For many people the first step in starting a search for the best online music degree program has nothing at all to do with music or the college itself. It has to do with narrowing your options lest you be overwhelmed with the large (and growing) number of online education opportunities. Different careers require different skills and thus also require different levels of certification or college degrees. Here is a basic generalization of what you can do with each level of certificate or college degree.
Note: This is part 2 of a multipart series on the topic of earning a degree in music through online colleges and universities. For more information please visit our Ultimate Guide To Earning Your Music Degree Online.
Online Bachelor and Masters Degrees In Music
Many higher paying music career paths will require full blown bachelors degrees in order to get hired. Careers in music education or music therapy fall into this category, but in many cases those seeking to be professional performing artists also go down the four year college route in order to get the professional, one on one vocal or instrumental instruction that prestigious performing ensembles expect. While this may not be true in rock or pop music necessarily in the classical music arena it is almost expected. Be aware however that few, if any, online colleges offer performance oriented bachelors degree programs due to this need for one on one private lesson instruction.
To put it simply, in most cases earning a bachelors degree usually means doing it on campus.
Music oriented masters degrees are a different story however. Many colleges offer continuing education masters degree programs in an online only or an online/on-campus format. They are ideal for individuals looking to extend their knowledge or specialize in a specific field. They are also ideal for those wishing to earn additional college credits in order to move up the pay scale at their place of employment.
Masters degrees typically take less time than a bachelors degree (usually two years or so) and are available in many more areas of specialization. Moreover, masters degree programs of this type are usually designed to be done alongside your current occupation so you can continue to work at your normal job without having to quit to do school full time.
Associates Degrees in Music
Not every music career requires such long term commitments or on campus education. Many jobs in the music industry in fields such as sound recording, audio engineering, music business, and others can be obtained with what is known as an Associates degree. These shorter, two year courses of study do not have the prestige or in depth training of a full blown BA, but can be enough to earn a job in many different music related professions.
At the lower end of the online degree spectrum is the certificate program. certificates programs do not confer a degree in the strictest sense, instead think of them as a way to specialize on a very specific topic such as a single piece of software or a specific skill such as music theory, composition, guitar, or bass playing. Potential students should be aware that quite often some amount of prerequisite knowledge in the area of the certificate is expected.
The length and breadth of online certificate courses varies greatly from school to school. Some, such as Full Sail have several four week courses for which you earn 3 credit hours for each course allowing you to complete the certificate in around 16 weeks. Berklee's online courses on the other hand offers a larger variety of certificate programs in music disciplines but their courses last 12 weeks each, adding up to 36 weeks or more in some cases.