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Careers in the Music Industry: Job Options and Requirements

Working in the music industry can require a broad range of skills and formal education. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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If music is an important part of your life, think about making it part of your career. A wide variety of options exist, including music lawyer, music therapist, and sound engineering technician. Educational requirements for these jobs range from a high school diploma to a doctoral degree.

Essential Information

Working in the music industry encompasses a variety of skills and education levels. Some positions require only short-term training and work experience, while others require advanced degrees. Professionals in the music industry may work in a variety of contexts, including creating music and sounds for use in entertainment or using music to treat mental illness. Some programs are available online, though preference is typically shown to those who have completed some hands-on training or experience in the field.

Careers Sound Engineering Technician Music Lawyer Music Therapist
Required Education Associate's degree or postsecondary award Juris Doctor Bachelor's degree
Licensing Not required Passing the bar exam Optional certification through the Certification Board of Music Therapists
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% 6% (for all lawyers) 12% (for all recreational therapists)
Median Annual Salary $53,330 (2015)* $115,820 (2015)* $46,000 (2014)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Music Therapy Association

Career Options

Careers in the music industry vary widely depending upon specialization. With little to no formal education, professionals can pursue a career as a sound engineering technician and work with creating and ensuring the highest quality for sounds in entertainment. For those interested in music law, pursuing a career as a music lawyer is an option that requires significant education and passing the bar exam. Music therapy is another option, using music to aid in the recovery process for people with disabilities, mental illnesses, or sensory or neurological programs.

Sound Engineering Technician

Producers and performers use sound engineering technicians to make desired sounds for theater, films, concerts and music recordings. Technicians have a variety of tasks, such as inserting sounds in recordings and films, operating recording equipment and producing sound effects. During live music events and recordings, technicians are responsible for managing sound quality and audio volume. Technicians also synchronize music, dialogue and sound effects with television and movie productions. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that sound engineering technicians earned a median annual salary of $53,330 (www.bls.gov).

Requirements

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for sound engineering technicians. According to the BLS, most technicians complete vocational education programs at technical schools or community colleges. Many schools offer certificates or degrees in audio technology, sound systems technology and electronics technology. Although certification isn't required, credentials, such as those offered by the Society of Broadcast Engineers, demonstrate competence and might lead to advancement.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Jazz
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Music Lawyer

In the music industry, lawyers represent artists in contract disputes and copyright infringement cases. A music lawyer protects an artist's interests by negotiating and drafting contracts with producers, record labels, distributors and managers. Overall, the median annual salary of lawyers (including those in the music industry) in 2015 was $115,820, according to the BLS.

Requirements

Aspiring lawyers must earn a Juris Doctor degree through a law school approved by the American Bar Association. Admittance into law school depends on passing the Law School Admission Test. Although students can choose any undergraduate major, programs in music management, communication, music business and liberal arts fields could benefit future music lawyers. Some law schools offer a variety of entertainment law electives that develop students' understanding of topics in copyright, defamation, privacy and contractual issues. To practice law, graduates must pass their state's bar exam.

Music Therapist

Music therapists help people with developmental disorders, psychiatric illnesses, sensory impairments and neurological problems. They could ask patients to create music that reflects their feelings, re-create music to improve sensory skills, compose lyrics or listen to music for meditation. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) indicated that its members reported earning a median salary of $46,000 in 2014 (www.musictherapy.org).

Requirements

Some states regulate the practice of music therapy. Music therapists, recreational therapists and other mental health professionals who use music in a therapeutic manner could need to obtain licensure through the state. An AMTA-approved bachelor's degree program is a common minimum requirement, though some states might require music therapists to earn a graduate degree. Board certification offered by the Certification Board of Music Therapists might be recommended or required for music therapists to demonstrate their abilities and knowledge in the field.

If you love contracts and details, and are willing to complete a law degree, working as a music lawyer could be the right path for you. If you want to help improve the mental and physical health of others using music, consider a bachelor's degree and certification as a music therapist. And if you just want to create amazing sounds, an associate's degree is enough to get you started as a sound engineering technician.

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