Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Musical Arts

Oct 07, 2019

Musical arts degree programs may help prepare individuals for a music-oriented career. Continue reading for an overview of the potential majors as well as employment outlook and salary statistics related to some career options for graduates.

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Formal training in musical arts can be an asset for those pursuing a career as a musician, music director, or arranger. Music directors are typically required to have a bachelor's degree in music theory, music composition or conducting. The specific training recommendations for musicians may vary, depending on the type of music they play.

Essential Information

A degree program in musical arts not only includes technical classes such as music composition and theory, but also develops students' appreciation and love for their art. Musicians, music directors and arrangers are some possible career outcomes for graduates. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently have data specifically for arrangers, but it does predict the employment outlook and salaries for musicians and music directors.

Career Titles Musicians Music Directors
Education Requirements Variable; a bachelor's degree or higher in fine arts, music theory or performance Variable; a bachelor's or master's degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 0% 1%
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $28.15 hourly $49,630 ($23.86 hourly)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Graduates of a musical arts degree program may pursue several careers. These include musician, singer, music director and arranger.


Musicians may specialize in one form or style of music, such as country, rock or classical music. Classical musicians may be employed by orchestras or other ensembles, while rock or pop musicians generally depend on the earnings from live performances or the sales of recordings. The lifestyle of the musician is often insecure, and many musicians work unrelated jobs in order to support themselves. However, some musicians, such as those employed by orchestras, may be able to support themselves directly with the earnings from their musical careers. Musicians' earnings vary widely, but the BLS reports that the median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $28.15 in 2018. Employment is expected to expand at a rate of 0 percent between 2018 and 2028.

Music Director

Music directors, also known as conductors, lead instrumental groups such as symphony orchestras and large bands during performances and rehearsals. They may also be responsible for auditioning and selecting band members and for choosing the pieces to be performed in any given season or performance. Directors must know the entire score for each piece of music performed, instruct players on their performances, conduct rehearsals and signal each performer or section during performances. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for music directors and composers was $49,630 in 2018. A 1 percent growth rate is predicted between 2018 and 2028.


Arrangers work with conductors to adapt and interpret musical pieces for an individual performance or group of musicians. They transcribe and alter such elements as tempo, development and dynamics to fit a score's ultimate texture and emotional effect to the desires of the conductor. Some arrangers are also conductors, while others work solely as arrangers, often with the same company, orchestra or religious organization.

Musical Arts Degree Programs

A musical arts degree or certificate program may help individuals develop their skills in their chosen specialty, while broadening their knowledge of other instruments and music styles. Coursework may include music reading, composition, music history and music theory.

Music directors and musicians can expect to see little or no change in job growth from 2018 to 2028. Certifications or degrees in music theory or music composition may help those pursuing a career in the musical arts secure employment.

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