People major in music for a variety of reasons. These days, music-focused degrees span all types of areas of the industry, including music production/engineering, music business, general music, performance, songwriting, and so on. Students are drawn to music degrees because they allow them to focus on learning about their passion and get hands-on experience. Majoring in music also can help students make connections and land internships that can help them build a career after graduation.
The 7 Best Online Music Schools (And How Online Music Degrees Work)
Are you wondering what are the best online music schools in the US?
Are you curious about which type of music degrees, diplomas, and certificates are offered online? Distance learning (or e-learning) was already a rapidly growing trend before the pandemic intensified the need for online programs, and the trend has accelerated quickly now with many campuses closed or limiting face-to-face teaching and learning nationwide. If you’d rather avoid moving to another city, are looking to balance your work life with school, or just save some money, an online degree might be worth looking at more closely.
If you’re considering earning your music degree online, you will want to do some research into the different types of online programs and learning methods to determine what’s the best fit for you.
In this post, I’ll look at some of the most credible and established online degree programs, and recommend some top schools and programs you might consider. Some music subjects lend themselves to online learning better than others, and we’ll learn what’s available, what works well, and what might be more difficult, plus the criteria you can use to make an informed decision for your own online learning goals.
Why Do People Major in Music?
Best Online Music Schools: Methodology
In evaluating and deciding which schools and programs to include, we used the following methodology and criteria:
Does the program have a verifiable track record of success? Are there distinguished alumni and many successful graduates working in the field?
Are the instructors well-regarded, with recognized accomplishments in the industry? Are the faculty dedicated to teaching? Do the same faculty who teach in the brick-and-mortar version teach online?
Is the average cost of attendance in line with what most online programs charge? Is there financial aid available for deserving and needy students?
Student-faculty ratio and student experience
Are classes small enough, so students receive individual attention? Do they offer expert advising or mentorship, and help students get into a career? Are there internships offered after graduation?
How many students actually graduate?
Are they regionally accredited or nationally, and if so, by which accreditation agency?
Do they offer real-world, hands-on experience, a hybrid model, or have a physical facility?
Additionally, we considered other aspects related to what students might expect from a program, such as:
- How many credits to graduate? This can vary widely between requirements for a degree, diploma, or certificate.
- What is the time commitment involved? Is it full- or part-time? How many hours do you need to spend weekly, and how long does the program take to complete?
- Are the programs fully online, or do they offer a hybrid-remote and in-person combined with online model?
- What are the most common degree program specializations for online? What’s not available? What do the students actually prefer? What are some of the newer specialties becoming available online now?
- What skills will you learn and how useful will they be in getting the work you want?
- Will the online credential help you to advance in your career? Is it meaningful to potential employers or will it otherwise prepare you for working in the industry?
- What are the downsides to the online learning experience?
Can You Get a Music Education Degree Online?
Yes, you can get a music education degree online. However, the majority of online music education degrees are geared for graduate-level study. You will find master’s level music education programs available for online learners from a variety of great schools. Consider taking a look at the online music ed degree programs offered by University of Florida, Boston University, Colorado State University, Kent State University, and George Mason University.
Many of these programs are intended to offer the flexibility needed by educators who are already teaching full-time and want to expand their educational credentials without having to give up their career and/or move to another city. The schools listed above are just a sampling of what’s out there so be sure to do your own research and find the program that’s right for your needs!
Are Online Schools Legit?
All the online schools in this article are legitimate, accredited, degree-granting schools. In fact, the vast majority of accredited online music schools are also attached to a brick-and-mortar institution. A degree from these schools should be viewed as highly by any potential employers as they would if you had lived on campus and attended class in person.
As you’re looking for online schools, do your research. In this blog, we go over many of the questions you should be asking yourself when reading about degree programs. Find out who’s on faculty, what the school’s graduates have done, and whether the program is accredited and grants degrees (if you’re hoping to end your program with a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate). A little online research should readily tell you if a school is considered legitimate and has a solid reputation.
Top 7 Online Music Schools in the US
It’s always hard to come up with a top 7 list since there are many worthy programs that one could consider. We’ll start with those which most closely match our criteria above, and give a short review for each with a few of the most important details you need to know. Ultimately, the school you choose doesn’t need to be on any top schools list, as long as it’s a great fit for you.
For our top 7 online music degree programs, we focus mainly on 4-year undergraduate degrees. Included is such useful info as yearly tuition (or total cost), length of programs (if less than 4 years), location (if it offers a remote-live blended option), and any specific points of interest, such as unique offerings, cool classes, or “real-world” experiences such as internships or co-op programs. (There’s also a “bonus” school mentioned at the end.)
Berklee College of Music (Berklee Online)
- Online undergraduate tuition is $60,000 (total) for most 4-year degrees
- 120 credits required for degree
- Not all instructors teach at the brick-and-mortar Berklee, some do
- Has certificate courses 12-18 months in duration
- Also has graduate programs and courses
Berklee College of Music has a wide range of options for students who want to earn their degree online. Online students earn a Bachelor of Professional Studies, a different degree than students in the on-campus program. Degree options cover topics such as music business, songwriting, and electronic music production.
The college also offers more than three dozen online certificate programs at the professional or advanced professional level. Certificate programs range from 3 to 12 courses and cover everything from individual instruments to music marketing.
Berklee is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Berklee Online students have included members of Dave Matthews Band, Sugarland, Nine Inch Nails, and other musicians who fit online classes in around their touring schedule.
