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Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Music Education is designed to prepare scholars, researchers, and leaders for positions in music teacher education, music education research, P-12 music teaching and leadership, and music education policy. The coursework is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on the expertise of the faculty of the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre & Dance as well as cross-campus faculty in a wide array of specialties. Doctoral students have the opportunity to work as graduate student instructors in a variety of ways which may include: (a) assisting in undergraduate music education major courses; (b) observing undergraduate pre-service fieldwork; (c) observing student teachers; and (d) teaching undergraduate music courses for non-music majors.


Prerequisites for Admission

  1. Bachelor's or master's degree in the field of music education or equivalent
  2. Minimum four years of successful teaching experience in elementary or secondary schools
  3. Applicants should have an academic record that suggests probable success with advanced course work, including research and the writing of a doctoral dissertation.

More information about the application process for the PhD in Music Education

Program of Study

Two years of coursework

Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education Handbook

Studies in Music Education (minimum 16 credits in coursework)

*500 Introduction to Research in Music Education (3)

Study of the music education research literature with an emphasis on framing research problems and evaluating research studies from a wide range or research traditions.

*501 The Psychology of Music Teaching and Learning (3)

Study of the psychological foundations of music teaching and learning, including perception, motivation, creative and critical thinking, and musical development.

*502 History and Philosophy of Music Education (3)

Critical analysis of the history and philosophy of music education in North America.

*503 Music Curriculum and Assessment (3)

Concentrates on the issues involved in developing appropriate music curricula for students in grades K-12.

* If requirements for 500, 501, 502, or 503, as determined by the Music Education Faculty, were met during the master’s degree then the student must complete at least one term of MUSED 504, 505, or 506 during the Ph.D. program.

504, 505, 506 Special Topics in Music Education (3)

800 Research Design in Music Education I (3)

Study of the music education research literature with an emphasis on methodology, design, and analysis from a wide range of research traditions.

809 Research Design in Music Education II (3)

Advanced study of the music education research literature with an emphasis on the creation of an original, defensible proposal for doctoral dissertation.

807 Research Seminar in Music Education (4 semesters, 1 cr. each)

Required for all doctoral students during the first four semesters. Weekly seminar involving faculty, students, and invited guests in discussion of current topics in music education and presentations of their research work at various stages of completion.

810 Seminar in Music Teacher Education (3)

Examination of research and models of instruction in music teacher education with an emphasis on the teaching of undergraduate methods courses in instrumental, choral, and/or general music.

Required Studies in Music (3-5 courses depending on master’s degree coursework)

Music Theory: Two graduate courses (500-level or above) of at least two hours. One of the courses may have been elected as a master's student at the University of Michigan or elsewhere.

Musicology: Two graduate courses (500-level or above) of at least two hours. At least one of the courses must be in Western music. One of the courses may have been elected as a master's student at the University of Michigan or elsewhere.

Other: (Theory, Musicology, Composition, Performing Arts Technology or Jazz Studies): At least one other graduate (500-level or above) academic course while in residence at the University of Michigan.

Cognate Area of Study (3 courses)

Doctoral students must select one cognate area of study (minimum of 3 courses) from within the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, or from within another program in the University that is closely related to the student’s research interest. Students will work with the Director of Graduate Studies in Music Education in designing and completing the cognate. In most cases, a student will decide on a cognate area during the first term of coursework and will complete cognate courses in the second, third and fourth terms. An audition is required for the cognate in conducting or performance. Students interested in certificate programs in Musicology or Ethnomusicology will work directly with faculty in those areas.

Required Studies Outside the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (3 courses)

In addition to the Cognate Area of Study, students are required to elect an additional 3 courses outside the School of Music, Theatre & Dance i.e. School of Education or another school or college at the University of Michigan that relates to the student’s areas of academic interest. The Director of Graduate Studies in Music Education will assist the student in choosing these courses.

Mid-Coursework Review

The purpose of the mid-coursework review is to allow the faculty to assess the scholarly progress of the student and to afford the student the opportunity to experience a synthesis of material learned in coursework in the first year. The Music Education faculty will prepare two questions drawn from the first year coursework and provide these to the student in early May. In response, the student will prepare a 20-page paper for each question in APA style during the summer after year one of the program.

Professional Presentation

During the fourth or fifth term of residency, the student will present a Professional Presentation on campus for students and faculty. The presentation should be 50 minutes long and be typical of what one might present at a state music conference or other professional meeting.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination includes both a written component and an oral defense of the written document. The document produced in this examination provides the student with substantive parts of the student’s dissertation proposal. The student develops a rationale for the examination focus and meets with faculty to develop examination questions and gather references in the following areas:

A. Critical Perspectives (one question): history, philosophy, psychology, sociology
B. Research (one question)
C. Teaching/Learning/Assessment (one question): cognate area, curriculum development, measurement and evaluation, policy, teacher education, or other special topics in music education

The student-developed questions and accompanying reference lists (10-12 key sources for each question) are submitted by the student and approved by the faculty. Once approved, the student has up to six months to answer all questions and to submit the final document. Answers of no more than 5,000 words (excluding references) are expected for each question, in proper scholarly style.


Candidacy status indicates that the student has satisfied all of the requirements for the degree except the dissertation. 


The dissertation requirement in music education comprises four parts: the dissertation proposal, the proposal defense meeting, the dissertation itself, and the final oral examination.

The dissertation proposal will consist of a well-written document that includes the need for the study, research purpose and questions, a substantial review of related literature, and a description of the methodology for carrying out the proposed research. The dissertation proposal should provide the reader with the context for the author’s research interest as well as convince the reader that the author’s intentions are fully achievable. The dissertation in music education must make a significant and original contribution to the field, conform to the standards of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and meet all the requirements of the Institutional Review Board’s approval process for Human Subjects Research.

Before submitting the dissertation proposal, the student must have secured the agreement of a departmental faculty member to serve as chair of the dissertation committee. The name of the chair should be indicated on the proposal. A copy of the dissertation proposal must be submitted to each member of the dissertation committee at least three weeks before the date of the proposal defense meeting. The proposal meeting will be a 2-hour block of time.

Once approved, the student collects and analyzes the data to answer the proposed research questions, and completes the writing of the dissertation.

The final oral examination or defense is a two-hour examination scheduled in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and all dissertation committee members. All committee members should receive a copy of the dissertation three weeks in advance of the defense meeting.


Questions? Contact Dr. Michael Hopkins, Chair of the Department of Music Education.

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