Music Critic: Career Information and Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a music critic. Get a quick overview of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and related skills to find out if this is the career for you.

It may be possible to build a following as a music critic through online reviewing without any specific education, although employment in this field typically requires a bachelor's degree, and most music critics have a relevant master's degree. Many music critics write on a freelance or part-time basis, providing articles to multiple publications.

Essential Information

Music critics combine music studies with journalism. They may write for a variety of print and online publications covering specialized genres or broad ranges of music. A bachelor's degree in journalism or in a music-related field, such as music theory or musical performance, is considered the minimum education for a job as a music critic; however, many critics have earned a master's degree. Writers with a love for music and in-depth knowledge of music artistry may want to explore this path.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for all writers and authors
Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 for all writers and authors

Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Music Critic Career Information

Professional music critics write for local daily newspapers, magazines, online publications and other media outlets. While some hold full-time positions, many music critics work part-time or on a freelance basis. On average, music critics write ten or more critiques per month, with 350-750 words per article. These numbers vary depending on the needs of the particular publication for which the critic is writing. The music critic's goal is to describe the purpose and feeling of a particular piece of music as well as a technical breakdown of the composition.

Aspiring music critics can pursue several concentrations within this profession. Some music critics focus on classical music and opera, while others limit themselves to film scores. There are also pop, rock and rap music critics. Many music critics, regardless of genre, can relate to the musicians they write about; they themselves are often musicians and/or composers.

Classical music critics often write about historical composers, while critics of other genres write about contemporary compositions. Both types of critics devote most of their writing to local performances and concerts.

Music Critic Educational Requirements

According to a 2004 study performed by the Music Critics Association of North America, most professional classical music critics are 45 years old or older and have been writing about music for publication for 20 years or more. Many of them have supplemented their incomes by writing different types of articles for publication. A background in journalism is common; music critics might also have a background in music performance, theory or history. A majority of professional music critics have earned master's degrees.

With the proliferation of online music critiques, it's possible for amateur writers to gain a following without any particular educational background. Writing skills and an engaging writing style have been enough to increase a would-be music critic's employability. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for employment as a writer (www.bls.gov).

Music critics work for newspapers, magazines or online publications, and some specialize in areas such as classical music or film scores. This field typically requires at least a bachelor's degree, with studies in journalism and music. Job growth for all writers and authors, including music critics, is expected to be slower than average through the year 2024.


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