Undergraduate music programs at North American institutions of higher learning typically require music majors to complete successfully a core grouping of theory courses in order to fulfill degree requirements. These courses are considered foundational not only for further study of music theory, but for all areas of music specialization because they provide students with basic analytical and musicianship skills necessary to understand musical organization in the western tradition. Although specific curricular content may vary from one institution to another, the theory core usually includes the study of diatonic and chromatic harmony, form and analysis, aural skills and possibly instruction in keyboard harmony, counterpoint and/or post-tonal analysis. Individual courses vary in credit weight and in design, but the theory core is commonly two years in length at the majority of music schools according to a survey of music theory core curricula conducted by the College Music Society in the year 2000.
Ferenc, A. (2011). Introducing the Learning Portfolio into Music Theory Core Pedagogy. College Music Symposium 51. DOI: 10.18177/sym.2011.51.sr.19. Available as a PDF at https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/40374522.pdf