Full Sail University
- Undergraduate online-only tuition and fees per year is about $25,000; financial aid is available
- Programs can be completed in 29 months
- Music Production degree also offers campus version and facilities, located in Winter Park, Florida (near Orlando)
- Offers some unique majors, such as Show Production, Music Technology, and Entertainment Management
- Also has graduate programs, certificates, and courses
Full Sail started out as a school for audio engineering and music business, and is now a private, for-profit university located in central Florida offering degree programs from business and animation to entertainment industry and computer science. They’ve consistently been rated highly for their innovative music industry programs and they prepare students for a variety of in-demand roles in the music business.
The online programs are flexible and allow you to create a professional portfolio to use for getting work after graduation. The university is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC); note that credits earned may not transfer to other schools accredited regionally.
Musicians Institute (MI Online)
- Certificates cost between $13,500 and $27,000, Associate’s costs $40,500, and Bachelor’s Degree costs $74,250 (totals)
- Textbooks, software, and hardware are not included in the tuition costs
- Bachelor of Music in Songwriting and Production
- Individual courses last 10 weeks, an Associate’s Degree can take 18 months
- Certificates in DJ Performance and Production, Electronic Music Production, Studio Recording Technology, Music Business, and Performance
The Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music (M.I. for short) in Hollywood, California, offers a comprehensive mix of online courses, certificates, Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Bachelor of Music Degrees aimed at future music stars.
Their website lists their many alumni having success in the music industry. A for-profit school, Musicians Institute is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
Valley City State University
- Costs vary by state of residency and materials required, typical out-of-state tuition, fees, and materials starts at about $10,000 (annual)
- Has Certificates and Bachelor’s Degree
- Bachelor on Music takes 4 years but can be shorter if credits are transferred in from another institution, must complete at least 30 credits at VCSU
Valley City State University (VCSU) touts itself a leader in online music education. Music students are required to audition, but can complete the program online, with the option to participate in on-campus ensembles. Most online courses are offered in real-time, but that is not a requirement.
Located in North Dakota, VCSU is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
Academy of Art University
- Tuition for full-time is about $24,000 (annual)
- 4-year Degree
- Offers Associate’s and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Production and Sound Design for Visual Media
- Has traditional online learning (asynchronous), and virtual in real-time (synchronous)
Based in San Francisco, the Academy of Art University’s programs offer students the flexibility of a full- or part-time schedule, and students can complete courses at their own pace. In the School of Music Production & Sound Design, the program focuses on creating music along with the technical aspects of editing and production.
Graduates work for large companies such as Apple and Sony Pictures. Online degree programs at Academy of Art University are regionally accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Washington State University
- Tuition for in-state is $11,841, out-of-state is $26,419 (annual); 4-years total costs average $119,832 for residents and $233,454 for out-of-state
- 4-year Degree
- Bachelor of Arts
Washington State University (WSU) has an online Bachelor of Arts in Humanities which allows for a concentration in music. Students customize their study plan to fit their interests and career goals. Students specializing in music choose courses in music fundamentals, structure, and composition, history of music, and private study on an instrument.
WSU’s transdisciplinary approach to education develops skills in communication, writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Students can also gain cultural competency by studying literature, art, theater, philosophy, history, languages, and linguistics, along with music. WSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
University of Maine at Augusta
- In-state total costs averages about $21,000 annually, $31,000 for out-of-state. Tuition rates are lower for students from low- and moderate- income families
- 4-year Degree
- Bachelor’s and Associate’s Degrees
- Mixes online and in-person learning environments, and offers extra-curricular ensembles
University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) offers an online’s Bachelor of Music in Contemporary and Popular Music, also offered with a concentration in Music Education. Students can also start with a 2-year Associate of Science in Music degree which will allow them to focus on music fundamentals and study an instrument. The Bachelor’s provides training in audio recording, performance, music theory, composition, plus an extracurricular online ensemble seminar.
UMA has flexible programs in music that can also accommodate a mix of in-person classes, online learning, and low-residency with competitive tuition rates and modern facilities. Students must audition for admission to the program. The University of Maine at Augusta is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Los Angeles Film School
- Costs range from $91,000 total for students living off-campus, but could be lower with financial aid for various family income levels
- Online Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business Degree with a concentration in Music Business
- 120 credit hours, takes 3 years
- Each class lasts four weeks and lets students focus on one subject at a time
As a bonus, here’s a cool online program for music business that’s housed in a film school.
Many musicians earn their living by writing and producing music for film, TV, and visual media, and the LA Film School offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Entertainment Business which combines music and audio production with business, management, and marketing coursework.
Their fully online program is unique in that it allows students to take one class at a time, with each class lasting 4 weeks, to allow them to focus on just one subject while in the course. The LA Film School is a for-profit institution and is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Graduate Degrees Also Available
As it happens, there are many more graduate than undergraduate programs offered online, especially Master’s Degrees. This makes sense since most of these can be completed in 1-2 years or less. There are fewer undergraduate music programs online-only, and I’ve highlighted some of the best ones for you here.
The schools on my list certainly aren’t the only schools where you could earn your Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree in music fully online, but they are among the best-established and most worthy of consideration. (I may cover Master’s Degrees in a future post.)
The students who do best with online learning are generally very good at time management and can work independently. Studying music and other subjects online isn’t for everyone, and many students prefer the structure imposed by in-person class meetings, although it can be more expensive than taking online courses.
Some subjects, such as performance and ensemble classes, just don’t work as well in a remote setting. Other classes, such as music production, music history, or music theory, might work just fine in the online setting, and more courses are being offered every day.
Realistically, most students entering college today will be taking a blend of remote (fully online) and in-person classes in the course of earning their degree. In the end, it’s a personal and financial decision you will make as you move forward and work to meet your educational, career, and life goals.