Musician: Summary of Music Career Education Programs

Apr 23, 2021

Musicians must have musical talent and the ability to perform at a professional level on an instrument. They may learn through music lessons or performing with a church band and be successful with a group or as a solo artist, or they may complete years of formal training to prepare for their career.

Essential Information

Musicians may begin their training in childhood and continue to develop their craft through certificate, associate's, bachelor's, and master's programs. Musicians may specialize in a variety of fields, including performance, music theory, music therapy, recording and production, musical theater, instrument repair, education, and composition.

Career Musician or Singer Music Teacher Musical Director or Composer
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements On-the-job training Internship Work experience in similar field
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 1% 4% (for all kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school teachers) 2%
Median Annual Salary (2020)* $31.40/ hour $60,940 (for all elementary school teachers)
$60,810 (for all middle school teachers)
$62,870 (for all high school teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Career options for people trained in music can include opportunities in performance, instruction, composition, or production. These careers allow musicians to share their musical abilities with others.

Musician or Singer

Musicians and singers perform in live performance settings or on recordings. They may work in theaters, concert arenas, or studios. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts minimal or no change in job growth in this field between 2019 and 2029. In 2021, reported that the average wage of musicians and singers was $41,444 per year.

Music Teacher

Music teachers may work in elementary, middle, or high schools providing basic instruction in music to K-12 students. Music teachers must have a bachelor's degree in music education. The BLS doesn't include statistics for music teachers specifically but predicted that employment of all kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school teachers would increase as fast as average from 2019 and 2029. As of May 2020, the average salary of all elementary school teachers was $65,420, and the average salary of middle school teachers was $64,990. All high school teachers earned an average of $67,340.

Musical Director or Composer

Musical directors conduct music for groups such as orchestras, bands, or choirs during live group performances. Composers create arrangements, orchestrations, and musical pieces for the purpose of recording, production, or performance. Music directors and composers are expected to see a 2% job growth between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their average salary as of May 2020 was $65,720.

Education and Training

Musicians usually develop their talents from training at an early age. Young musicians may be members of church or school bands, choirs, or community ensembles, as well as start their own bands. Degree programs are available at all levels and can help musicians develop and improve their musical skills, broaden their scope of musical knowledge, learn contemporary techniques, or prepare for other music careers.

Certificate Programs

Many certificate programs last for less than a year and focus on targeted goals in music performance, production, or promotion areas. Coursework may include recording technologies, MIDI keyboard environments, or song writing. Some courses may be audited or taken without credit requirements.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs, like the Associate of Arts in Performing Arts with a concentration in music and the Associate of Fine Arts in Music, help students develop critical thinking and writing skills to accompany their passion for music. These 2-year programs also offer general education and elective courses in the humanities, natural sciences, and mathematics. Some courses at this level are transferable to bachelor's degree programs.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Programs like the Bachelor of Music with a concentration in music education can prepare students for teaching music in public or private schools. Bachelor's degree programs with a concentration in performance allow concentration on vocal or instrumental music for professional careers.

In addition to courses in music theory and performance, bachelor's degree program in music may include music history courses, such as baroque, classical, romantic, and modern styles, as well as contemporary music technology courses with focuses in electronic music and music software. Along with teaching music and orchestra, church, or commercial performance, other areas of specialty include:

  • Music therapy
  • Music recording, production, and engineering
  • Conducting, composing, and arranging
  • Musical theater
  • Radio, television, and motion picture industries
  • Music publishing, retail, marketing, and promoting
  • Music instrument repair
  • Arts administration and music program directing
  • Music librarianship
  • Music journalism and criticism
  • Management and pre-law

Graduate Programs

Professional musicians or music teachers can pursue doctoral and master's degree programs, such as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, or Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education, for specialized training in music or music education. These programs typically allow students to study advanced theory and research topics in music. Other advanced topics covered in graduate programs include:

  • Composition
  • Conducting
  • Electronic music
  • Jazz studies
  • Music education
  • Music performance
  • Musicology and ethnomusicology
  • Music theory
  • Piano pedagogy

Musicians often begin learning music theory and how to play an instrument at a young age. Students interested in developing their musical skills can pursue formal training for roughly one year and earn a certificate, or they can complete an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree.

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