The Catholic University of America

Music Education Curriculum

This section of the handbook will attempt to outline what is required to earn a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education or Music Teacher Certification alongside a BM degree. Many decisions as to what to take and when can be made only on an individual basis, and this explanation of the curriculum is not intended to replace one-to-one advising sessions. This information should help you get started and serve as a check list for your course planning. 

What courses do I need to take to graduate with a music education degree?

There are three curriculum tracks for music education majors at CUA. You, along with your advisor, will determine which is most appropriate for you. Voice majors (and, generally, piano and organ majors) pursue the Choral/General music education track. Instrumental majors pursue the Instrumental music education track. There is also a Combined Music Education track for students who are capable in both vocal and instrumental applied areas.

The Catholic University music education degree is divided into four major components: the music core, liberal studies requirements, music education courses, and professional Education courses.

Music Core

This is a series of courses required of all Catholic University music majors. It consists of applied music, musicianship studies, music electives, conducting, and ensemble participation. For music education majors, the following apply:

  • Applied music study. You are required only to enroll in 24 semester hours of applied music study, private lessons. Music students generally enroll in 3 credits of applied study on their major instrument for each semester that they are on campus and present themselves in a jury performance at the conclusion of each semester. Fall semester juries include appropriate and assigned etudes and solo pieces and need not be accompanied. Spring semester juries include appropriate and assigned etudes and solo piece and must include piano accompaniment. Vocal applied majors must meet specific expectations in order to petition to pursue certification (PPC) that can be found on the Sophomore Level Vocal Proficiency (SLVP). A 45 minute senior recital is given at the conclusion of this course of study and serves as a capstone experience. Further guidelines for completing the senior recital experience can be found in the School of Music Student Handbook.

Because your ability to play your major instrument is so essential to good teaching, it is important that you dedicate yourself to this important musical work. Some students may choose to continue study over summer months as well.

  • Musicianship studies. These studies consist of a two-year course of study and sequence of ear training, music theory, and keyboard skills (private piano lessons.) You will also need to take a three-semester sequence of music history. These courses are critical to your success as a teacher and conductor. All music education majors, and choral music education majors in particular, should pay particular attention to keyboard skill study, for your piano abilities are an essential part of your success in a general music/ choral setting.
  • For the music teacher, Basic Conducting and Instrumental or Choral Conducting are of particular importance. Be sure to get as much time on the podium as possible in these classes, and learn those transpositions! You’ll be expected to know this when you are student teaching.
  • You are required to participate in a large ensemble during each semester of enrollmentThe only exception is during the student teaching semester – ensemble participation is not a degree requirement, however there may be extenuating expectations with regard to scholarship qualification. We encourage all music education instrumental majors to play in the Wind Ensemble and/or the Orchestra as these are foundational ensembles in most school instrumental programs. Orchestra students should look for every opportunity to play the other stringed instruments. Vocal students benefit from participation in the operas, musicals, and everyone should be involved in chamber music whenever possible. Essentially, the more opportunities you have to perform, the better musician you can become.

Liberal Studies

Music educators must be well-rounded and conversant in other aspects of the curriculum in order to serve the students in the schools in which they will eventually teach. In addition, The Catholic University of America has expectations with regard to mission. To this end, all undergraduate students at The Catholic University of America are required to take core courses in philosophy and theology. 

  • All students must take two courses in philosophy: PHIL101, The Classical Mind, and PHIL102, The Modern Mind.
  • All students must take three theology courses are required. These theology courses must include a) one course at the 100 level of the Catholic tradition, b) two courses at the 200 level, at least one of which must be or the Catholic tradition.
  • All music education majors must also take two courses in English: ENG101 and HUM101, or their Honors Program equivalents.
  • Finally, there is room in the curriculum for liberal studies electives. In order to complete many state certification requirements, virtually all students elect to take a course in teaching diverse learners. Other coursework is currently being considered and developed as part of the “First Year Experience” and will be incorporated into the Music Education Curriculum as these classes are put into place.

Music Education

  • Introduction to Music Education should be taken at the start of your music education sequence. This course is generally taken in the second semester of the freshman year. This course involves up to 10 hours of observation time in the schools, giving you the opportunity to see children and teachers in an actual classroom setting.
  • Choral/General music education majors take Elementary Music Methods and Secondary Music Methods. Instrumental music education majors take Elementary and Middle School Instrumental Music Methods and Secondary Instrumental Music Methods. Students pursuing the Combined (both Choral/General and Instrumental) music education major take all four of these courses.
  • All music education students take MUS150, Field Experiences in Music Education during each semester of enrollment. This course acts as a coordination point for the completion of the 100 hours of field experiences with school children, as required for student certification and program accreditation. This requirement is more fully explained later in this handbook.
  • Instrumental music education majors take 4 instrumental techniques classes, learning the fundamentals about instruments besides their primary instrument. Choral/general music education majors should take one course designed for them that covers the fundamentals of each instrument category (brass, woodwinds, percussion, and strings.) You can rent instruments for these classes for a nominal $50.00 fee. Please handle these instruments carefully as you are responsible for any loss or damage to them.
  • All music education majors take a course in guitar and another in world drumming. These are two important and growing components of many vital school music programs and can also serve to enrich both your teaching as well as student learning.


Professional Education

There are several courses that are required of all education majors at CUA, including music education majors, including Foundations of Education and Education Psychology. As mentioned above, most students also take Educating Diverse Learners in order to qualify for certification in most states.

Can I double major in performance and music education?

If you are an instrumentalist, absolutely! Music Education students need to be excellent performers, and if you are willing to spend the extra time and money, we believe that you will benefit from the experience. The program requires at least one extra semester (9 semesters total.)

What if I wish to take summer school classes off campus?

Please be sure to check with your advisor in advance of registration. We want you to be sure that whatever courses you take off campus can be accepted at CUA and will count towards your major. Further guidelines for coursework off campus can be found in the School of Music Student Handbook.

What does a typical course of study in music education look like? 

There are three different tracks in addition to the possibility of the double major in Orchestral Instruments and Music Education. Please see page 42 where you will find some outlines that will help you with planning and tracking your progress through the program.

Is there a timeline available to help me keep track of expectations and requirements as I progress through the Music Education program?

Yes. A Timeline can be found at the end of this Handbook. It provides, in order, the various gates and requirements of the program. This, along with the tracking sheets, should assist you in navigating your way through the program. Of course, all of these matters should also be taken care of with the guidance of your advisor. Check in often!

Are there Tracking Sheets available to help me know what specific courses I need to take and to monitor my progress toward degree completion?

Yes, there are tracking sheets. These are also included in a section later in this Handbook. Cardinal Station also helps to track degree progress. For best results, keep track with the hard copy Tracking Sheet and with frequent visits with your advisor! 

What does a typical 4 (4 ½) Year Course of Study look like?

Here are four possible and typical courses of study in Music Education, one each for a) Choral/General, b) Instrumental, c) Combined, and d) Double Major in Orchestral Instruments and Instrumental.


Those pursuing Teacher Certification alongside another School of Music major program (e.g. Applied Voice, Music Theater) should also see the typical coursework as it often presents itself in those courses of study. Note that it is very important that, while it is quite possible to complete both Teacher Certification and another degree program at the same time, it is very rigorous and demands special attention by the student with regard to coordination of the course and co-curricular responsibilities of both programs. This outline is only a general guide and should be reviewed regularly by the music education advisor.