The 5 Best Online Master of Sacred Music Graduate Schools in 2023

Online Master of Sacred Music - featured image

Performing sacred or liturgical sounds is a way to convey adoration and heartfelt devotion to the Lord. If you love melodies and musical vibrations, and you have a passion for glorifying God, pursuing a Master of Sacred Music degree can help you achieve that dream to the fullest. 

Graduate curricula in this field will allow students to delve into various musical and related courses like piano, voice, composition, music history, and church music administration. If you aced an organ or keyboard proficiency exam, you are a fit for this graduate program as well!

Graduate study in this field also opens doors to brighter career opportunities. The average number of yearly graduates of sacred music master’s programs in the United States is only 123, and the number of schools that offer graduate-level degrees is less than 40.


While the numbers signify that the MSM program is not very popular in the secular world, it means something to students who want to commit their lives to the service of God through psalms and heavenly melodies.

A master’s degree in liturgical music is a discipline that prepares students for employment as a professional in various settings. This graduate curriculum will prepare you mentally, physically, and spiritually to become an effective leader of a praise and worship team. 

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Only a handful of graduate schools offer graduate programs for Sacred Music. But since the need to pick the right school is vital to your professional success, you must carefully evaluate those schools and their degree requirements, whether you are taking the traditional on-campus or distance learning curriculum.

In our desire to give you an idea of good online graduate schools offering the Master of Sacred Music program, we present our best picks that were chosen mainly because of their required courses and these program features:

  • Offered online or partially online (hybrid or blended) to accommodate adult learners and professionals seeking to bolster their credentials by earning a master’s degree,
  • Online or hybrid Master of Sacred Music coursework that features advanced lessons in voice, composition, music history, church music administration, liturgical studies, musical ensembles, and choral conducting so that the graduate can become a competent church musician, choir director, musical director, mentor, or associate professor,
  • Facilitated through a Learning Management System that provides every student easy access to their coursework, as well as other resources relating to music and evangelism at the master’s degree level,
  • Taught by professional musicians, theologians and other leaders in the Sacred Music ministry who hold terminal degrees in the field,
  • Runs a generous Transfer Credit program,
  • Offers financial aid to qualified graduate-level students,
  • Adheres to the ruling academic standards as a regionally accredited institution,
  • Recognized by religious associations that aim to advance the Sacred Music program discipline.

Check out our Methodology page for details on our graduate program selection.

The 5 Best Online Master Degree Programs in Sacred Music

Rider University

Lawrenceville, NJ
Rider University

Sacred Music, MM (Online, Practical Track)

The Sacred Music, Master of Music degree program at Rider University is 100% online. It is designed to fulfill the educational goals of practicing church musicians who cannot attend on-campus programs for good reasons.

Accredited by the NASM or National Association of Schools of Music, Rider University’s online MSM program is interdenominational. It is neither focused nor biased on the beliefs or principles of any single religion. It allows the student to explore new possibilities leading to liturgical excellence and spirituality.

Rider University is a school of theology that intends to develop and hone your ability to lead a spiritual community. The university’s graduates of the master of sacred music program are guaranteed to have strong musical knowledge and ability to perform, including in choral conducting and playing musical instruments.

Did You Know?

More than 90% of Rider University’s full-time faculty are holders of a doctorate or the highest degree in their respective fields.

Liberty University Online

Lynchburg, VA
Liberty University-Online

MA in Worship and Music Online

Liberty University’s School of Theology offers its Master of Arts in Worship and Music program in 100% online format. More than a musical training, it enables students to evaluate their vocal performance, organ performance, and overall musical talents from a biblical perspective.

Students also learn leadership skills for future careers as an evangelical leader or music director.

The Southern Association of Colleges and the Schools Commission on Colleges recognizes the academic programs of Liberty University. 

Did You Know?

Liberty University has proudly been at the forefront of distance learning education since 1985!

Cairn University

Langhorne, PA
Cairn University

Worship & Music M.A. [Online]

The Master of Arts in Worship and Music at Cairn University is designed to equip you with the faith, biblical knowledge, and musical skills to lead evangelical teams through a rigorous study of theology coupled with practical lessons in sound technology.

A Christ-centered university with an outstanding Sacred Music faculty, Cairn University maintains curricula and an instruction style feature the two essential attributes of education: quality and affordability. 

Cairn University complies with the standards of multiple accrediting bodies. 

  • Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • International Accreditation Council for Business Education, and
  • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)
Did You Know?

The State of Pennsylvania has approved Cairn University to be a part of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). It is a nonprofit organization [501(c)(3)] that helps students gain better access to educational opportunities. It commits to promoting efficient and effectively regulated distance education programs.

Alverno College

Milwaukee, WI
Alverno College

Master of Arts in Music and Liturgy (Hybrid)

The Master of Arts in Music and Liturgy at Alverno College is committed to fulfilling the goal of producing graduates that are capable of ministering to a culturally diverse church. 

This graduate program features a 33-credit curriculum that you can complete in 25 months through a blend of on-campus learning and four online courses. It is ideal for adult learners seeking to enhance their musical skills, as well as liturgy and planning competencies and pastoral know-how, to ensure excellent performance in leading and managing a community of believers.

The MA in Music and Liturgy program prefers admission applicants with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education, Theology, or Religious Studies. Students with relevant experience are also encouraged to apply. 

Alverno College is accredited by the following organizations:

  • The Higher Learning Commission
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • Council on Social Work Education
  • National Association of School Psychology
Did You Know?

Almost 70 percent of Alverio’s incoming students are their family’s first members to attend college!

Graduate Theological Foundation

Oklahoma City, OK
Graduate Theological Foundation

Master of Sacred Music (MSM)

The Master of Sacred Music program at Graduate Theological Foundation aims to provide graduate-level education to practicing ministry professionals. It encompasses traditional interdisciplinary studies in liturgy, hymnology, parish music literature, and theology.

Mainly addressing the educational requirement of professionals with higher ministerial goals, GTF’s MSM degree program is aimed at enhancing a student’s level of expertise in music and evangelism. It is primarily intended for persons serving as cantors, choral conducting pastoral musicians, music directors, organ players, pastors, and other church workers. 

GTF students can choose to earn their course credits through online or independent study.

The Graduate Theological Foundation is not accredited by any accrediting agency approved by the Department of Education.

Did You Know?

While not registered in any accrediting agency, the Graduate Theological Foundation is affiliated with Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education and Centro Pro Unione in Rome.

Online Master of Sacred Music - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sacred music?

Sacred music, in its deepest sense, is more than an expression of one’s religion. It is a manifestation of faith especially when it is a part of a liturgical rite. It is created and performed to honor and glorify God.

Is a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music Worth It?

If you are passionate about leading a music ministry, pursuing a master’s in liturgical music will be your best bet. It develops your musical talents and leadership skills and prepares you for a brighter career. 

According to, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in liturgical music earn an average median salary of $49,130 as music director or composer. It could go up to $82,000 annually, depending on the employer and the employee’s educational level. Employees with more advanced education, such as a master’s degree, have the potential to earn more. 

Why is Sacred Music important in liturgy?

Music in liturgy is not only about glorifying God through praise songs and sweet melodies. It is also a way to proclaim the gospel, restore spiritual well-being, strengthen faith in God, and provide hope and spiritual healing. 

What will I learn from a Sacred Music Master’s program?

To answer this question, let’s start from the undergraduate level. By majoring in sacred or church music, you will learn about several types of sounds and instruments used in religious ceremonies, and understand their importance in our conduct of adoring and communicating with God. 

The sacred music master classes provide students with training in several areas such as music theory, voice, composition, choirs, choral conducting, organ, guitar, and piano lessons. It not only develops and reinforces your musical, worshiping, and ministerial abilities. 

It also prepares you for leadership in your church, a teaching career, doctoral studies, or musical director. 

What is the difference between Sacred and Secular Music?

While both involve rhythmic sounds and use similar musical instruments, secular and sacred music are clearly different in essence and form:

  • People use sacred or church music to praise God or convey their thoughts and feelings to Him. Most of its subjects are biblical or taken from the Old or New Testament of the Holy Bible. 
  • Secular music, especially contemporary music, relates to human nature, life, love, work, daily struggles, and everything in between.

Simply put, we use holy music when we praise, thank and give glory to God. We play or sing secular songs to express our human nature, feelings, or stories.

Key Takeaways

  • As you may have already noticed, schools that offer Master of Sacred Music programs in the United States are few. The yearly graduates of the program are barely over a hundred. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no demand for graduates of this degree. 
  • With the growing number of churches and the low number of graduates, there’s a consistent demand for holders of a master’s degree in this field.

Additional Information:

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor