Music education is, without even a close second, the most popular college major musicians pursue in the United States.

The reasoning behind this is very simple – music education students have the highest rate of employment out all music majors just coming out of an undergraduate degree.

Music education graduates are needed at just about every public and private K-12 institution in the US that has a music program. The job market is, unlike with many other college majors and degrees, exceptionally favorable for music education graduates.

When making this list of the top music education colleges in the US, I looked at the employment rate of students who graduate with music education degrees at different schools, the depth and variety of research the specific program conducts, the strength, reputation, and publishing history of the faculty, what kinds of connections the school has to K-12 institutions in its area, the curriculum, and other factors, such as the overall strength of the school.

But before we talk about the top 10 colleges for music education majors, keep in mind a couple things when choosing the music education school best for you.

A music education program prepares you for statewide certification in the specific state you go to school in. So, while a school like Indiana University has a widely heralded and known music education program, if you don’t foresee yourself making a living in Indiana in your future, then perhaps it is not in your best interest to go to that particular school.

That said, you can still get certified in any state if you meet the requirements, it’s just the requirements do vary from state to state and it could take some extra work outside of just your degree to meet the minimum requirements.

There are other tips you should know about when choosing a career in music education – this article published in late October can give you some ideas.

Ok, so let’s get into it – here are the top 10 colleges for music education majors in the US.


10. University of Wisconsin, Madison – Madison, WI

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Historically a premium epicenter for music education in the United States, the University of Wisconsin, Madison graduates students who approach multifarious topics in this broad field, including social policy issues as well as gender and racial equity issues.

The three primary faculty members of UW Madison’s music education program are among the most widely read and published authors in music education today, Teryl Dobbs, Julia Eklund Koza, and Alison Margaret Hooper. The combined qualifications of these three professors are marvelous, with thoughtful publications in the Musical Quarterly, Journal of Research In Music Education, Indiana University’s Philosophy of Music Education Review, the Bulletin of the Council of Research in Music Education, and many more.

Committed to training music education majors who are also passionate and strong at their respective instruments, all undergraduates must audition on their major instrument and continue to hone their skills while learning music education.

UW-Madison’s music education program is known for being a place that embraces interpretive, qualitative research in the field of music education, and claims to be among the first programs for this field in the world to do so.

Students at this program not only receive an exceptional education that will lead them to certification in the state of Wisconsin, they also become integrated into a prominent school that places exceptional emphasis into both the practical aspects of music education as well as its far-reaching philosophical challenges and explorations forward.


9. SUNY Fredonia – Fredonia, NY

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One of the best values in music education, SUNY Fredonia has a nationally recognized music education program that consistently sends students to teaching institutions throughout the entire state of New York.

Placing an exceptional emphasis and value on “Responsive Music Educators,” their core belief is summarized in their music education handbook as follows:

We believe that all children can learn and make music, and that they can learn and make music best when taught by Music Educators who are responsive.

Becoming a responsive music educator is among the primary goals for students at SUNY Fredonia, who are taught to plan, instruct, reflect, and then respond to a given student’s needs.

The faculty for music education at SUNY Fredonia is very well-regarded, including names such as Christian Bernhard, whose writings have been published in the College Music Symposium, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Journal of Band Research. Vernon Huff is also on the faculty at SUNY Fredonia, a noted expert in elementary choral methods as well as choral music literature.


8. Eastman School of Music – Rochester, NY

photo by John Marino via Flickr Creative Commons

Eastman School of Music’s Music Education program boasts some of the world’s finest faculty and teachers that have made seminal advancements in music education.

The Chair of the Eastman Music Education department, Christopher Azzara, has made significant and impactful developments on the understanding of improvisation as it relates to learning music, frequently describing it as central to the process of a musician grasping the basic elements of music.

Other faculty members include the highly esteemed Richard F. Grunow, a recognized expert in helping beginner musicians learning instruments. Within the last year alone, Grunow has spoken at Duquesne University, the University of Delaware, the Padova Conservatory of Music, and at the Baldwin Wallace University’s Conservatory of Music, among several other schools.

Alumni of the Eastman School of Music music education program have become employed in public and private schools as well as in music organizations, colleges, and in community programs worldwide. Employment rate for graduates of this program is exceptionally high.