Graduate Study FAQ

Here you will find answers to most of the questions you might have about getting a graduate degree from the Department of Music. Please read it fully. 


What graduate degrees does the Department award?

The Department offers Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Music History and Theory, Ethnomusicology, and Composition. Master of Arts degrees are awarded as part of the doctoral program. The Department does not award degrees in the performance of music.

What is the deadline for applying?

December 15. More information here

Can I apply for a Master of Arts or Doctor of Musical Arts degree?

The University of Chicago offers Masters level study in Music through the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. In this one-year program, students build their own curriculum with graduate-level courses in any humanities department (including Music) and complete a thesis with a University of Chicago faculty advisor.

Can I take courses in other departments?

Yes. The University of Chicago has a long history of encouraging interdisciplinary study at all levels. You will work with the Director of Graduate Studies to determine a course schedule that will meet the requirements of the program and your academic interests.

How long is the Ph.D. program?

The program can be completed in five years, though some students may spend a year abroad doing fieldwork or archival research. For a full description of the program requirements, please consult the Graduate Curriculum

What is a typical course load?

Students complete a total of seventeen or eighteen courses during their first two or three years in the program. Programs of study are worked out in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

How do I set up a visit and make appointments to talk to faculty?

After reviewing information on this website, send an email to with a summary of your academic interests and dates you are available to visit.



When will I take Comprehensive Exams, and what exams are required?

Comprehensive exams are taken at the beginning of the third year of Scholastic Residence. Details of required exams can be found on in the Graduate Curriculum.

What are the language exam requirements?

Students in the History or Ethnomusicology programs must pass three languages; students in Theory, two; and students in Composition, one. Language examinations require the student to translate about 400 words of a passage of medium difficulty from source materials or musicological literature. More information can be found in the language exam section of the Graduate Curriculum.

What Practicum exams will I have to take, and when?

Practicum examinations in basic musicianship skills and advanced musicianship skills are required for all Ph.D. tracks. Composers and theorists must complete six musicianship examinations, including three basic skills and three advanced skills; ethnomusicologists and musicologists must complete four, including two basic skills and two advanced skills. Details of the exams can be found here, and copies of exams from previous years are available for students to reference in the Main Office. Practicum exams must be completed before admission to candidacy.

What if I already have an M.A. degree?

Students who enter the program with an M.A. in Music (or equivalent degree) from a different institution may, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, opt for one of two tracks. Under Track 1, the standard number of required courses will be reduced as outlined in each program description below, and the Comprehensive Examinations will be taken in the summer before the second year. Under Track 2, students will complete the standard two-year curriculum for their area of study and take the Comprehensive Examinations in the summer before their third year. Further information can be found in the Graduate Curriculum


Research and Work Opportunities

What kind of resources does the library offer?

The Music Collection, comprising over 120,000 books, 80,000 scores and 54,000 audio and video recordings, supports Music Department programs in music history, music theory, ethnomusicology, and composition. Its traditional strength has been in books about music history and scholarly editions of music. In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on collecting materials for the study of non-western music and music theory, as well as scores of contemporary music. The 1976 founding of the Chicago Jazz Archive, now part of the Special Collections Research Center, has prompted the development of a strong collection of recordings and books on jazz and blues, as well as popular music. Along with the numerous Finding Aids for the various collections within the Chicago Jazz Archive, a Research Guide is also made available to begin your studies in Chicago-style jazz.

Most of the music collection, including the Recordings Collection, as well as the library's public listening and viewing equipment in Room JRL307, can be found on the Third floor of Regenstein Library, but many rare items are located in the Special Collections Research Center. If you need help finding music in the library, music staff are available weekdays 9am-5pm in the third-floor office cluster.

What kinds of resources are available for research in the city?

The famed Newberry Library, housing a superb collection of manuscripts and early printed books, is located on Chicago's north side. This world-renowned research collection holds 1.5 million published volumes and 5 million manuscripts in the humanities (chiefly in history, literature, music, and philosophy, with special strengths in European, American, and Latin American history and culture). The collection is one of the finest in North America for Medieval and Renaissance music history and theory. There are also many locally affiliated resources that students at Chicago can take advantage of through the University Library, including Northwestern University and many local seminaries. Additionally, Chicago students enjoy privileges at peer institutions around the country.

What kinds of research grants are available for travel or for summer projects?

Both the Department and the Division of Humanities provide resources for conference travel. These funds must be requested in advance from the Chair of the Department and the Dean of Humanities, respectively. In addition, applications are invited each Spring for the Department’s research and study travel grants, which support research projects related to the student’s dissertation.

Are there work opportunities or assistantships available for Graduate students?

In addition to work-study opportunities with the Performance Program and the Library, the Department also hires students for specialized positions such as Program Annotator, Technology Coordinator for classroom equipment, and Early Music Coordinator. Some faculty members also hire research assistants, and there are course assistantships and lectureships available as well. These positions are announced by the Chair.

When can I teach a course?

Our students teach in years 3-5. Applications are invited by the Chair each Spring. In addition, students whose dissertations are well under way may propose to teach an undergraduate course related to their research under the auspices of the Stuart Tave Fellowship, announced in the Winter quarter.


Life at UChicago

Are there opportunities to perform?

The Department of Music's many performance ensembles and programs cover the gamut of historical periods and ensemble types, including instrumental, vocal, Western and non-Western. For specific information explore the Performance Program pages. There are also opportunities for soloists within the various ensembles, on the Tea Time Concert Series and through the Concerto Competition held every other year.

What opportunities are there to hear music?

The Department of Music sponsors more than 100 concerts per year in all styles and genres of music, and most of these concerts are free or request minimal cash donations at the door. The University of Chicago Presents offers several different professional series in Mandel Hall, for which student-priced tickets are available (see The current events calendar is available here. Other departments sponsor concerts and events as well, which you can find on the University calendar. Off campus, the city of Chicago is brimming with performances of all kinds, with many opportunities for free or reduced-price tickets.

Where can I find housing?

UChicagoGRAD maintains an extensive site of housing resources for graduate students. 

What resources are available for international students?

The University of Chicago welcomes international students in all fields across the University. There are many organizations on campus designed to assist international students, including the International House, offering accommodations and many events and programs for international students; the Office of International Affairs, which can assist students with immigration-related issues, and is a good resource for questions about settling into Chicago and the University as an international scholar; and the International Students Association, a student-run group that holds events and offers support.