Music teachers (postsecondary level) plan and execute lessons which instruct their pupils in playing an instrument, understanding music theory, and/or exploring music history. Additional responsibilities include organizing school concerts and directing student orchestras and choirs.
Rewarding Aspects of Career
- Working with thousands of students over the course of your career, and helping them become more in touch with their feelings through the ability to play music expressively
- Helping these students navigate social interactions, get along better together, be more focused, more productive, and more organized
- Watching students grow to be successful musically, and in other life pursuits, due to the skills they learn in your classroom
The Inside Scoop
- A typical day as a music teacher starts pretty early, since responsibilities may include conducting early rehearsals or private lessons before other classes start for the day
- It is important to be prepared with a lesson plan for the day, as well as maintain a high level of energy and positivity.
- Each student requires individual attention, from their posture to the way they hold their instrument, how they produce sounds, as well as the personal problems they may be harboring
- However, students must be addressed as a whole too, to ensure all the student musicians blend as an ensemble to produce something musically worthwhile.
- Music teachers have to be a cheerleader and a disciplinarian to remain focused and express your passion for music to, in some cases, a very large number of students.
- Music teachers face the challenge of dealing with many administrators and other teachers, both of whom in some cases may not be very supportive. While trying to promote their program, and get the most resources they can for their students, very often they have to make do with inadequate budgets and rehearsal space.
- On the other hand, very often, music teachers get a lot of freedom and creative leeway in terms of planning and designing a curriculum, especially because no one in the school will know as much about the topic as they do. However, depending on their administration, they may require certain aspects to be included in the syllabus.
- Interpersonal skills/Active communication
- Instructing/Knowledge of different learning strategies
- Organizing and planning
- Musical talent
- Music or sound editing software: E.g. Adobe Systems Adobe Audition, Apple Logic Pro, Sonic Studio
Different Types of Organizations
- Performing arts institutes
- Education (college/high school/middle school)
- Religious/Civic/Professional organizations
- The biggest sacrifice is time spent with family and pursuing other hobbies. Music teachers spend a lot of time at school (including working overtime into evenings and weekends)
- However, many music teachers essentially have the opportunity to blend their passion with their job, and therefore may not see working overtime as a sacrifice.
Current Industry Trends
- Technology is making advances within music education; an example would be smart music, which includes apps that students can use to help them learn to play, while at the same time providing a means of assessment for teachers
- Technology can also play a part in the actual performance of the piece, in terms of computerized sounds, but also notation software which helps students write and arrange music
- Additionally there are different music programmes students can use too, such as tuning apps
- In terms of actual performance, the greatest musical trend is toward high-energy film score types of sounds(especially with ensemble performances)
- There is also more fusion of styles, so no matter what ensemble you may be conducting (wind, string, etc.), students can be directed to playa variety of genres
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
- “Music people” generally have attended since a young age, and continue to attend, a lot of live musical performances, as well as theatrical and art exhibitions
- Music teachers are usually instrumentalists and/or vocalists who have been developing their skills from a young age, and although a music teacher does not have to be proficient in a great number of instruments, it is advisable that they have a very strong foundation in one (usually the piano), and learn to play others well enough that they would be comfortable teaching those additional instruments
- Grade school level: music departments may be particularly susceptible to budget cuts in the future, meaning a potential decrease in hiring of music teachers
- Postsecondary level: positions for music professors are expected to experience ‘faster-than-average’ employment growth in the future due to increasing enrollment in colleges and universities
2026 Projected Employment
Education and Training Needed
- The most important qualification for Music Directors is having musical talent and skills
- Try to study a range of instruments as well as singing. Have familiarity with the main instrument types — strings, woodwind, brass, keyboards, and percussion
- There are different types of Music Directors. Some work in ballet, choirs, with wind symphonies, with opera and theatre, or with orchestras (where they are also called conductors)
- Per Zippia, ~73% of Music Directors serving as Orchestra Conductors have a bachelor's and ~19% have a master’s
- Music Directors serving in K-12 teaching roles may need at least a bachelor’s degree plus teaching license or certification. Teaching at the college level may require a master’s
- Note, Music Directors are not the same as Music Composers. Composers often have no formal educational requirements. Self-employed Music Directors don’t, either!
- Internships are a great way to gain practical experience and have fun
- Certifications can bolster your credentials, if you have sufficient work experience and academic credentials. These include:
- Avid Technology’s Avid Certified User: Media Composer and Avid Certified Professional: Media Composer
- Music professors at the postsecondary level need a master’s degree related to the subject they teach (E.g. music theory, music composition, conducting, etc.)
