For believers, Sunday worship is considered a celebration with God and His people. This jubilation would not be possible without church musicians.

Programs for earning a degree as Doctor of Church Music (D.C.M.), who plays a key role in such religious gatherings, may not have a big presence online. However, there are similar programs that adopt a hybrid format. Some schools allow students to take up some coursework online partially. Other courses will need to be completed on campus to ensure supervision from professors.

What does a church musician do?

A church musician plays music in a Christian assembly or a place of worship to promote spiritual expression along with the congregation. With the use of various instruments such as the organ and piano, the church musician is able to lead the choir and draw people closer to prayer. This musical aptitude flows on heavy rhythm or tune that compels participation from attendees.

Most church musicians perform in Christian churches and denominations. Sometimes, they play in concerts and novelty platforms to promote the Christian faith to the greater public. They also initiate fundraising activities for the community or run charities through musical engagements like live performances and Christmas carols. Lastly, they compose original music and sell records from classical to Gospel song genres.

What sort of accreditation should I look for in a school?

Due to the number of Christian sects and denominations, no single authority holds the accreditation for D.C.M. programs. However, there are some credible accrediting bodies to look for. In general, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) along with the Commission on Accrediting provide guidelines for quality education for all Christian programs (including D.C.M.) in the United States and Canada.

The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) also accredits institutions teaching music both in the secular and religious realms.

Since religion is a global entity, international accrediting associations like the Theological Accreditation International (TAI) and International Senate of Theological Accreditation (ISTA) assess D.C.M. programs as independent non-profit organizations.

How do I earn my D.C.M. degree?

If you have decided to pursue a D.C.M. degree, you need to have a master’s diploma in music first. Some schools accept applicants with Master’s in Divinity degree. Be careful in choosing the right graduate school for you because some institutions require a specific religious affiliation before admission. Some can have pretty stringent rules when it comes to “spiritual requirements.”

D.C.M. students are trained to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. The program usually lasts three to four years inclusive of coursework and a capstone project.

The D.C.M. coursework involves training in various musical instruments, particularly the church organ. Professors lecture them with the survey of the liturgical music of the past to the present. They are also exposed to the historical backgrounds and contexts that inspire church musicians of certain ages to compose their songs of worship.

The capstone project is usually an opportunity to present original compositions in an orchestra or any instrumental band of their choice. With this program design, D.C.M. graduates take pride in being educated both in the professional and ecclesiastical sense.

What type of degree do I need to pursue research or educate others in Church Music?

Typically, a doctorate level degree in music would qualify a musician or artist to teach in a D.C.M. school. These degrees vary from D.C.M., Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), Doctor of Sacred Music (DSM), and various Ph.D. degrees in Music, Musicology or Music Theory.

Quite a number of musician-scientists who specialize in church music continue to publish scholarly articles in many academic journals highlighting the historical, social, and cultural relevance of religious music. Church musicians educate the community in their unique way simply by producing songs and performing them in concerts, records, and Sunday services.

How do I earn a transitional or bridge D.C.M. degree?

So far, no graduate program offers an entirely online format for graduate students. However, some institutions provide a hybrid educational format wherein you can take half of the subjects online while the other half on campus. Check their program thoroughly. It might not be the exact “D.C.M.” degree, but it can be a similar doctorate-level degree in sacred music.

What kind of career and salary can I expect with my D.C.M. degree?

Earning a D.C.M. will allow you to take on musical direction roles and earn about $26.96 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), music directors in the US earn an annual median salary of at least $50,590.

Music professors in universities get a stable pay of $72,660 per year.

For those D.C.M. degree holders directly serving in a church setting, earnings depend on the size and tithe revenue from the congregations. It could be dishearteningly low or ridiculously high, depending on the venue’s population, location, and church attendance.

Do I need a license to be a church musician?

No, you don’t need a license to perform songs of worship. However, there some companies that regulate Christians worship songs, such as Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). If you are playing a song outside of the public domain list, you might need to pay a CCLI license.

What schools offer Doctor of Church Music degrees?

Most institutions that offer a D.C.M. degree are contracted in California. Leading this list is Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA whose program has two concentrations: Organ and Choral Music.

Two institutions located in Los Angeles, CA are affiliated directly with religious organizations. The World Mission University only accepts Born Again Christians with a deep spiritual background. The  University of California in America is aligned with the Presbyterian Church. Both universities have theology subjects heavily loaded on their curriculum.

Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka, IN does not offer a “D.C.M” degree. However, they award the “Doctor of Sacred Music (D.S.M.)” with some units offered online.

Music cannot be divorced in any religious activity. Aside from ministers, church musicians also play an essential role in propagating the faith. With the right education in both music and theology, it is said that one’s Christian life will always be “properly tuned.”