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The Number of Years to Have a Ph.D. in Music

by Ashley Miller

Earning a doctorate in music can represent the culmination of your passion and love for music and your education and training. Most Ph.D. students in music have already studied for a significant number of years. They have already earned at least a bachelor's degree in a music-related field, and some have master's degrees. The length of time it will take for you to earn your degree largely depends on the program and your previous education.

Types of Degrees

Doctoral degrees in music are earned in specific areas of focus -- there isn't just one Ph.D. in music. Before applying to doctoral programs, you'll need to choose a specialization, which is mainly based on the career path you'd like to pursue. For example, performers and composers often opt for the D.M.A., or doctor of music arts; composers may also choose a Ph.D. in music theory or composition. People who want to become musicologists or professors of music history usually choose Ph.D. programs in music history. They must also choose a particular emphasis, such as a composer or historical time period, as their subspecialization. Many schools offer other types of Ph.D.s in areas such as computer music, education or music therapy.

Years for a D.M.A.

Candidates for the D.M.A. usually have already earned a master's degree in music, but this isn't always the case. For those who have a master's degree, the D.M.A. program generally requires an additional two to two and a half years of study. Those without a master's degree must complete the master's degree curriculum, which generally takes one year after earning a bachelor's degree, and then continue on to the D.M.A. curriculum. Most D.M.A. students study on a full-time basis for a year, then complete the remainder of their requirements on a part-time basis. Performers must usually present several recitals, while composers must prepare original compositions for performance.

Years for a Ph.D.

The length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D. in music depends largely on your program and whether you decide to study on a full- or part-time basis. Most Ph.D. candidates already have a master's degree in music. Candidates who study on a full-time basis usually complete requirements for the Ph.D. in around three or four years, while those who study on a part-time basis generally finish their studies in five years. Unlike students in a D.M.A. program, Ph.D. candidates in most areas must also write a dissertation -- or, if specializing in composition, they must present a major recital of their original works. The dissertation or composition can take two or more years to complete.

Time Limits

Most schools require Ph.D. students to complete the degree in a maximum of six to seven years, although the exact time limit can vary by school and your personal circumstances. At the University of California at San Diego, for instance, students continuing on to the Ph.D. program from the master's program in music have eight years to complete the Ph.D., counting from the beginning of their master's program. Those who enter the Ph.D. program with a master's degree from a different institution are allowed six years to complete the program. This discrepancy exists because a master's usually takes two years to complete. In addition, many Ph.D. students receive stipends or other forms of financial support, but this may be limited to a specific time period based on the program.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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