Difference Between Composer & Conductor

If you're interested in doing something with music that requires talent or skill, think about becoming a composer or conductor. Continue reading for an overview of these careers, including details about what differs between them.

Comparing Composers to Conductors

Conductors and composers are both involved in music, though the former is concerned with its performance and the latter with its creation. Below we'll explore these careers in further detail and view their statistics.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Annual Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Composer Master's degree (for classical composers) $50,110 for music directors and composers 3% for music directors and composers
Conductor (Music Director) Bachelor's or Master's degree $50,110 for music directors and composers 3% for music directors and composers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Composers vs. Conductors

A composer writes and arranges music for orchestras, bands, theatre, television, or film. The compositions can be left entirely up to them, or they may work with a client's specifications. Music directors, also known as conductors, lead musical groups in performance or recording sessions. They make sure every member of the group or orchestra does exactly what they're supposed to do and that everyone works successfully as a whole. A conductor may select a musical piece that a composer has written.


Composers use their artistic minds to make music in a variety of styles. They may create jingles for commercials, scores for movies, or songs for theatrical productions. They may also create songs or arrangements for musicians to use in their recordings. Some work broadly, while others stick to a specific style like jazz or rock. They tailor the composition to the audience. Composers typically promote themselves and get jobs by submitting portfolios.

Job responsibilities of a composer include:

  • Writing original music or rearrange existing music for others to perform
  • Utilizing instruments or software to help them compose
  • Teaching in private or school settings
  • Meeting with clients to discuss what is wanted
  • Studying or listening to existing compositions for inspiration


Conductors, or music directors, choose music to be performed and guide the people performing it. They may direct orchestras, church choirs, school bands, or theater groups. Conductors often engage in exhaustive rehearsals, preparing each musician in the group for the final presentation. They make sure the sound, timing, rhythm, and volume is satisfactory. Concert halls, ballrooms, recording studios, and auditoriums are among the various locations where a conductor might work.

Job responsibilities of a conductor include:

  • Directing rehearsals and performances
  • Traveling to the place of performance
  • Selecting soloists and guest performers
  • Practicing their conducting techniques
  • Meeting with sponsors

Related Careers

Someone interested in composing may want to be a lyricist, who strictly writes words to go with music. Becoming a musician is another career option for potential conductors, in which one plays instead of directs.

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