6. Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA)
The BFA is a degree that is reserved mostly for areas that are not strictly concerned with music. The BFA is a degree that is associated with fine arts, drama, acting, dancing, etc.
For example, perhaps the most popular BFA degree in a music school would be for Musical Theatre. Nearly every Musical Theatre program in the entire country does not award a Bachelor’s in Music (BM) or a Bachelor’s in Arts (BA), but rather, a BFA.
However, some schools do offer a BFA in place of a degree that would traditionally be associated with a separate degree. For example, California Institute of the Arts awards a BFA in Music Composition, which in other schools would be considered a Bachelor’s of Music (BM).
Most Ideal for: Students who are pursuing a Musical Theatre, Dance, and/or Drama degree.
5. Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA)
This is simply the graduate version of the aforementioned degree.
To my knowledge, this is the terminal degree for Musical Theatre students (source: Boston Conservatory’s website). Many Musical Theatre students actually opt out of this degree in favor of going straight to companies/Broadway to showcase their talents on the professional levels.
Other MFAs will usually have a strong drama and theatrical component to them. A notable exception is the Vermont College of Fine Arts, which has an MFA in Composition. I think this is the only MFA in Music Composition in the country, but do email me if you know otherwise.
Best for: Musical Theatre/drama-oriented majors wishing to achieve the terminal degree in their field of study.
4. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The PhD is usually reserved for Composition, Theory, Musicology, and other majors that don’t have a performance requirement for the degree candidate. This isn’t always the case – NYU offers a PhD in Music Performance, for example.
But most performance majors will seek the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree, which is explained later in this article.
In a PhD, a written thesis is an essential requirement for obtaining the degree. The thesis can be anywhere up to 200+ pages in length, though some theses are shorter than that.
To attain a professorship at a university, a musician usually has to obtain either a PhD or its status equivalent, the DMA.
Best for: Musicians who want to seriously pursue studies in the highest terminal degree possible with the ultimate goal of presenting a thesis paper.