A masters of music degree can be a great option for many musicians. You can learn more and start your career. But is it worth it for you?
While I enjoyed my time in grad school, I know that not everyone should get a masters degree. So consider your situation and goals. That way, you’ll be confident in your decision to go or not go to grad school.
What Is a Masters of Music?
A masters of music (MM) is a masters degree in the field of music. As with the bachelors level, you can study performance, education, composition, history, and conducting.
Most MM programs are two years long, which is pretty short for a degree. In that time, you’ll need to take academic music classes in theory, history, and research.
You will also need to take private lessons or some sort of class for your concentration. Performers have to give one or two recitals, depending on the program. And you may need to take and pass a comprehensive exam.
Pros of a Masters of Music
Getting a masters in music can be a great option for some people. You can learn more about music and meet new people. And you can use it to help build your music career if, like me, you didn’t do that during your bachelors.
If you’re considering getting a masters degree, consider a few of the benefits. It might be worth spending a couple more years in school.
While you can learn music on your own, it’s nice to have some structure. You can learn solo music, chamber music, and works for larger ensembles. And you may have the chance to participate in masterclasses on campus.
If you go to a different school for your masters, you can learn from a different teacher. Having different perspectives can help you grow as a musician. Then, you can form your own opinions about how things work.
Learning more music is great whether you want to teach or perform. It can even be useful if you work in a day job after you graduate. Spending more time in the music world gives you more knowledge to use when you practice or perform.
Build Your Network
The longer you spend in school, the more (convenient) chances you have to meet people and grow your network. If you stay at the same school, you will get to meet two extra classes of music students.
And if you go to a different school, you can meet a whole new faculty and student body. That can be a great thing when you want to meet more people in the music world. You may even get work from your extra connections.
Networking isn’t always fun, but staying in school might help. You have a built-in network of professors and students cheering you on. That won’t go away when you graduate.
During a masters of music, you can also get more experience than you might have had in undergrad. For example, I got to play with a professional symphony in my masters. I also got to perform in more masterclasses and in more church gigs.
And I got my first private teaching gig, which taught me a lot about what I do and don’t want in my career. I wouldn’t have learned my preferences if I didn’t have that particular experience.
If you go to a bigger school for undergrad, you may also not get as many opportunities. The professional gigs may go to the graduate students or the upperclassmen, so you can step into that role with a masters.
Increase Your Pay
I can’t ignore the financial benefit of having a masters of music versus just a bachelors. As a private teacher, you can charge more because you have more training. The same is true when you negotiate for performance gigs.
If you work as a public school music teacher, getting a masters in music can also help you get a pay raise. Depending on the school district you work in, you may be able to make a lot more after you finish grad school.
While getting more work experience can help you charge more, going back to school is another option. Then, you can make sure you’re able to earn what you’re worth.
Cons of a Masters of Music
Getting a masters of music can have a lot of benefits for your career. Of course, you could end up burning yourself out during grad school. But you may also find that it isn’t worth it for you.
Before you send out applications, consider if going to grad school for music is worth it for your goals. In some cases, it is worth it, but you should know the cons beforehand.
Going to school for a masters takes a lot of time during your program. Even though you don’t usually take as many credits at a time, the work is more difficult.
Your private teacher may hold you to a higher standard than their undergrad students. And the coursework for academic music classes is tough. You might need to spend more time practicing and studying.
On the other hand, another time-related con is that the masters degree is short. You only have two years to study and absorb as much music as possible. It can be a stressful two years.
You also may need to move for graduate school. While you can look at schools in cities where you want to live, you might have to compromise.
Perhaps you really want to study with a specific teacher. Or maybe you only get a good financial package from one school. The best program for you could be in a city or town that you don’t like.
While the limitations aren’t as big as they are for doctoral programs, it’s still something to think about. That way, you can decide if you want to put location ahead of the cost, faculty, and other factors.
Speaking of the cost, that can be another deciding factor on whether or not a masters in music is worth it. Some degrees can cost a lot of money, especially if you go somewhere out of state.
I was fortunate because my school offered me two partial tuition waivers that cut my bill by over half. But going for a masters also meant that I lost out on income. Now, I wasn’t making that much before grad school, but it was still a cost.
If you’ve been working full-time, you may need to think about your current income. Maybe you can’t afford to lose that much money AND have to spend thousands of dollars for school.
Avoiding the Working World
Before you start a masters degree, you need to consider why you want to get one. If your reason is to avoid having to look for work, that’s a huge con. You’ll have to start working eventually, and spending thousands of dollars to put that off isn’t worth it.
Make sure you want to go to grad school for the right reasons. Perhaps you want to learn more music or get some teaching or performing experience. Or you might want to meet new musicians.
Those are all good reasons for getting a masters. But going to school because you don’t want to get a job (even if it’s not in music) isn’t a good reason, and you won’t enjoy the degree.
Is a Masters of Music Worth It?
A masters of music is worth it if you want to become a college professor. In most cases, you need AT LEAST a masters degree. Sometimes, you may need a doctoral degree to apply.
Other jobs where you might benefit from a masters include public school teaching and private teaching. But a masters degree isn’t a necessity for either of these careers.
You can almost always start some sort of music career with a bachelors. So consider if you truly need to go to grad school or if you have good reasons for wanting to go.
Will You Go to Grad School?
Getting a masters of music was a great decision for me. But it’s not the right path for everyone. Heck, I took a year and half off from school before I started grad school, so I could make sure it was a good choice.
If you’re considering going to grad school, think about the pros and cons. Make sure you have good reasons for wanting to go. Then, you can make the best decision for you and your situation.
Do you want help making your decision? Contact me to schedule a consultation!