What you’ll learn
Music degrees vary enormously, depending on the kind of institution (university or conservatoire) and the course you choose. Some focus on the music; others allow students to take modules in other subjects, such as English, another language or education studies. There are courses that don’t even require students to have any practical music skills.
Some courses give a thorough education in traditional classical music areas along with related contemporary musicology and composition. Others cater more to popular music or jazz interests and music technology.
However, composition and performance are at the heart of most degrees. Most universities will require a certain level of competence in vocal or instrumental skills.
How you’ll learn
Music is a multifaceted, potentially academic subject as well as one that involves performance, composition and improvisation. Not only will you be able to develop your musical skills to a high level, but you may be able to learn about the inner workings of music through theory, or probe the cultural richness of music in the European tradition or non-western music through music history, musicology and ethnomusicology. You will learn to perform, present your ideas, and to organise and realise written or practical projects.
Students can take modules that explore various approaches to music, the psychology behind it and the historical perspectives. Then there are the performance-related subjects, such as conducting and orchestration.
If you fancy a career behind the mixing desk rather than a microphone, you could opt for a music technology degree, which can sometimes be taken as a joint degree, perhaps with theatre studies or a language. On a music technology course you’ll develop your understanding of how music is recorded and mixed.
These generally range from CCC to ABB at A-level (or equivalent), but will depend on the university. Those taking a performance music course will often be expected to have achieved grade 7 (or equivalent) in their main instrument or voice.
What job can you get?
You’ll have learnt the fundamentals of composition and should have improved your performance techniques no end. You may even have formed a band and have an album’s worth of songs ready to sell to a record company. It’s tough making it in the music business. Even if you and your friends don’t aspire to be the next the 1975, making a living off your musical talents won’t be easy as the work can be unpredictable and reliant on short-term contracts.
On the plus side, you’ll have a host of transferable skills that will qualify you for jobs related to, or outside, the industry. Teaching is a favourite among graduates, as it still involves some form of performance and composition. You could also find work in music promotion or publishing, radio, TV, festivals and orchestras. Or you could undertake further training to become a music therapist.