University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

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 master’s 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 student’s program is individually designed in consultation with an adviser, including opportunities for drawing on Berkeley’s 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.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Applicants for the combined MA/PhD or PhD programs are required to specify the concentration they wish to apply: Composition, Ethnomusicology, or Musicology. Applicants are encouraged to name at least two faculty with whom they wish to work as part of their application.

All applicants are required to submit supplemental materials as part of their application to our program. Applicants in Ethnomusicology or Musicology will submit examples of scholarship, and Composition applicants will submit scores and recordings of their compositions as part of their respective applications.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement

Normative to advancement for all concentrations is eight semesters.

Normative Time in Candidacy

Normative time in candidacy for the Composition and Musicology concentrations is four semesters. Normative time in candidacy for the Ethnomusicology concentration is six semesters.

Total Normative Time

Total normative time for the Composition and Musicology concentrations is twelve semesters. Total normative time for the Ethnomusicology concentration is fourteen semesters.

Time to Advancement


Composition Concentration

Students are generally expected to take a minimum of two graduate-level seminars in the department per semester until the MA degree has been completed (end of fourth semester).

MUSIC 157BOrchestration3
MUSIC 156Studies in Musical Analysis3
MUSIC 201AProseminar in Computer Music4
MUSIC 203Seminar in Composition (must be taken every semester until student passes the MA exam)4
MUSIC 290Colloquium (must be taken every semester until the student passes the PhD QE)1
MUSIC 300Professional Preparation for Teaching Assistants in Music2
Ethnomusicology Concentration

Students are expected to take a minimum of one graduate-level seminar in the department each semester until the MA degree has been completed. In addition, they are expected to attend events in the colloquium series and to participate actively in the discussion.

MUSIC 200BIntroduction to Music Scholarship II4
MUSIC 200CIntellectual History of Ethnomusicology4
MUSIC 244AResearch Methods in Ethnomusicology4
MUSIC 249Current Critical Theories of Sound, Music, and Performance4
MUSIC 244BResearch Design and Praxis in Ethnomusicology4
MUSIC 300Professional Preparation for Teaching Assistants in Music2
Two courses from the MUSIC 130 series
MUSIC 601Individual Study for Master's Students1-8
MUSIC 602Individual Study for Doctoral Students1-8
MUSICOLOGY Concentration

Although courses in musicology at the graduate level will constitute the core of any program of study at the MA level, students may supplement those courses with a graduate course in another department that might be relevant to eventual dissertation work, with language courses (graduate or undergraduate), or with undergraduate courses in music that help to meet the proficiencies required for the entrance exam’s various subjects (harmony, counterpoint, sight singing, score reading, and dictation). In general, courses at the graduate level are more appropriate for music graduate students to enroll in than undergraduate courses. It is expected that students take a minimum of two seminars in the department each semester until the MA is completed. Students should take courses with as many professors in the Musicology program as possible. Students are also expected to attend the events in the colloquium series regularly, and to participate as respondents to papers and ask questions.

MUSIC 200BIntroduction to Music Scholarship II4
MUSIC 200CIntellectual History of Ethnomusicology4
Research seminars:
Students entering at MA level: At least five courses numbered between MUSIC 210-220, before entering PhD program
Students entering at PhD level: Four courses numbered between MUSIC 210-220



Contact Information

Department of Music

104 Morrison Hall

Phone: 510-642-2678

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Department Chair

David Milnes

104 Morrison Hall

Head Graduate Advisor

Emily Zazulia

104 Morrison Hall

Phone: 510-642-2678

Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Jeremy Hunt

104 Morrison Hall

Phone: 510-642-8724

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