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 during the spring semester. You must be admitted to both Northwestern and the Department of Music & Theatre to major in music. Please refer to the Music Admissions & Scholarships for audition requirements and dates.

Music composition may be the right degree for you if you

  • enjoy vocal or instrumental music
  • have a knack for songwriting
  • are interested in a career in music

Why study music composition at Northwestern?

In small classes, learn from credentialed music faculty, seasoned performers, sought-after conductors, and acclaimed composers who are dedicated to your musical excellence.

You can perform at regional, national, and international tours while building your education. 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.

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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

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.
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

What will I learn?

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

Still have questions about this program or how to apply?

Our team is ready with answers!

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Professors at Northwestern are focused on their students first. Our faculty include experts in their respective fields who want to help you grow in your faith while you earn your degree.

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