Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology

Department of Musicology

Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the PhD is a rigorous five-year course of study culminating in a doctoral dissertation.

Program Requirements

For requirement details, including the Handbook for Doctoral Students in Musicology, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.


The doctoral program provides specialized training and develops the ability to pursue original research. The Department of Musicology is committed to a time-to-completion of the doctorate of six years.

Program of Study for the First Two Years

The first two years of study provide training in the practice and methodology of musicology. A minimum of 30 hours of graduate credit is required. Of these, at least 12 must be in either historical musicology or ethnomusicology and 8 hours in other fields of music. Each pre-candidate must choose two courses of at least two hours’ credit each in a cognate field.

Two departmental courses are required:

  • MUSICOL 501: Bibliography and Methodology
  • MUSICOL 502: Scholarly Writing and Research Technique

Students must complete three courses in each of two minor fields of music other than the student’s field of specialization. Minor fields may include a period of music history, American music, or ethnomusicology.

A student wishing to be considered for a teaching assistantship must take MUSICOL 509: Teaching of Introductory Courses in Music, or petition the Department for a waiver of this course based on demonstrated competence in teaching.

Examinations and Research Paper

During the fall term of the second year of graduate study the student will be expected to:

  • Take an examination designed to test the student’s knowledge of European and American music.
  • Complete a critical-bibliographical paper on a topic of the student’s choice, typically selected and developed in the course of MUSICOL 502.

Two electives are required that are related to a student’s principal area of study. These will normally be taken outside of SMTD. With the approval of the department performance courses may be elected as the cognate and taken within the School. In general, the choice of electives is based on a student’s background, on his or her preparation for the third-term review, and on the plan of research for the PhD.

Foreign Language

Each student must demonstrate proficiency in a second foreign language, preferably one related to the student’s field of doctoral research.

Residency Requirement

At least one academic year of full-time residence is required.

Requirements for Candidacy

Two preliminary examinations must be satisfied in addition to the language requirement and coursework.

Preliminary Examinations Prior to Candidacy
  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination
  • Special Field Examination in Historical Musicology

The special field examination in historical musicology comprises two parts:

  • Two essays: one will cover the entire period of research or area of concentration of the student. The second will be more closely focused on the dissertation topic.
  • An oral examination based on a repertoire list of 50 pieces (or up to 50 hours of music, depending on the candidate’s area of specialization) comprising works in at least three genres.

Dissertation Requirements

The dissertation requirements in musicology comprise four parts:

  • The dissertation proposal
  • The dissertation conference
  • The dissertation oral presentation
  • The dissertation

The dissertation proposal will consist of a carefully researched and written description of the proposed topic (approximately 20-25 pages) that will argue for its relevance, feasibility, and originality as a scholarly contribution to the field of musicology. The proposal should also describe the plan of research and indicate as precisely as possible the objectives of the project, the sources to be consulted, the current state of research, and the cultural, musical, methodological, historical, aesthetic, anthropological, critical, analytical, and social issues relevant to the topic. If the project involves fieldwork, the proposal should indicate how it will be carried out and what criteria will be applied in the evaluation of data.

A dissertation conference is required. The dissertation conference is a meeting of the student with a committee of the faculty (typically but not necessarily the dissertation committee) soon after candidacy has been achieved to explore the avenues of research outlined in the candidate’s proposal and pertinent to the dissertation topic.

While researching and writing the dissertation, each PhD candidate will present a lecture in a public forum before an audience of students and departmental faculty. This dissertation oral presentation will describe the topic, methodology, and results of his or her dissertation research to date. This lecture will customarily be presented at a point when the candidate can benefit most from the exchange: after enough research has taken place to define the chief issues of the topic but before a large portion has been written.

The dissertation in historical musicology must make a significant and original contribution to the field, and otherwise conform to the standards of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Final Oral Examination

A comprehensive oral examination on the candidate’s dissertation will be conducted by the dissertation committee following the completion of the dissertation.


All students admitted to the PhD program in Musicology are provided with five-year funding packages. To remain eligible for financial aid at the doctoral level, students should achieve candidacy by the end of the sixth term.

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy in Historical Musicology must have completed a bachelor’s of music degree or equivalent to be eligible for admission. In addition, applicants must have completed the following:

  • Twelve hours of music history
  • Twelve hours of music theory
  • A liberal arts sequence in addition to the foreign language and English requirements

Knowledge of foreign languages is indispensable for studying the history of music. Prospective students are expected to enter with training in one foreign language (preferably French or German) and must qualify in that language at the end of the first year in residence.

Applicants must:

  • Apply to U-M via the Rackham Graduate School Application by December 1
  • Submit an SMTD Artistic Profile by December 1
  • Send official transcripts from all previous schools to the Rackham Graduate School

Click “Apply Now” below to read more detailed information about the application requirements and procedures.

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