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Why Get a Master of Music in Music Education Degree?

May 14, 2018

As the National Association for Music Education points out, music education is not just a study of music or education, it is also the study of people, places, and cultures. For this reason, music educators come from all varieties of professional, cultural, and educational backgrounds. Although master’s degrees can offer career advantages, such as increased salary, the unique and creative nature of music education means that advanced degrees in the field are about more than earning pay raises; many professionals pursue a Master of Music in Music Education to learn the best strategies for bringing music to life for their students.

Benefits of a Master’s in Music Education

There are several career advantages for music educators who are interested in graduate-level education. PayScale data show that music teachers with master’s degrees in music education earn more than $50,000, while those with just a bachelor’s earn less than $42,000. Most professionals hoping to teach college will also need at least a master’s, and may pursue their MMME degree as a stepping stone to their doctorate. There are also a few intangible benefits that can lead to more engaged students as well as deeper expertise in music and education theory.

Career Flexibility

While most Master of Music in Music Education students are engaged in teaching or administrative roles, the lack of standardization in certification requirements from state to state can be a limiting factor in geographic career flexibility. For example, while many states only require a bachelor’s degree to teach K-12, states such as New York require teachers to either already have or earn a master’s within five years of becoming certified.

Certification reciprocity, where states agree that teacher certification in one state will transfer to another, makes the issue even more complicated. Even experienced teachers have found that their certification in one state doesn’t always qualify them to teach after moving.

While a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee complete geographic career flexibility, a robust music education graduate program can help alleviate some of the headaches associated with moving between states because it satisfies the more stringent advanced education requirements for teacher certification. It can also open the door to teaching in other environments later; teaching in most postsecondary environments requires at least a master’s degree in a related field, according to PayScale.

Networking

Building a strong professional network is a cornerstone of successful careers for many fields, including music education. The positive outcomes of peer-to-peer networking and collaboration extend to the classroom and to schools in general. In a 2014 report by the RennieCenter for Education Research & Policy, the authors noted that there is considerable benefit for teachers from many different backgrounds working together. These benefits include:

  • Stronger student performance
  • Improved ability to solve instructional challenges
  • More frequent feedback on classroom practices and lessons

One of the central themes of the report is that in school environments where collaboration was strongest, it was often the teachers driving the change rather than the school. The best master’s in music education programs are built on facilitating collaboration among professionals from different backgrounds; furthermore, the network they build in these programs can help them create new ideas for their classrooms.

Master of Music in Music Education Program Considerations

Master of Music in Music Education programs can vary significantly from school to school. Most Music Education curricula will provide foundational coursework in the philosophy of music education as well as music history, but the supplemental and elective courses make a program truly unique. Some programs focus on giving students exposure to a broader array of music, while others offer supplemental music education classes that focus more on teaching, including music class design, theories of learning, and the psychology of how people interact with music.

The best music education program option depends on the student’s focus in their bachelor’s program, their previous work experience, and their career goals. However, there are several specific considerations to make when choosing between degree programs, including:

Collaboration Between Faculty and Students

In addition to having distinguished faculty, the quality of music education programs is uniquely dependent on the accessibility and availability of their faculty – instructors can help foster creativity in students’ work and guide them toward the right resources for their careers. Students hoping to get a sense of the level of collaboration between faculty, students and peers can ask specific questions about class sizes, capstone projects, and group discussions to get a sense of the degree of interaction in a music education program.

How the Program Uses Technology

The use of technology in the classroom remains a hotly debated issue with regard to how much students should be able to use devices like tablets for learning. However, the National Association for Music Education suggests the proper use of technology could drastically improve music education, if the implementation is handled well. Music education graduate programs that use and explore the role of technology will become more important, especially for teachers hoping to engage students who are increasingly tech-savvy in their daily lives.

Related content: MMME Graduate Finds Success as Scholar and College Instructor

About the University of Florida’s Online Master of Music in Music Education

The University of Florida’s Online Master of Music in Music Education program is designed with the evolution of music education in mind. In addition to covering a broad array of music genres, the program’s curriculum explores advanced concepts in music education psychology, instructional design, and technology in the music classroom. The faculty include instructors from a diverse range of professional backgrounds— from professional musicians to internationally recognized music education researchers and authors.

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