Degree Requirements - Theory - PhD Theory

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Degree Requirements


PhD • Theory


In the five-year Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Theory, students study the principles of music, develop skills in music analysis and scholarly research, and prepare themselves to become college teachers in music theory.


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Division Head, Theory & Composition

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Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Music Theory requires 63 hours of registered coursework, a specialized comprehensive examination, two language proficiency examinations, and a dissertation.

Major Coursework

Major Coursework for the Ph.D. in Music Theory
Hours Course Number Course Title/Description
3 MUS 388M  Topic 1: Foundations of Music Theory 
3 MUS 398T  Pedagogy of Music Theory 
6 MUS 388M 

Topic 4: Current Trends in Music Theory 
Topic 5: Schenker’s Theory of Tonal Music 

3 MUS 385  Topic 2: History of Music Theory since 1750 
21   Graduate seminars on specific topics, six in music theory and one in musicology 

Additional courses chosen from the following: 

MUS 388M, Topic 3: Contemporary Styles & Techniques 
MUS 388S: Graduate Seminar in Theory 
MUS 385, Topic 1: History of Music Theory to 1750 
MUS 380: Advanced Studies in the History & Culture of Music 
MUS 381J: Foundations of Musicology/Ethnomusicology 
MUS 385/385J: Graduate Seminar in Musicology 
Elective courses approved by the music theory faculty 
Independent study/directed reading 

6 MUS 399R/W  Dissertation 

Language Proficiency Examinations 

Music theory students are required to pass two proficiency examinations in languages other than English. The selected languages should relate as closely as possible to the topic of the student’s research. With the approval of the theory faculty, successful completion of a course in reading comprehension offered by a language department at the University of Texas may be substituted for the language examination. Where appropriate to the student’s research and with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee in Music, the student may substitute appropriate coursework in computer programming, statistics, or similar skills course for one language requirement. Additional language study may be necessary, depending on the focus of the student’s research. 

The first language requirement should ideally be fulfilled by the end of the second semester in residence. The second language requirement must be fulfilled before advancement to doctoral candidacy, ideally by the end of the fourth semester in residence. 

Comprehensive Examination 

The Ph.D. specialized comprehensive examination consists of long-form answers to questions chosen for each student by a faculty committee. 




Advising & Registration

For information about course registration, deadlines, adding and dropping courses and other policies, visit the Graduate School Academic & Registration Policies webpage.

Students who wish to take an independent study course need to fill out a Consent Form. Once the faculty member and Graduate Coordinator have approved your request, the bar to register for the course will be lifted.

To be eligible for fellowships, scholarships and assistantships, graduate students are required to be enrolled full-time (at least 9 hours).

All international students are also required to be enrolled full-time during each long semester, regardless of whether they receive funding from the Butler School of Music.

Transferring Coursework

A new doctoral student may petition to substitute up to twelve credits of graduate level coursework completed at another institution for degree requirements at the University of Texas, subject to approval by the Butler School Graduate Studies Committee. This process must be completed during the first semester of enrollment, before the close of the fall advising period.

Courses approved for substitution typically fall into the areas of music history, theory, literature, and pedagogy, as well as chamber music.

Under normal circumstances, transferred coursework should have been completed within the four academic years prior to the start of the doctoral work at UT. The GSC will consider on a case-by-case basis whether coursework completed more than four years prior to the start of doctoral study at the Butler School can count toward the program of study.

Coursework completed for a master's degree at the University of Texas at Austin may be included in the course work for the doctoral degree without a petition form, but is subject to approval by the Graduate Studies Committee chair in Music, the candidate's supervising committee, and the Dean of Graduate Studies.



Graduation Timeline

Semester-by-Semester Overview

Prior to 1st semester

  • Take the diagnostic examinations in music history and music theory.

Semester 1

  • Review degree requirements and milestones agreement form with advisor.
  • For students who completed an M.M. degree before coming to UT Austin, course transfer requests must be submitted in the first semester. If they have not been submitted by at least the advising period for spring classes (i.e. late October), the student’s registration will be barred.

Semester 4 (sometimes 5)

  • Complete all required, formal coursework.

Semester 6

  • Successfully complete comprehensive exams (some students may wait until the 5th or 6th semester).
  • Defend dissertation proposal.

Semester 7

  • Form doctoral committee and advance to candidacy (may take place later if the comprehensive exams are delayed).
  • After an individual’s candidacy is approved, all Ph.D. students must see the Graduate Coordinator to add MUS X99W to their registration.

Semester 9-12

  • Schedule and complete final oral defense. The defense may not take place in the last week of classes. The defense must be officially scheduled with the graduate school using the Request for Final Oral Exam application.
  • After the final defense, students must obtain all committee signatures on the Report of Dissertation document supplied by the graduate school and return it to their office by the deadline listed on their website, along with any required pages.
  • All students must apply to graduate by the deadline.

For a more detailed list of program requirements and timelines, see the Milestones for each Ph.D. degree program.




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