Careers in Music Education

May 21, 2018

While the term 'music education' may invoke an image of a public school music teacher, that is just one of the career options available in the music education field. This article examines some other careers that involve teaching music to students.

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Music Education Career Options

A career in music education allows individuals to combine their knowledge of and passion for music with their desire to share this expertise and enthusiasm with others. While being a music teacher in a private or public school setting is definitely one career option, this article is going to examine that as well as some other career options that can be found in the music education field.

Job Title Median Annual Salary* Job Growth (2016 - 2026)*
Conductor $50,590 (for music directors and composers) 6% (for music directors and composers)
Music Librarian $58,520 (for librarians) 9% (for librarians)
Private Music Instructor $34,857** (for tutors) 10% (for teachers and instructors, all other)
Music Professor $66,930 (for art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary) 12% (for art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary)
Marching Band Director $50,590 (for music directors and composers) 6% (for music directors and composers)
Music Teacher $57,160 (for elementary school teachers, except special education); $57,720 (for middle school teachers, except special education); $59,170 (for secondary school teachers, except special and career/technical education) 7% (for kindergarten and elementary school teachers); 8% (for middle school teachers and for high school teachers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS - May 2017); **PayScale .com (May 2018)

Information on Music Education Careers


One career in the music education field is that of a conductor, who may also be known as a music director. A conductor manages the performance of a variety of musical groups, both vocal and instrumental, including church choirs, gospel choirs, and orchestras. Some job responsibilities of a conductor include selecting the musicians, selecting the music, conducting rehearsals, and working with and coaching the musicians in preparation for performances, as well as performing various administrative duties. A bachelor's degree in a music-related field is typically required, and prior teaching experience is beneficial.

Music Librarian

Music librarians perform many of the same functions as librarians; however, their focus is specifically music-based. As such, music librarians have numerous responsibilities, including maintaining and cataloging a library's music collection as well as assisting patrons with their music-related inquiries and research. Music librarians can find employment not only in local public libraries, but also within university libraries, museums and even the Library of Congress. Becoming a music librarian requires not only a master's degree in library science, which is necessary to be a librarian, but also a bachelor's or master's degree in music history or another music-related major. There are even universities that offer dual degree librarianship and music programs to aid individuals in meeting these requirements and pursuing this career choice.

Private Music Instructor

If you are musically talented, whether that talent is having an excellent singing voice or a mastery at playing one or more musical instruments, and you want to pass that skill on to others in a one-on-one environment, you may want to consider becoming a private music instructor. While pursuing a career as a private music instructor obviously requires an individual to have musical talent, the ability to effectively teach those musical skills to others is also necessary. As a private music instructor, you have the freedom to work from home and to choose your own working hours and, unlike most musical education careers, there are no formal education requirements, although your proven mastery will be necessary to obtain clients.

Music Professor

Music professors teach at the university level, typically specializing in one area such as vocal instruction, percussion instruction, music theory, music literature, and songwriting, to name a few. In addition to performing typical professor functions such as preparing lesson plans, presenting class lectures, and holding office hours, music professors may also be actively involved in the university's theater productions. They may provide musical assistance such as auditioning singers and band/orchestra members, as well as providing guidance and instruction in rehearsals. A Ph.D. in music, typically music education, is required by most universities, and prior teaching experience (as a teaching assistant in graduate school or as a music teacher in a secondary school setting) is also a common requirement.

Marching Band Director

Marching band directors can be found working in high schools and colleges, directing, as the job title implies, marching bands. Marching band directors must have not only a mastery of music, but they must also be excellent teachers, strong leaders and have a strong artistic ability, since they design the marches and formations that the band performs. Some of the many marching band director job duties are to select the music, create the drills, and work with all band members, on both their music and marching, in numerous rehearsals. For working at the high school level, a minimum of a bachelor's degree in music education is required, as well as any necessary state teaching certifications. For marching band director positions at the university level, a minimum of a master's degree in music education is necessary, while some universities will require a Ph.D.

Music Teacher

As previously mentioned, the career choice that probably comes to mind when hearing the term 'music education' is that of an actual music teacher. Music teachers are employed at all grade levels within both public and private schools, and they have a variety of teaching responsibilities at each level. For example, within an elementary school environment, music teachers may be responsible for introducing students to music, helping them to understand rhythm by clapping to beats within a song, as well as introducing them to different types of music and instruments.

At the middle school and high school level, music classes are typically more specialized, separating voice teaching from instrument teaching. For example, teachers may be responsible for teaching only chorus classes, only stringed instrument classes, or only percussion instrument classes. Both public and private schools require teachers to have bachelor's degrees, typically with minors or concentrations in education, along with a major in the specific subject desired to be taught. Public schools also require specific teacher certification and licensure.

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