Music Schools: How to Become a Professional Musician

Learn how to become a professional musician. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career as a professional musician.

Should I Become a Professional Musician?

Professional musicians sing and play instruments in front of live audiences; they also record music in studios. While some musicians may perform as solo acts, others could be part of bands, choirs, orchestras or musical groups. In addition to performing, musicians also must rehearse, practice and audition on a regular basis. A certain amount of competitiveness exists among those vying for jobs, given the small number of employment opportunities available. While there are no formal educational requirements, prospective musicians often begin taking music or voice lessons at an early age and may participate in their school's choir, band or orchestra. Musicians can also take their skills to the next level in a post-secondary training program.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree (not necessary)
Degree Field Music
Experience Several years training on a specific instrument or vocals
Key Skills Musical talent, discipline, perseverance
Salary $24.16 (median hourly wage for musicians and singers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Take Lessons

Musicians often begin taking lessons during their youth. Individuals learn to play an instrument or sing by enrolling in lessons with a private teacher or through a school program. Young musicians will often need to practice on a regular basis in order to prepare for recitals.

Success Tip

  • Play in a school band or orchestra. At the junior high and high school level, playing an instrument in a band or orchestra can give you experience and formalize your training.

Step 2: Enroll in a Post-Secondary Program

While prospective musicians can enroll in an associate's degree program in music, the BLS notes that musicians who want to work as classical musicians may need to pursue a bachelor's degree. Students in a bachelor's degree program will be able to focus on a particular type of instrument and begin specializing in a specific genre, such as jazz, opera or classical. In addition to taking classes and participating in musical groups, students may also have an opportunity to take part in a senior recital.

Success Tip

  • Look into a music fellowship. Participating in a music fellowship may provide you with additional training and offer performance opportunities. A fellowship may also help you transition into a professional career.

Step 3: Audition

Whether a musician wants to perform in a jazz band, professional orchestra or for an event, they will often need to audition to demonstrate their musical skills and talents. Musicians may also be expected to have a demo that they can send out to producers or potential employers that will include a sample of their work.

Success Tip

  • Develop contacts in the field. Building relationships with agents and managers may enhance potential employment opportunities. As a musician, you may also collaborate with other musicians, which can create a foundation for collaborative projects in the future.

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