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Inspiring Examples of Music Careers Without a Degree

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Music is a universal language that has the power to connect people from all over the world.

Music is a creative art. It's a form of expression that knows no boundaries. Music transcends cultures, shapes communities, and even brings entire countries together (think anthems!).

If you ever wondered if you can pursue a career as a music artist without a degree (formal), you'll be surprised at what you can achieve (and there are examples to inspire you as well).

Note: Some career tracks in the music industry might require advanced knowledge, skills, and maybe formal degree requirements. But not all of the world of music does.

Whether you are into Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, or Classical Music; there's something for everyone.

While many of us know this and have taken up music as a hobby in our free time, not everyone knows that music can be an excellent career path without a college education.

In fact, be it in the music industry or elsewhere, several music celebrities never had a formal college education such as popular names you know: Ellen Degeneres, Anna Wintour, Russell Simmons, Ted Turner, Steve Jobs, and many others.

But, let's stick to the music industry for now.

In this blog post, we will explore some examples of successful musicians who did not go to school in order to pursue their music careers.

We hope these examples inspire you on your journey and help you find success with your musical aspirations.

Get Inspired: Music Artists Without Formal Degrees

There are several hundreds of examples of individual music artists, music coaches, music specialists, and several others who made it big in the music industry without a formal education.

Want some inspiration for a music career without a degree? Here are some of them:

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran a singer with top songs dominating the charts with "Shape of you", "Thinking out loud", and more is a popular name.

But did you know that Ed Sheeran never had a college degree, at least not during the journey to his success?

Ed Sheeran was born on February 17, 1991. As a teen, he played guitar in the school's punk band for which he wrote songs, and had an early interest in music production as well.

He then went to college at Suffolk University provided his time between studying and playing gigs with other musicians around Boston while working on new songs of his own.

It wasn't until 2015 when he got himself an honorary doctorate from the University Campus of Suffolk.

Sara Bareilles

Musician and songwriter Sara Bareilles was born on December 27, 1980, in Eureka, California. She began playing piano at the age of four before moving to musical theater as a teenager. At age 18, she transferred out of NYU into her high school's theater program which introduced her to various aspects of the creative process.

Bareilles later attended Boston Conservatory where she got her start as a singer-songwriter, praised by critics for her "strong, emotive vocals."

Bareilles went on to receive an Emmy Award nomination for Music Direction and Composition.

Her first album was released in 2005.

Kanye West

Kanye West is one of the most known celebrities who managed to build a successful music career without obtaining his degree. The popular "college dropout" went reaching for the stars at age 20 with his then music production career.

After dropping out of Chicago State University, Kanye moved to New York and pursued a career in fashion instead.

Later on, he decided to pursue his passion for music and took it as far as becoming an icon within his music business while not having a degree.

Eventually, in 2015, he was rewarded with an honorary degree from the School of Art Institute in Chicago.

Talking Heads

A few popular music artists without a college degree is one thing; what if there's a popular band full of college dropouts or those who never had formal education?

Talking Heads was a rock band that started in 1975 (New York City) and was active until 1991.

It wasn't until later that Rhode Island School of Design rewarded them all (minus David Bryne) with honorary degrees.

Who are some of your most popular and inspiring music artists? Do you think pursuing a career in music has anything to do with college degrees? Tell us in the comments below.

HyperTribe is a collective community of music artists, entrepreneurs, and music enthusiasts. Learn from our resources, get access to members who’ve pooled their knowledge to help you grow your music career.

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