Music Education

Master of Arts in Teaching


The MAT Music program is an accelerated 13-month course of study that prepares students to teach music in California’s K-12 public schools. The program admits up to twenty students per session.

In the USC Thornton Master of Arts in Teaching Music (MAT) program, the Thornton School of Music and the Rossier School of Education have developed an intensive plan that prepares outstanding musicians to become exceptional music educators through a 13-month, 39-unit program. The MAT degree leads to both a Master’s degree and a California single subject certification to teach music in public schools, pre K-12.

The MAT program offers a hands-on approach to learning the art of music education. Students are immersed in the public school teaching experience, combining peer-to-peer learning with instruction from outstanding music teachers. They spend the first summer taking core education and music classes to prepare them for teaching. In the fall and spring semesters, students focus on their chosen area of emphasis, either instrumental or choral/general methods, and teach in schools. In the spring and second summer, students continue in their coursework and fulfill a full-time student teaching requirement.

Distinctive Features

  • Students earn both a Master’s degree and teaching credential in 13 months
  • Students can choose between two tracks: Instrumental and Choral/General
  • Graduates will be in high demand and can enter the salary scale at a higher level in most school districts


Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree in music (BA, BMus) from a NASM-accredited institution and the successful completion of an interview with the music education faculty. Accepted students enter the program in mid-May. Financial aid and scholarships are available. There are no teaching assistantships in the program.

Current USC undergraduate music majors may enroll early in the program prior to graduation in either their junior or senior year.

Prior to admission, students must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), which is required of all public school teachers. Students must also take a three-part test called the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) in Music in order to fulfill the State of California’s teaching credential requirements. To date, all MAT Music students have passed all three portions of this exam. MAT music students must pass the test before beginning student teaching, so the earlier students take it (even before they apply!) the better.

Frequently asked questions
For further questions, please contact Dr. John Whitener at

More information about the CBEST can be found here:

More information about the CSET in Music can be found here: