Five of the Best Music Education Schools in the US

Are you preparing to go to one of the best music education schools…so you can get a degree and then turn around and work at a school in music education? It may sound a bit silly when stated this way, but it’s actually a solid career path and one you’re sure to find fun, challenging, and infinitely rewarding. Being a Music Teacher is an option many musicians overlook, but it can provide a wonderful life…though it is one that requires a lot of studying.

Most Teachers these days earn at least a bachelor’s and master’s, if not also a doctorate, so thankfully many if not all of the options listed below allow learners to collect all three in one place!

Here are the five best music education schools:

  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • Berklee College of Music
  • Northwestern University
  • Columbia University
  • Indiana University

1. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

At the enticingly-titled School of Music, Theatre & Dance (note which art form was listed first), prospective Music Teachers have not only several options and plenty of courses they can choose to sign up for, but more than enough support from the college itself. The university’s music wing has been known the world over for years, and its music education focus has helped it gain much recognition.

Those just starting down their collegiate journeys will want to select either the Bachelor of Music in Choral Music Education or the Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Music Education. They may not be drastically different from one another (though a Music Teacher may disagree), and there is sure to be some crossover. You can always start with the basics in one and figure out which of the two is right for you before you get too far!

For those looking to secure a higher-level degree, there are options once again! Any student who wants to apply for the secondary degree must already hold a music education certificate and must have at least two years of teaching under their belt. The school offers a highly-regarded Master of Music in Music Education, and for those who are truly ambitious and who know this is their one true calling in life, there is also a Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education offered by the university. There are actually many PhDs anyone can choose from, but if one already has a bachelor’s and a master’s in music education, it makes sense to keep going and collect that third and most coveted honor.

Of all the schools on this list, Columbia also comes with the greatest name recognition. Sure, everything above and below is known in the music education industry as a fantastic choice, but this New York City titan is perhaps the most familiar brand, and while this may mean a hefty price tag, it’s also sure to help a newly-minted graduate secure the job they want.

2. Berklee College of Music

Location: Boston, MA

Time and time again, Berklee proves itself to be perhaps the best music school in the world, especially when looking at the entire breadth of what music education can be. The institution doesn’t just teach young people about performing their chosen instrument, it also features degrees in anything related to music, from the industry to technology to, you got it, education.

As an undergraduate at the Berklee College of Music, the first degree an eager young music lover will acquire is the Bachelor of Music in Music Education. The school highlights how everyone involved in this field of study will spend a lot of time working on their own performance, as well as learning how to teach, which is an underrated skill. Those who love to play will enjoy this healthy mix of expressing themselves and helping others achieve their potential.

The whole experience is capped off by being placed into a real-world Boston school, where those who haven’t yet graduated will be able to work in a classroom with students to put their knowledge to the test.

Graduate-level students can apply to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee to begin working on their Master of Music program. If they’re so inclined, the school-within-a-school actually has a separate degree called Master of Music in Music Education (Autism Concentration), which includes additional skill sets required to help young people with learning disabilities. The school has proven itself to be a leader in this tough-but-rewarding field, and it also offers a Graduate Certificate in Music Education and Autism, which only takes 18 months to complete (versus the two years needed for either full-on master’s degree).

3. Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Like the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music offers not only a competitive bachelor’s but additional degrees in every available higher level. First up is, of course, the Bachelor of Music: Music Education.

After that, should a student wish to pursue another degree (which is usually required by a certain point in an educational career), things get a bit complicated, as there is more to becoming a Teacher than just studying and earning a piece of paper. For those who haven’t already secured a teaching certificate (which will be most young people), they can choose between three concentrations: Master of Music: Music Education – Choral Certification Track, Master of Music: Music Education – Instrumental Certification Track or the Master of Music: Music Education – General Certification Track, which may be a safer bet for those who aren’t entirely sure what their future holds. For those who are able to begin a master’s program with a teaching certificate in hand, there’s a shorter, one-year-long degree.

After all this work, there is still more to be done…if the student is willing. Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music does have a Ph.D. in Music: Music Education available, but it’s a tough program to get into, and it requires a lot of time and work (as if the others didn’t).

Incredibly, that’s not it when it comes to the menu of music education degrees available just outside Chicago. If undergraduate learners are ready to sign up for a five-year track instead of a four-year one, they can walk away with two degrees, though they didn’t have to do twice as much work. How does earning both a Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from the Bienen School of Music and a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Education and Social Policy at the same time sound? Compelling, no?

If all of this sounds overwhelming, that’s fair. Five years of college, and then a master’s and a Ph.D.?! It’s so much! Someone may only be interested in teaching music on the side, or perhaps they want to consider it later on. Which is fine! There’s also a Music Education Minor students can add to a number of programs of study.

Every college and university mentioned in this article has a reason for being here, and they have all proven themselves to be top-notch when it comes to churning out the educators who will go on to teach the next generation how to play and write music…but Indiana University may feature the most options for those who want to earn more than one degree.

4. Columbia University

Location: New York, NY

This article couldn’t be completed without including at least one school in either New York City or Los Angeles, where the music industry is based! Sure, teaching music isn’t necessarily connected to the biz, but there are millions of people in those locales who want to learn how to play, and those cities will always need a steady stream of new teaching talent.

Columbia University, already one of the best schools in not just the nation, but the entire world, features an entirely separate school just for the art of teaching, appropriately called Teachers College. Under the Music & Music Education umbrella, there are no undergraduate options, but plenty when it comes to the next step in becoming a great music educator.

There are two music education-focused masters tracks, including one labeled “non-certification” and the other which includes an initial certification for music in pre-K through grade 12. When it comes to advancing, professionals can opt to go with either the general Doctor of Education (which is also under the Music and Music Education title) or the slightly more specific Doctor of Education in College Teaching.

Of all the schools on this list, Columbia also comes with the greatest name recognition. Sure, everything above and below is known in the music education industry as a fantastic choice, but this New York City titan is perhaps the most familiar brand, and while this may mean a hefty price tag, it’s also sure to help a newly-minted graduate secure the job they want.

5. Indiana University

Location: Bloomington, IN

Every college and university mentioned in this article has a reason for being here, and they have all proven themselves to be top-notch when it comes to churning out the educators who will go on to teach the next generation how to play and write music…but Indiana University may feature the most options for those who want to earn more than one degree. This simple fact makes it something everyone reading should consider, even if the Jacobs School of Music is all the way in Bloomington, IN (which may sound a bit far from the areas we typically consider as major centers of music in the US).

The Bachelor of Music Education degree leads not only to a necessary piece of paper all college students work toward, but also a certificate allowing the learner to teach in the state (and apparently in most others, since this pass is accepted in many other states, and that’s a big deal).

Two masters programs—Master of Music Education and the Master of Science in Music Education—offer a selection, and it gives the student a bit of freedom to think about what track they want their career to follow, as the degrees are actually different from one another, even if they may seem to be similarly named. The same is true of the doctoral items, of which there are also two that may appear to be the same to an outsider, but which are definitely not: Doctor of Music Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education.

For those who collect a master’s degree, but who aren’t entirely sure they want to go on to complete a full doctorate, the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University has yet another selection that may be perfect: a Specialist Certificate in Music Education. According to the description of what the certificate requires and what it provides, “students may subsequently count courses in pursuit or fulfillment of the specialist certificate towards a doctorate,” so it will be worthwhile if a doctorate does end up happening somewhere down the line.

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