Music Teacher: Employment & Career Info

See what music teachers do. Keep reading to find out more about the education and training required to become one. Find out the career prospects and earning potential to see if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for Music Teachers

Music teachers teach music and music appreciation to students in a wide array of groupings, including preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools as well as colleges. Music teachers can also specialize in an instrument or style of music; jobs are available in teaching jazz, rock, opera, guitar, drums, and any other form or instrument imaginable. Music teachers can find work virtually anywhere in the country, from small towns to large cities and all points in between.

Education Associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate
Job Skills Mastery of music, specialized expertise in an instrument or type of music, patience, teaching skill, empathy
Median Salary $54,890 (elementary school teachers), $55,860 (middle school teachers), $57,200 (high school teachers), $65,340 (post-secondary school music teachers)
Career Outlook 6% growth (elementary, middle and high-school teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Countless programs exist for prospective music teachers. Colleges and universities offer associate's degrees in music education as well as baccalaureate degrees such as a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education or a Bachelor of Science in Music Education. Graduate-level options include a Master of Arts in Music Education, a Master of Music in Music Education, and a Doctorate of Music Arts in Music Education. The time needed to earn each degree varies upon the education level; however, a typical bachelor's degree program will take four to five years depending upon coursework and classroom teaching requirements. Students enrolled in music education programs will have in-depth coursework in music, education, and liberal arts areas.

Skills Required

Music teachers must obviously have skill and mastery of the art, and specializing in a type of music or an instrument also helps. Music teachers must also be skilled in working with students of different levels in age, experience, and talent. Patience, empathy, a positive outlook, and a sense of humor are also strengths for anyone pursuing a career in teaching music.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth among elementary, middle, and high school teachers is estimated to be 6% between 2014 and 2024. Music teachers are a small percentage of this larger pool, and they may be more vulnerable to budget cuts than teachers of other subjects. However, music teachers have more opportunities and flexibility than most teachers to give private lessons instead of, or in addition to, teaching in a school.

Teachers' pay can vary by the academic level taught. According to the BLS, elementary school teachers earned a median salary of $54,890 in 2015, while middle school teachers earned $55,860, and high school teachers earned $57,200. The BLS reported that post-secondary school art, drama and music teachers earned median pay of $65,340 that same year.

Alternate Career Options


Musicians play musical instruments; it's common for them to play more than one. They may play independently or with a group, such as a band or orchestra. They may play live shows on small stages such as at local bars or restaurants, entertain at weddings or other large events, or provide musical accompaniment to a stage production. Even though there aren't typically any formal education requirements to be a musician, degree programs in music theory and performance are available. Musicians typically have many years of music lessons and practice behind them. The BLS predicts that jobs for musicians will increase 3% from 2014-2024. Because full-time, year-round employment is uncommon for musicians, the BLS reports hourly salary statistics for this occupation; in 2015, the median hourly wage was $24.20.

Music Director

Music directors lead groups of musicians or singers in performing a piece of music together. They may choose the pieces of music to be performed, assign parts, run rehearsals, and provide feedback to musicians; they may also be expected to attend special events and fundraisers. Education requirements vary by career goals; for example, a job as a choir director may be attainable with a bachelor's degree but a job as a symphony orchestra leader may require a master's degree; degree options include music theory and music composition. Music directors usually also have many years of experience playing and performing music, too. The BLS expects that jobs in this field will increase 3% from 2014-2024, and it also reported that music directors earned median pay of $49,820 in 2015.

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