A graduate student from the University of Southern California receiving his doctor of musical arts degree in 2011.

The doctor of musical arts (DMA) is a doctoral academic degree in music. The DMA combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization (usually music performance, music composition, or conducting) with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music education. The DMA degree usually takes about three to four years of full-time study to complete (in addition to the master's and bachelor's degrees), preparing students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. As a terminal degree, the DMA qualifies its recipient to work in university, college, and conservatory teaching/research positions. Students seeking doctoral training in musicology, teaching, leadership, music administration or music theory typically enter a doctor of music education (DME) or PhD program, rather than a DMA program.


The degree is also abbreviated as DMusA or AMusD. For the related degree doctor of music education, the abbreviation is DMusE or EMusD. For the related degree doctor of arts, the abbreviation DA is used.


A large number of US institutions offer the DMA degree.[citation needed] The PhD and DME are generally considered to be more research oriented, while other doctorates may place more emphasis on practical applications and/or include a performance component. Such distinctions among degree types are not always so clear-cut, however. For instance, most programs include traditional research training and culminate in a written dissertation, regardless of degree designation.[citation needed] The music education degree can be a DME, DMA or PhD, each comprising similar research-oriented programs. Also, music education PhD programs may include performance-oriented tracks.[1] In composition, one may study for either the DMA or the PhD, depending on the institution. The PhD is the standard doctorate in music theory, musicology, music therapy, and ethnomusicology.

Sacred music

A related program is the doctor of sacred music (DSM), also sacrae musica doctor (SMD), which tends to be awarded by seminaries or university music schools that focus on church music, choral conducting, and organ performance. In the past, some seminaries titled the degree doctor of church music (DCM). Liberty University offers the doctor of worship studies (DWS) and doctor of music education (DME) in church music or sacred music. Only one US institution, Claremont Graduate University[2] still offers the DCM degree, in addition to the more typical DME and DMA. The vast majority of US seminaries have closed their music doctorate programs, but some still offer a master of arts or master of sacred music degree. A new program offered at Perkins School of Theology is the doctor of pastoral music (DPM).[3] While more theology-based and housed within the doctor of ministry (DMin) program, admission to the degree requires applicants to hold a master of music (MMus), master of sacred music (MSM), master of church music (MCM), MA in church music or equivalent 48-semester-hour degree recognized by the National Association of Schools of Music.


The doctor of musical arts (DMA) and doctor of music education (DME) are widely available in combination of degrees in performance (sometimes with a specialization in instrumental or voice pedagogy and/or music literature), composition, conducting, and music education. Some universities awarding doctoral degrees in these areas use the title doctor of music (DM or DMus) or doctor of arts (DA)[4] or Doctor in Musical Studies (PhD) instead of DMA. The DMA degree was pioneered by Howard Hanson and the National Association of Schools of Music, who approved the first DMA programs in 1952. Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the Eastman School of Music became the first to offer the DMA.[5] Boston University offered its first DMA program in 1955. In 2005, Boston University also expanded into online music education by launching the first online doctoral degree in music, a DMA program (along with a Master of Music program) in music education.

In 1952, after six years of deliberation, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) approved thirty-two schools for graduate degrees for graduate work "in one or more of the fields into which graduate music study has been divided." The NASM was, and still is, the only accrediting agency for music schools recognized by the American Council on Education. In 1952, 143 music schools had already established standards for undergraduate degrees.[6] The national launch of DMA by institutions meeting criteria was 1953.[7]

The Director of the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music, Howard Hanson (1896–1981), who had been awarded an honorary doctorate in 1925, was one of several high-profile advocates of creating a performance-oriented doctoral degree. Hanson was the Chair of the NASM and Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Graduate Commission.[8] This commission recommended that the terminal performance doctoral degree be established.[9] This recommendation included that schools desiring to offer this degree seek the Graduate Commission's approval.[10]

In 1953, he published a proposal for a doctor of musical arts degree, which was roundly criticized by Paul Henry Lang, professor of musicology at Columbia University.[11]

Early doctor of musical arts degrees conferred

Non-NASM institutions

The alumni of Music conservatories in the United States also seek positions at universities. The conservatories that are not affiliated with the National Association of Schools of Music began offering DMAs in the late 1960s.


  1. ^ "Florida State University – Conducting Degrees". Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Claremont Graduate University – Doctor of Church Music". Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  3. ^ Perkins School of Theology – Doctor of Ministry Program
  4. ^ The University of Mississippi – Department of Music
  5. ^ Marvin Latimer, "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music," Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 32.1 (October 2010)
  6. ^ "NTSTC One of 32 Colleges for Graduate Study in Music", The Dallas Morning News, December 31, 1942, Sec I, p. 6
  7. ^ Taubman, Howard (1953-10-25). "A Matter of Degree; Eastman School Sets Up Doctorate for Musicians". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  8. ^ Latimer, Marvin E. (2010). "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music: History, Structure, and Pedagogical Implications". Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. 32 (1): 19–36. doi:10.1177/153660061003200103. ISSN 1536-6006. JSTOR 20789877.
  9. ^ Latimer, Marvin E. (2010). "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music: History, Structure, and Pedagogical Implications". Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. 32 (1): 19–36. doi:10.1177/153660061003200103. ISSN 1536-6006. JSTOR 20789877.
  10. ^ Glidden, Robert (1982). "The D.M.A.: An Historical Perspective". Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music: 159.
  11. ^ "New Degrees to Musicians – Dissenters Claim Title Not Necessary", Omaha World-Herald, November 15, 1953, p. 9F
  12. ^ Howard Hanson: In Theory and Practice, by Allen Laurence Cohen, p. 14, Praeger Publishers (2004) OCLC 52559264 ISBN 9780313321351