Note for Note
Music degrees train students for careers as educators, performers and theorists. If you're interested in the commercial side of the music industry, you can also attend a music business school, where you'll receive a specialized education that focuses on the rapidly changing ways in which music is distributed and exhibited.
Options for Musical Study
If you're interested in music degrees that emphasize performance, you'll have to attend an in-class program. These courses of study range from casual to highly competitive; generally, a preexisting degree of proficiency with at least one musical instrument is required, even for the least competitive courses. If you want to attend a high-end music school, be prepared for a rigorous admissions process that will likely include multiple interviews and auditions.
Distance learning music degrees tend to focus on topics in music theory and the business of the music industry. Online music degrees may also include instruction in pedagogy and instructional techniques, which are meant to supplement a proficient musician's knowledge and prepare the student for a career teaching music.
Graduate music business degrees are also available to students who have already completed their undergraduate studies. While you'll need to have an affinity for music to succeed at music business school, proficiency with an instrument is not necessarily required. For example, students with finance degrees and a love for music are in an excellent position to succeed in business-related music careers.
Careers in Music and the Music Industry
It's a myth that students with music degrees can, practically speaking, expect to qualify only for teaching careers. While it's true that you'll have to be exceptionally gifted, skilled and lucky to land a permanent job performing music, the prominent place that music occupies in the cultural landscape holds more career promise than you might think.
Music grads can seek employment with cultural institutions such as museums, musical archives and arts councils. Every major city in the country has an opera, a symphony or a similar performance company — these initiatives need management by people who are sensitive to the balance between aesthetics and economics. Supplementing your music studies with courses in business can put you in an excellent position to land one of these jobs.
With music distribution changing, there are more opportunities than ever for self-starters with ambition and vision to build careers in the popular music business. People who hold music degrees with a focus on commerce can use their skills to find the jobs of their dreams.