One of the most common questions I get from parents whose children are aspiring to go to college for music – either in the undergraduate and graduate fields – is “which type of degree should my son/daughter get?”
In this instance, they are referring to the type of the degree itself, rather than the major. For example, there are distinct differences between the PhD and DMA, as well as for the Bachelor’s of Music (BM) and Bachelor’s of Arts (BA).
I have yet to read an article anywhere online that does detail the various types of music degrees that are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. And I understand why this is so…
Every school will have particular requirements for each of the degrees I will go on to mention. Sometimes, the degrees may look exactly similar from one institution to another despite being the same in name!
However, there are some general differences that exist among the various types of music degrees available to students looking into college for music.
These are the degrees below:
9. Artist Diploma (AD)
An Artist Diploma is a degree that has a singular and intensive focus on music-based classes. Generally, there are no liberal arts requirements for passing through an artist diploma.
The Artist Diploma is usually reserved for students who have already obtained at least one other major degree, such as a Bachelor’s and/or a Master’s degree.
In many classical conservatories, the diploma students are an exclusive and limited group of musicians who are viewed as being among the highest caliber in the school.
However, the AD is not typically appropriate for someone who is first trying to obtain a degree. There have been cases of students who have not yet achieved the Bachelor’s obtaining only the AD, but usually there is an exceptional circumstance behind these scenarios.
The AD is also a shorter program, usually one-two years in length. This is in direct contrast to a Bachelor’s, which is usually four years in length.
Most Ideal For: Musicians who want continuous, high-level study after at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
8. Bachelor’s of Arts (BA)
This degree combines best of both a well-rounded liberal arts education under the auspices of recognized degree in Music.
Most families who come to me ask which is better for their child, the Bachelor’s of Arts or the Bachelor’s of Music.
If the student wishes to pursue a double major in a field outside of Music, the BA has some smart advantages. Many of the core requirements necessary to complete a major outside of Music can be achieved in the academic requirements of the BA.
However, the one drawback to a BA is that it doesn’t carry the same intensity of overall musical curriculum as a BM would, since more credits in the BA are dedicated to the liberal arts. This is bad or good for some people.
Most Ideal for: Students wishing to pursue a double major, or students who wish to have a more academically focused education but still achieve a degree in Music.
7. Master’s of Arts (MA)
The Master’s of Arts is the graduate-level version of the Bachelor’s of Arts degree.
Sometimes, the differences between the MA and other graduate degrees in music, such as the Master’s of Music, can lie within small differences. In the case of the Master’s of Arts at the University of Michigan’s Composition program, students are required to take in a minor in a field outside of music.
Best for: Students who had a strong undergraduate liberal arts education and wish to continue liberal arts studies at the graduate level while pursuing graduate-level coursework in a music field.