The Pros and Cons of an Online Master's in Music Education Program

Music Teacher, Guitarist, Freelance Writer

May   2014



Here’s my real world, real talk warning: it is a lot harder to go back to school once you have already been working.

Unless you are in the financial position to go full time (a.k.a. quit your day job), your options diminish. This was the problem I faced as I perused part-time graduate programs in music education. In general, part-time grad school programs are very popular for educators, to be sure, and finding such programs for a master’s in education was not difficult. It was part-time music education programs, however, that were the diamonds in the rough!

“Why don’t you look at online options?” people suggested. I immediately dismissed the idea. As a musician, I can’t help but think of music as very hands-on, and I wanted to be sure that I was acquiring new skills that would be applicable to teaching. It just didn’t seem possible online. But then . . . I eventually warmed up to the idea. Why, you might ask? Looks like it’s time for a pros and cons list!

Pros (the advantages that helped me come around to my decision)

  • Saving money. I hate to say it, but money was a huge factor. I’m not saying it’s cheap, but taking my classes part time online saved me a lot of money.
  • Saving time. Oh yeah, that whole thing about not giving up the day job? Turns out that also means I was juggling two types of schooling: the one I taught and the one I attended. With an online program, you can complete the assignments at any time, as long as you make the deadlines. There are no classes to physically go to. While I initially wanted to be back on a campus, I soon realized how seemingly impossible that would have been. Online classes allowed me to fit in my work time wherever it could be found (most often at the end of the day).  I was a teacher by day, grad student by night! It was like being a superhero, but far less exciting.
  • Connecting with other people from all over. The really neat thing about completing my studies online was that the program was open to people all over the world. It was really eye opening to talk to music educators from various states- and countries- and hear how music education is playing out across America, as well as overseas.

Cons (the deterrents I had to consider)

Okay, now the cons. Let’s start with the obvious one: it’s not hands on. Initially, I had really wanted a program where I could continue my learning of other instruments, so as to better teach them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option with my online program. Another drawback? Communication solely through technology means a lot gets lost in translation. The inability to talk to teachers face-to-face was less than ideal. Sure, there were live chats in which we got to discuss assignments and readings, but that’s never the same as an in-person conversation.

But, all that said, I’m glad I went the online route. The other things I wanted to learn? I took them on myself. After all, one of the best ways to learn about teaching is actually teaching! I also ensured that the papers and studies I completed were geared toward my teaching goals, such as my interest in special education adaptations in music education. Though every assignment had an initial prompt, I had the ability to focus my research on a topic very important to me.

So, if you are considering getting a master’s in music education but aren't sure you can make it work with your work and life schedule, I’d say it’s worth investigating your online options. Rushing to campus? Nope. Trying to fit class schedules into your teaching schedule? Nope. Same diploma as the one you can get on campus? One big, resounding “yes.”

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About Sarah Fard

Sarah Fard is a a music teacher and active musician in the Boston area.