Graduate Studies

The Department of Music at Berkeley is one of the oldest and most prominent in the country, bringing together a renowned group of composers, scholars, and performers. The graduate program is ranked among the top in the nation. The department offers the M.A./Ph.D. and the Ph.D. degrees (for those who have previously completed a Master’s degree) in composition and scholarship, the latter with options in the history and literature of Western music and in ethnomusicology. The Music Department does not offer the terminal M.A. degree. The program provides graduate students with a solid mastery of their discipline while cultivating a sense of intellectual and creative independence. Students are free to explore related fields of study both within the music program itself and in the larger university. Graduates of the Berkeley Music Department play prominent roles in distinguished musical institutions across the nation and abroad.

Students are supported by fellowships and teaching opportunities. A typical funding package consists of tuition plus a stipend guaranteed for five years (M.A./Ph.D.) or four years (Ph.D.). Additional support for summers and research travel is available by application.

Areas of specialization


Students in composition  are encouraged to create music that is personal both in style and content while building a firm technical foundation. Composition is taught through seminars and independent studies by all composers on the faculty. Opportunities exist for public performances of student compositions, including chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Facilities are available for work in electronic and computer music.  For more information, view the Graduate Student Handbook.


Students in ethnomusicology prepare for ethnographic research, through the study of cultural theory and methodology from various disciplines. Each student’s program is individually designed in consultation with an advisor, including opportunities for drawing on Berkeley’s considerable resources in related disciplines and area studies. For more information, view the Graduate Student Handbook.

History and Literature

Students in the history and literature program gain skills for historical research while developing a sense of critical inquiry and intellectual independence. The M.A. program introduces students to musicological methods and techniques and at the same time seeks to broaden their horizons through a variety of courses, including analysis and ethnomusicology. The Ph.D. involves more detailed work in research seminars and special studies. Dissertation topics at Berkeley have run the gamut of scholarly approaches and subjects, from source studies to theoretical or critical works, and from early medieval chant to the music of the present day. For more information, view the Graduate Student Handbook.

The Master of Arts Degree

The period of study in all areas of specialization is from three to (more typically) four semesters ending with the M.A. comprehensive examination. The general course requirement for the M.A. is 24 units, at least 12 of which must be in the graduate series in music.

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Since the Ph.D. degree is awarded for original, creative achievement, not for the mere completion of a course of study, course and unit requirements are not rigidly prescribed. There is an academic residence requirement of two years. The amount of time needed to complete the Ph.D. varies considerably from one student to another, but students are encouraged to proceed as fast as they can and as the nature of their doctoral project allows. It is expected that the typical student (having obtained an M.A. degree) will have pursued sufficient course work, fulfilled all the supplementary requirements, and taken the qualifying examination, advanced to candidacy, and completed a prospectus for the doctoral project by the end of two years.  After this time the only requirement is that the student satisfactorily complete the doctoral project.


The traditional career for Ph.D.s in music has been university and college teaching. There are also other professional activities for which a Ph.D. in music is desirable, such as editing, criticism, arts management, music technology, and professional composing.

Members of the faculty provide advice on career planning, dossiers, and interviews, as well as recommendations for job candidacies. Berkeley Ph.D.s are likely to compete successfully for positions at leading institutions. Competition, however, is keen and advisors work closely with students to help them plan a course of study that reflects the realities of the job market.