Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education

Department of Music Education

The Doctor of Philosophy 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 at SMTD as well as cross-campus faculty in a wide array of specialties. 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

Academic Eligibility

Applicants must have completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees, at least one with a major in music education, to be eligible for admission. They should also have a minimum of four years of teaching experience in elementary or secondary schools prior to entering the program. No performance audition required.


Two years of coursework are required. The core curriculum includes:

Studies in Music Education (minimum 16 hrs)
  • *MUSED 500: Introduction to Research in Music Education (3 hrs)
  • *MUSED 501: The Psychology of Music Teaching and Learning (3 hrs)
  • *MUSED 502: History and Philosophy of Music Education (3 hrs)
  • *MUSED 503: Music Curriculum and Assessment (3 hrs)

* 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 PhD program.

  • MUSED 504, 505, 506: Special Topics in Music Education (3 hrs)
  • MUSED 800: Research Design in Music Education I (3 hrs)
  • MUSED 809: Research Design in Music Education II (3 hrs)
  • MUSED 807: Research Seminar in Music Education (4 semesters, 1 hr each)
  • MUSED 810: Seminar in Music Teacher Education (3 hrs)
Studies in Music (3-5 courses)

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 U-M 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 U-M 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 U-M.

Cognate Area of Study (3 courses)

Doctoral students must select one cognate area of study (minimum of 3 courses) from within SMTD or from within another program at U-M 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 SMTD (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 U-M 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.

Graduate Student Instruction

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.

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.

PhD Handbook for current students

Residency Requirement

At least two academic years of full-time residence is required.

Requirements for Candidacy

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:

  • Critical Perspectives (one question): history, philosophy, psychology, sociology
  • Research (one question)
  • 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 5,000-6,000 words (excluding references) are expected for each question, in proper scholarly style.

Dissertation Requirements

The dissertation requirements in music education comprise 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.

Final Oral Examination

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.

Interview Dates

For requirement details, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.

How To Apply

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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