Things to look for in an university
- This really depends on your focus as a student
- Some high school students who want to pursue a degree in music education happen to be especially fantastic performers, so they would want to go a school with renowned performance ensembles. In that case, they will probably seek to attend a larger university, with primarily performance degree-oriented faculty. This can be a danger because the music education department may not be a focus for that school, and so it may not be the most well-developed.
- Some students just may not be very comfortable in a large school with a highly competitive environment.
- Oftentimes, students in college or university want to play in an ensemble conducted by the best conductors at that institution, but these conductors only want the best performers in their ensemble, which ultimately may give performance majors a natural advantage.
- However, smaller schools may offer more opportunities to gain experience playing in an ensemble, even if it is not with the “big-name” conductors, since there is less competition to get into the ensemble.
- To assess the quality of the faculty, it is helpful to talk to graduates of the institution. Nationally reputable institutions (E.g. Juilliard's) are usually a safe bet, and in some instances, high school music teachers may suggest colleges/universities they think would be a good fit for their student.
- Once you have a clear idea of which institution and program you wish to pursue, it may be a good idea to assess the faculty. For example, find out who your private tutor will be, who your music professor will be, what ensembles you could join, and what other experiences will be provided to you through that institution.
- When applying to schools, it is very important to consider where you are most likely to receive a scholarship from
- Lastly, If in high school, you are aiming to attend a specific university, it is advisable to attend a summer music camp at that university, in order to get familiar with the campus and teachers (it is better to figure this out in high school rather than after application, or even attendance)
Things to do during high school/college
- Enroll in high school concert or marching band
- Ask instructors if you can shadow them or if they can mentor you
- Take private musical lessons and practice daily
- If you can’t afford private lessons, use books, magazines, and video tutorials to help you with self-study
- Learn music theory and how to arrange and compose music
- Listen to film and television musical scores, Broadway musicals, and background music for plays, dances, and other live events
- Get exposure to a wide range of different genres of music and singing
- Volunteer with youth orchestras, church choirs, or other local music groups
- Apply for internships in your area
- Decide what type of role you want to and which environment best suits you. Per BLS, some “Music Directors commonly work in concert halls and recording studios.” Others may travel a lot and work in front of an audience
- If you’re good enough, give private lessons yourself or teach small groups!
- Technology and software to become familiar with include:
- Music Director Pro
- Microsoft Publisher
- Music or sound editing software
- Presentation software
- Video creation and editing software
- Interview a few working Musical Directors in different positions
- Stay involved with your local music community
- Join professional organizations to grow your network and expand your knowledge
How to land your 1st job
- First, find job openings. A good way to start is checking the websites of different states, districts and counties, and national associations for job postings
- Make sure you can present potential employers with an impressive and accurate resumé, which you should have worked on building while in college as you are getting your music education degree (by teaching private students or volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at a school)
- Also be able to provide positive references from people who are reputable/well-established in the music field (this may be a professor from college, for example)
- An additional tip is that early on in your career as a music educator, it may be unrealistic to remain place-bound. It is important to keep your options open regarding the location of the school where you will be employed, the type of school, the grade-level you will be teaching, and the subjects you will be teaching (some schools may ask that you teach classes such as math or english in addition to music, for a time)
What it really takes to make it and succeed
- Patience, passion for what you’re doing, pride in yourself and your students, the ability to relate to people and communicate clearly, and the ability to envision what you want your class to achieve and find positive ways to achieve these music goals
- Recruiting and improving students, as well as getting support of parents and administration
- Music teachers must remain flexible and willing to take on new or different job responsibilities everyday: you get to be a teacher, musician, parent, doctor, accountant, while teaching and organizing all kinds of performances and events
- Acquire a Master's degree in Music Education (other areas of specialization include Performing, Composing, and Conducting)
- Join a variety of music education societies/associations and attend their professional conferences, which are an important source of motivation and professional growth for music educators
- Useful resources:
- National Association for Music Education
- American School Band Directors Association
- National Band Association
- The American Bandmasters Association
- State Music Education Associations and Conferences
- Districts and States offer different certification programs which may provide opportunities for salary increase and promotion
How to Find a Mentor
- Luckily, in music, almost all music educators are willing to be a mentor; willing to share their passion and positivity
- All it takes is just asking for advice, or to attend a class/rehearsal
- Music Composer
- Music Publishing
- Music Director/Conductor
- American Choral Directors Association
- American Federation of Musicians
- American Guild of Organists
- American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers
- American String Teachers Association
- Association of Lutheran Church Musicians
- Broadcast Music, Incorporated
- Choristers Guild
- Chorus America
- Conductors Guild