Majoring in Music Education: Part 1

Exams, Upper-Divisionals, and More

Majoring in music education can feel like a balancing act. You have a full load of music and education courses, and you must satisfy the requirements for both areas. You already need to stay an extra semester because of student teaching. If you’re not careful, it could take five years or more before you can graduate with a teaching certification. Here are all the factors you need to know about how to graduate on time while maintaining your scholarships.

Education Certifications and Tests

Generally, you will earn teaching certification for the state in which your school is located. This will require student teaching and many tests like the PRAXIS exams or the edTPA. If you want to teach in a different state, you may need to take different exams to be licensed to teach there. For example, only Massachusetts requires MTEL. These requirements may change over time, so be sure to check the state’s department of education website. The University of Kentucky conveniently has links to these pages for every state.

It’s also important to pay attention to exam deadlines. You will often be required to take and pass all your PRAXIS tests before you can student teach. These tests are only offered at certain times in the year, and if you fail, you might have to wait for several weeks to take it again. If you wait until the last minute to take these tests and don’t pass, you’ll have to put off student teaching, which also means waiting to graduate. During your student teaching, you will put together an edTPA portfolio. Start early so you can get a great score and get your teacher certification on time.

Time-Sensitive Music Education Requirements

Piano Proficiency

One of the first milestones as a music education major is piano proficiency. Usually, at the end of your piano class or private piano lesson, you will be judged by a single performance rather than a final. This is called a jury. Piano proficiency is a type of jury that you will take instead of your regular jury to prove that you have basic piano skills, and no longer need to enroll in piano classes. When you enroll for your usual piano class or private lesson, you will also sign up for piano proficiency. You will do this your freshman or sophomore year. If you don’t pass, you’ll retake it every semester until you do pass. This means taking extra piano classes that could potentially keep you from graduating on time.


If you glance through the music section of a school’s undergraduate catalog, you will see "upper-division" several times. Upper-division classes are taken after you have completed lower level music classes, general education classes, your core academic skills (if you got a low score on your ACT/SAT), and piano proficiency.

In addition to these requirements, you will also need to prove that you have the skills to take upper-division classes. Depending on the school, this could be in the form of an application, interview, or jury. Passing this is important so you can take all the required upper-division courses you need to graduate on time.

Coming Soon

In our next post, we’ll discuss how to plan your classes and strategies to reduce your credit hours.

Keep Practicing,

Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO of