than two years. They also broaden flexibility to the courses of study. While working through the program, there are three areas of focus, two of which can be chosen by the student to complete in instrumental, choral or general music. Within the instrumental component, there is a further distinction made between a focus in a band or orchestral setting. In order to ensure a quality education from a distance, there are many opportunities for practitioner operation so that the focus and quality remains. 

You can find additional information on Kent State University here

The New Mexico State University distance programs exist from Bachelor degrees all the way through Doctoral programs and even some certificate and licensure options. In the College of Arts and Sciences, there is a Master of Music: Music Education Track. This allows students who have previously completed an undergraduate degree in Music Education to continue to teach and educate themselves at the same time. The Master of Music is fully online and offers three areas of study in Conducting, Music Education, and Performance. Coursework, includes courses in Research Methods, Music Theory a Written Project and electives relevant to the course of study. The rate per credit varies based on residency and number of credits.

You can find additional information on New Mexico State University here

Rowan University, based in New Jersey, has an impressive selection of online programs, specifically related to the arts. Their online department includes a Performance Art school with four options for the Master of Music. Aside from the general program, the other three options come with focuses in a choice of Composition, Conducting and Jazz Studies. The coursework is designed to be completed mostly away from campus, but if residency is ever required, it can be completed on their campuses in Glassboro or Camden. Courses are mostly offered in traditional semesters in the spring and fall, but the online format also offers Modules, which means there are fall and spring sessions, but also a summer session. The Master in Music degrees start at 32 credits and can vary based on area of concentration. 

You can find additional information on Rowan University here

Boston University has a well-structured set of programs online that are flexible in their education offerings. This is because they have over a decade in online education experience and the history of their campus programming to support them. At the graduate level, they offer a few options in the music field, such as the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Music Education and a Master of Music in Music Education. They even offer a Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education.

At the Master level, students learn about how music impacts people at every stage in life and in various cultures. It is a scientific approach, as students study the psychology and sociology of music. The minimum requirement to completion is eight courses, or 32 credit hours that include music education, music theory, and electives. 

You can find additional information on Boston University here

With an online from a well-respected institution, Rutgers University has included a quality program into the mix. Students can apply at any time during the year and can choose their start date when accepted. Options are available for seasonal starts in the fall, spring and summer. Once the student begins, courses can be attended all year, whether at a part-time pace or full-time pace. They offer anything from degrees and certificates to Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. Courses are specifically engineered to be small in size so that faculty members have the ability to work one-on-one with every student to get what they need out of their education. Students can also take advantage of even tuition rates, regardless of whether they are located in New Jersey where the campus is or not, but the cost per credit does differ based on location and program of study.

In the Mason Gross School of the Arts Master of Music in Music Education program, students can expect to complete 30 credits of work that consists of 18 credits of study in music education and 12 credits in a variety of areas, such as music history, music theory, and ethnomusicology. As an added relief to some, an audition is not required, and a dissertation is not required to complete the program, therefore allowing the student to make what they want out of their degree. Though the student isn't required to complete work on campus, they are fully supported from their chosen educational location. Aside from individualized attention from instructors and opportunities to collaborate with fellow students, there is also support from staff. This comes in the form of enrollment and executive coaches who help with choosing a program through applying for graduation.​

You can find additional information on Rutgers University here