Why Major In Music?

"I absolutely love music, and have ever since I started playing in my school’s band in the sixth grade. My dream is to become a professional musician. It’s not all that important to me what shape that takes, just that I have a chance to play music for a living. I am being torn in several directions at once though. On one hand, I have musician friends who are skipping out of school altogether to make music on their own, saying a degree won’t help. On the other, my parents are trying to get me to major in something “sensible” like business. Why should I consider majoring in music as a third alternative? It seems like the obvious choice, but I am struggling to justify it to my family and friends, or even to myself."

asked by Gary from Port Saint Lucie, FL

Going to school for a bachelor’s degree is sensible in general if you are able to afford it. Your friends who are skipping out of school to pursue music on their own may have good reasons for doing so. Perhaps they cannot afford the education at all, and thus they are hoping their creative talent alone will be able to draw an income. Making a living as an artist of any type is incredibly challenging, though, and a fair amount of luck is involved. At least with a bachelor’s degree, you have a better chance of finding employment, whether in music or in something else.

And that is where the answer for your parents comes into play. Music is one of those “impractical” degrees like philosophy or history which many people assume are useless purely because there are very few jobs for musicians, philosophers, or historians. Nonetheless, many jobs simply require a bachelor’s degree.

Many master’s programs or other extended education programs (law, medicine, etc.) require a bachelor’s degree, but are nonspecific as to which.

There are a lot of practical opportunities outside the field of music which you can gain access to with a bachelor’s degree in music.

And for you of course, the music degree is the best possible route to opening doors. Whether you are hoping to perform live in an orchestra setting, teach music to other students, or take on some other role in the music industry, the music degree is your best shot at making the right professional connections and getting the experience you need to succeed.

Many music majors really do go on to perform music, as you hope to do. Many more do a combination of performance and teaching or some other related or unrelated job.

I hope that helps you to answer your question. If you feel like a music degree is right for you, then that is what you should pursue. Explain to your family that a bachelor’s degree of any variety opens doors to graduate programs and jobs in and outside of music. If you are able to succeed as a musician, then more power to you. If not, you will still find many more opportunities in other fields.

Career Spotlight: Musician

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