PhD in Music Education
The PhD in Music Education is designed to prepare students for careers in higher education as music education teacher/researchers, as ensemble conductors with a strong commitment to music education teaching and research, or as master teachers or music supervisors in the K-12 system. Applicants must be certified music teachers, with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in music education and at least three years of school teaching experience, or present evidence of equivalent experiences. Individuals with music teaching experience in higher education but without music teaching experience in elementary or secondary schools are eligible for admission, but are required to complete prerequisites and field experiences in elementary and secondary schools prior to taking comprehensive examinations.
This program is “research-intensive,” and students are expected to complete four to five research courses, read past and current research, assist and eventually collaborate with faculty and peers on research projects, develop the ability to translate research findings to classroom applications, and ultimately achieve independence as a researcher.
Students encounter a stimulating curriculum that is relevant to their career aspirations, taught by faculty who are on the cutting edge of best-practice pedagogy, research, scholarship, and creative activity. Music education faculty members play active leadership roles in international and national organizations devoted to improving preK-12th grade music instruction. They also regularly publish their work in premier research and practitioner journals, and remain actively engaged with music teachers through presentations and clinics.
The degree program moved to the School of Music from the College of Education, effective August 2018. It is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.
Additional information about program expectations is available on the MU PhD in Music Education Criteria document available to download from this page.
PhD admissions are selective. Applicants submit college transcripts, TOEFL scores (international students only), letters of recommendation, Curriculum Vitae, formal statement of purpose, writing sample, and must meet with music education faculty in person, if possible, or, if not, via video conferencing. Depending on their interest and specialty areas, applicants may be required to audition for conducting or applied music faculty. Admissions decisions are based on multiple criteria, including faculty time commitments, judgment of the student’s potential for success in the program and profession, program needs, and the fit between the student and the program. Thus, not everyone who meets minimum qualifications “on paper” is admitted.
Within the general framework, the PhD program is relatively flexible and individualized for each student. The degree requires 72 hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. Specific coursework is planned by the doctoral student and the four- to five-member doctoral committee to meet the student’s individual needs and future goals. The committee is chaired by a music education faculty member who is a member of the Doctoral Faculty. Students choose one to two support areas, one in music and an optional second area in a related field. The support-area courses are not prescribed, but are selected in consultation with a faculty member in that area, who often serves as a doctoral committee member. In addition to the coursework requirements, students must complete one “research internship” and one “teaching internship,” which may or may not be attached to credit hours. These are faculty-supervised experiences designed to help prepare the students with skills they will need to enter the professoriate.
Residency is essential to the acquisition of experiences necessary for success in the program and the profession. Students’ commitment to spending at least one academic year (fall and winter semester) as a full-time student on the MU campus is required (enrollment in a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester; may be a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant, but not hold more than a part-time position elsewhere, to be negotiated with the doctoral committee). Students are expected to complete the degree in a timely manner, meeting all Graduate School deadlines. This means a maximum of 5 years for completing coursework from first enrollment as a PhD student (coursework is generally completed in 2 years of full-time study including summers) and 5 years for completing the dissertation after passing comprehensive exams (this is a maximum—most students finish in less time).
Examinations and Projects
Students complete comprehensive examinations upon the completion of their formal coursework. These include projects and essays assigned by the music education and support-area faculty, designed to demonstrate that the students have synthesized course materials at a high level, and achieved appropriate research expertise. In lieu of a written examination in a performance-based support area, students may prepare and present a public lecture-recital as a performer or conductor, according to program criteria and under the supervision of the faculty. The comprehensive examination experience concludes with an oral examination. Upon successful completion of the exam, the student is considered a candidate for the degree.
The final stage of the doctoral degree is completion of a doctoral dissertation that demonstrates the candidate’s potential to become an independent scholar, and which makes a contribution to knowledge related to some aspect of music teaching and/or learning. The topic and methodology are selected by the student, in consultation with the doctoral committee. The written proposal is subject to the approval of the committee. The dissertation research is completed independently, but in close consultation with the advisor and others, as necessary. Several weeks after the complete dissertation is drafted and distributed to the committee, there is a final oral exam, composed of a public presentation and a closed question and answer “defense” with the committee. After passing the examination the student works with the advisor and sometimes members of the committee to make any final revisions required, and deposits the completed document electronically with the Graduate School.