Jobs in Classical Music: Career Options and Requirements

Oct 04, 2019

A career in classical music requires no formal education, though postsecondary coursework in music may be beneficial for prospective artists. Learn about the training, education and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall (or any other performing hall, for that matter)? Practice, practice, practice - and strongly consider earning a degree in music composition, theory, or performance while you're at it. If classical music is your love, you can express it by studying to become a singer, a musician, or a composer.

Essential Information

Students who have an ear for music might choose to pursue a career in the realm of classical music. While no particular degree is required to become a professional musician, many aspiring musicians choose to complete postsecondary studies in music to receive specialized training. Some of the options for musicians are classical singer, musician or composer.

Career Singers and Musicians Music Directors and Composers
Required Education Postsecondary institutions offer degree programs in classical music Bachelor's degree (strongly recommended but not required)
Other Requirements Classical singers must practice and audition often in order to have a competitive advantage; many teach private lessons to supplement their income when they are in between paid gigs Composers should have a strong grasp of music composition and theory
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 0% 1%
Median Salary $43,000 (2019)** $49,630 (2018)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics; **

Classical Singer

As with all types of singers, classical singers interpret the combination of music and text through their performance. They might need to perform as characters while singing, such as in an opera. With experience and training, a classical singer might specialize in a particular vocal range or a certain kind of music.


There is no specific academic requirement to become a professional classical singer. Singers studying at the postsecondary level can expect to take courses in music theory, aural skill-building and diction in various languages. They might also take classes or voice lessons in specific singing styles. Similar to all students of music, singers need to practice constantly, might need to audition frequently and could need to learn how to handle rejection. To become successful, those pursuing a career in live performance should have a strong stage presence.

Classical Musician

A professional classical musician either performs solo or in a group. For example, they could perform in a symphony orchestra, a small chamber orchestra or a group that features only a few musical instruments. He or she might be proficient in more than one instrument, which can broaden chances for employment. Examples of types of instruments include woodwinds, brass and strings.


While no specific academic background is required to become a classical musician, students receive valuable career training through postsecondary degree programs in music. Musicians might be able to specialize in classical music performance in a bachelor's degree program. In addition to participating in solo and ensemble performances, students take classes in music theory, ear training, sight reading and technology in music. Students who wish to gain further training or teach at the university level can pursue a related master's or doctoral degree.

Musicians sometimes need to travel and tour frequently, and they might face inconsistent employment. Some might choose to teach private lessons or hold another job to supplement their performance income.

Classical Composer

Classical composers create original music, sometimes using computer software to transcribe their projects. They might complement their composition work by performing, teaching or conducting. While they can work with symphonies, art boards or theater organizations, some composers might also find work as music critics or composers for television and film.


Composers often have a strong background in music theory, either through a degree program or advanced training in music. In a postsecondary degree program, they could study composition with a focus on a particular type of performance, such as voice, woodwinds or brass. They might take classes in composition, musical analysis and aural training.

Employment Outlook

According to 2018-2028 projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, little to no growth in employment was predicted for musicians and singers, and a 1% increase in growth was predicted for music directors and composers. As of September 2019, reports a median salary of $43,000 for musicians and singers. In 2018, the BLS reported a median salary of $49,630 for music directors and composers.

Whether you want to sing, play an instrument, or compose new music, it's a very good idea to earn a bachelor's degree in your area of classical music. To expand their employment options, singers learn various vocal styles and languages, musicians play multiple instruments, and composers work in film and theater as well as with orchestras. Teaching is often undertaken by classical musicians in order to increase their earning potential.

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