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 MA/PhD and the PhD degrees (for those who have previously completed the masters degree) in composition and scholarship, the latter with options in musicology and in ethnomusicology. The Music Department does not offer a terminal MA 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 Music Department play prominent roles in distinguished musical institutions across the nation and abroad.

Students are supported by both fellowships and teaching opportunities. A typical funding package consists of tuition plus an income of at least $34,000 per year guaranteed for five years (MA/PhD) or four years (PhD). A final year of financial support at similar levels is available through the Doctoral Completion Fellowship offered through the Graduate Division. Additional support for research travel is available by application.

Concentration Areas


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.


Students in ethnomusicology prepare for ethnographic research, through the study of cultural theory and methodology from various disciplines. Each students program is individually designed in consultation with an adviser, including opportunities for drawing on Berkeleys considerable resources in related disciplines and area studies.


Students in the musicology program gain skills for historical research while developing a sense of critical inquiry and intellectual independence. The MA 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 PhD 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.

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 MA comprehensive examination. The general course requirement for the MA is 24 units, at least 12 of which must be in the graduate series in music.

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Since the PhD 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 PhD 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 MA 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 completes the doctoral project.