Now that we’ve clarified the differences between the traditional conservatory, universities, and college programs focused on career preparation, let’s narrow down the college and university programs a bit further. The most popular programs focus on instrumental performance (voice is also an instrument), composition, arranging, music business, and music production, and allow students to study jazz, rock, pop, and other contemporary styles.
Additional majors include areas such as songwriting, music education, music industry, film scoring, and music therapy. All the majors are designed to prepare students to enter the professional field immediately after graduation.
Colleges and the larger conservatories invite on-campus recruiters from the industry and help place students in internships. Many majors require students to build a portfolio of professional achievements, attend career-building events, and may also require an internship or practicum. Visiting the career services, internships, and scholarship offices on campus is a great way to learn more about majors, as you’ll be forced to seriously consider what is waiting for you after graduation.
Here’s a list of the majors you might find at a variety of colleges and universities around the country (not in any particular order):
- Music (General)
- Performance (Jazz, Rock, Classical, etc.)
- Composition (Classical, Contemporary)
- Music Education (Leadership in Pedagogy)
- Music Business/Management
- Songwriting (Contemporary, Pop)
- Contemporary Writing and Production
- Electronic Production and Design (or Sound Design)
- Film Scoring (or Scoring for Visual Media)
- Jazz Composition
- Music Technology
- Music Production and Engineering (or Audio Engineering)
- Music Therapy
- Commercial/Popular Music
- Jazz Studies
- Radio Broadcasting/Communications
- Professional Music
- Music Industry Studies
- Choral Studies
- Musical Theater
- Show Production
- Music History
- Music Theory (or Historical Music Theory)
- Musicology (Ethnomusicology)
- Worship Music
The name of your degree program may vary, as will the options available at different colleges and universities. Some of these options are also available as specializations in graduate school.
There’s a lot more choice of majors compared to some years ago. That’s a good thing, but more choice also makes for a more difficult decision. As the music industry has grown and matured, colleges have followed suit by designing and implementing curricula to meet the need for training.
Before applying to any school, it’s important to prepare yourself by doing research on the programs. This means studying the college bulletin (list of courses), teaching faculty, program philosophy, and of course the costs for any place you are considering. All of this info can be found easily online, usually on the college’s website.
You should try your hardest to imagine what your future career and life as a musician will look like. While your goals will evolve and change over time, investigating all the areas open to you is important to understanding where you fit in, during and after college.
Most college applications ask you what you intend to major in. They do this to gather information about what the interests of entering students are, mainly so they can tailor their marketing materials to the perceived needs of the prospective applicants. You are not committing to anything when you answer the question of intended major on your application.
For now, you will not be expected to enroll directly in a major; it’s just a way for the admissions team to get an impression of you and to compare your materials with others with similar interests.