Online bachelor of music degrees are now widely available and there are even master’s degrees appearing, though just recently. Since online degrees are a relatively new phenomenon, the choice of majors may be limited in comparison to the physical classroom version of a music degree (more on majors below).
The questions about viability and cost we asked previously will also apply here, even more so since a degree demands much greater investment in time and money than a micro-credential. Performing due diligence means investigating the institution thoroughly and making sure their claims hold up.
In addition to asking questions about reputation and the skills and knowledge you will gain, you should also try to gauge the strength of a degree-granting institution’s credibility by examining their accreditation.
Almost all degree-granting colleges and universities belong to an association of schools and colleges that is self-regulating; the function of these associations is to ensure that schools adhere to certain standards, that the education they deliver is rigorous, and that there is consistency and uniformity in what their degree means.
The accrediting agency is there to make sure each school delivers the education it promises to students, and that the school upholds its own quality standards with integrity.
Outside of the U.S. this function is almost always carried out by the government via a centralized Ministry of Education. As the U.S. government provides very limited centralized oversight of higher education programs, the idea is that colleges and universities are better served by self-regulation.
This principle may be debatable, but America’s system of higher education is still admired, respected, and emulated around the globe. This doesn’t mean that other countries don’t also have excellent educational systems.
For most (but not all) music colleges, accreditation is through the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). From the NASM website:
“The major responsibility of the National Association of Schools of Music is the accreditation of education programs in music, including the establishment of curricular standards and guidelines for specific degrees and credentials.”
You can find more information about accreditation and what NASM does on the FAQ section of their website.
If a school offering an online degree is accredited by NASM, that’s a sign that its program should be rigorous and meet important standards as determined by the organization. Another gold standard for accreditation is the regional accrediting associations.
The following list is not all-inclusive but will give you some idea of what to look for:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Accreditation does not guarantee that a college’s offering is the right program for you, but it is a sign that there are educational standards in place and that their programs are regularly evaluated by the academic community.
If you want to dig deeper, you can ask to see a copy of a school’s most recent accreditation report, which details the strong points and describes any areas perceived as needing improvement.