*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Music Directors and Composers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/music-directors-and-composers.htm (visited March 24, 2022).
A bachelor's degree requires the completion of 120 credits so it depends on whether you already have your associate degree and how many credit hours you take each semester. The average time for an online degree is two years with an Associate's if all your credits are accepted and three to five years without an Associate's. However, if you decide to take your courses as a part-time student (12 hours or less per semester), it can take 6-8 years to graduate. So be sure to talk to you guidance counselor about what classes you should take and when so that you can avoid extra semesters and the price tag that goes with them.
It depends on your school of choice and whether you qualify for student aid. Tuition fluctuates greatly from school to school, so make a chart of costs but don't exclude a school just because it appears to be out of your budget. Grants and scholarships can make a big difference in your total costs.
As to the general costs associated with a bachelor’s degree, the College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series reported that students spent an average of $9,970 on tuition to attend in-state public institutions in 2017-18. Students in private institutions spent an average of $35,260 during the 2017-18 school year. These number only cover tuition; the actual out-of-pocket cost of attending a college or university can be much higher or lower after fees, grants and scholarships, financial aid, room and board, and any lab fees.
Besides your core classes and instrument of choice you'll need to take courses on Music Theory, Composition, Conducting, Music History, Music Literature, and classes according to your degree or minor such as Education or Business courses.
A Music in Theory degree in Liberal Arts is great if you want to perform but not if you plan to teach. Likewise, if your goal is to work on the technological or business end of the music industry, you need to verify the corresponding courses are available before you enroll. Just because an institution has a music program does not mean that they have the classes you will need for any/every career in the Music in Theory industry.
Look at the school's student statistic or student numbers page to see the graduation percentages. If you can't easily find the rate of graduation it may be a red flag, because most schools brag about their rates. You can also do an online search or contact the admissions office to verify the graduation periods and rates. If a significantly low ratio of students are graduating, or graduating on time, it may indicate that there are issues within the school itself or your program of choice that will make it difficult for you to graduate in a timely manner as well.
Accreditation is vital because it not only shows you attended a quality school but is also tied to grants and scholarships. There are regional accrediting agencies covering the entire United States and most programs have agencies that accredit them specifically. The National Association of Schools of Music accredits music programs specifically, making sure a Music in Theory education is quality and standardized when possible. Make sure your school of choice is accredited by either a regional or programmatic agency.
Your degree won't do you much good if you can't find employment after graduation, so pay special attention to the job placement assistance your school of choice offers. Look beyond the post-graduation employment rates posted on the recruitment page and dig a bit deeper to find personal opinions of other students on forums and social media pages.
See if the school offers internships and job fairs for final semester students. Look for interaction with major employers in your field of choice to get a good feel of your chances of employment after graduation. Often major employers cultivate partnerships with colleges so that they can interact with students throughout their education and streamline their employment recruiting process.
Accreditation is a validation of a school's overall performance and let's a prospective student know the school has met the quality criteria set by an independent organization.
Once you've defined your long-term career goals and chosen your degree area you can narrow your list of school choices, and accreditation should be your first priority. Note the type of accreditation each school holds and do a bit of research on each accrediting organization. Make sure it's legitimate, well established, and recognized by professionals in your chosen field. Verify the accreditation meets the standards for scholarships and grants on both the federal and state levels.
By checking the accreditation of a college, you can verify it is a reputable institution and your degree will be valued by future employers. It's also important to note that accreditation will come into play if you choose to earn your graduate degree at a different school because it comes it factors into a school deciding to accept the credits you've already earned for transfer.
Attending a well accredited school can also make a difference in your salary once you've earned your degree, so make sure you research the subject thoroughly before committing to a specific school.