Music Composition | University of Northwestern, St. Paul
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Department of Music & Theatre

Music Composition

Close up of sheet music
Department of Music & Theatre

Music Composition

  • Bachelor of Music
  • Undergraduate

132 - 136 credits

required for program

132 - 136 credits

132 - 136 credits

required for program

A degree in music composition lays a foundation for graduate study or further experiences writing music in classical, sacred, educational, commercial, or film genres.


Entrance auditions are required for this major. Auditions are held during the spring semester. You must be admitted to both Northwestern and the Department of Music & Theatre in order to major in music. Please refer to the Music Admissions & Scholarships for audition requirements and dates.

Why study music composition at Northwestern?

Learn from highly credentialed music faculty, seasoned performers, noted educators, sought-after conductors, and acclaimed composers who are dedicated to your musical excellence.

You can participate in competitions and perform on regional, national, and international tours while building your education on Northwestern’s 115+ year history as a Christ-centered institution of higher learning. Christian faculty will help you to grow in your faith and your music.

With campus so close to downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, students can take advantage of opportunities in Minnesota’s thriving music industries.

All Northwestern music degrees hold accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Music, the principal U.S. accreditor for higher education in music.

If you enjoy vocal or instrumental music, have a knack for songwriting, and are interested in a career in music, this might be the right degree for you.

What will I learn?

You will learn to analyze, think critically, and compose sheet music.

Northwestern built the foundation for how I see the world, education, and children to effectively teach.
Andrea Orem, née Peterson, 2016 Double Major: Bachelor of Music in Education & Composition, K–5 Elementary Music Specialist

Careers in music composition

There are a variety of career and academic pathways that begin with a degree in music composition.

What types of work are related to this degree?

  • Freelance composer or arranger
  • Church worship leader
  • Behind the scenes: audio, recording, production
  • Concert promotion
  • Concert hall management or administration
  • Music program coordination
  • Music critic
  • Artist representation
  • Arts administration or management
  • Promotion/media relations
  • Music librarian
  • Commercial/advertising jingle writing

Who employs people with this degree?

  • Music industry
  • Private and community music centers (teaching)
  • Churches, orchestras, choral groups
  • Opera and theatre companies
  • Military ensembles
  • Recording studios
  • Dance companies and teaching studios
  • Colleges and universities (may require graduate degree)
  • Parks and recreation programs
  • Nursing homes and hospitals
  • Concert venues and performance halls
  • Music-related publishers
  • Entertainment law firms and businesses
  • Music shops/retailers
View Career Guide

of seniors view the faculty as available and accessible


composition makes a terrific double major for music education students


of seniors feel prepared to integrate their faith with their academic field

Preparing for a Career

College graduation rates continue to increase each year making competition for jobs even greater. Set yourself apart from the crowd with the following strategies for getting started, networking, and gaining experience.

Strategies for success:

  • As an undergraduate, gain as much experience as possible, paid or unpaid, through college and local organizations. Seek internships or volunteer positions with relevant organizations. Look for experiences where you can compose or arrange music.
  • Confidence, personality, a positive attitude, and a love of music are important to success in many areas of music. Learn basic tools of self-promotion, but realize that few musicians earn a living solely through music.
  • Some jobs may require you to join unions or guilds. Research the industry to learn which ones are appropriate.
  • Many musicians travel frequently and must be flexible regarding their work schedules.
  • Majoring in music provides students with a sense of aesthetics and an understanding of human expression valuable to many employers.
  • Develop competencies in business management, computers, marketing, or other areas to broaden range of employment possibilities.
  • Learn to articulate the transferrable skills provided by your liberal arts education: organization, written and oral communication, problem solving, leadership. It is also very important that you learn to improvise.

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