Department of Music

Careers and Opportunities

Professional Development

Local groups and organizations offer great opportunities for students to expand their skill base with professional experiences.

Careers in Music

The music industry is a $4 billion a year industry – and that does not even count professional teachers in the public, private and collegiate settings. There is a career in a music related field for you. If you want to know more about the world of possibilities in the field of music, here is the place to get started. There is a wealth of information available online, and the careers listed here are only the beginning. 

Music Education, PK-12

Clearly, the largest number of full-time music teaching positions exists in public and private schools.

In preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, and day-care centers, the music teacher provides guidance for activities such as singing, listening, playing instruments, moving and dancing, composing, and experimenting with music patterns.  

Teachers, supervisors, or directors of music in middle, junior high, and senior high schools provide direction for choral and instrumental organizations, small ensembles, and musical theater productions. Music instruction in the secondary school also includes courses in general music, theory, music history, literature, and the related arts.  

Music educators in the public schools may find opportunities for extra remuneration for service as conductors of church choirs, community music organizations, or recreational programs. In many communities, the music department of the public schools is the focal point of the community's musical life. 

Careers include:

  • Elementary / Primary School Music Teacher
  • Secondary School Music Teacher 
  • Music Education Supervisor (or School Music Supervisor) 

Music Education in the college or university

Music teachers at institutions of higher education usually are expected to specialize in one or two areas, such as music theory, music history and literature, music education, musicology, performance, electronic music, composition, conducting, or music therapy.

The salaries for college or university music teaching vary considerably with the type of institution and its location. In many cases, college faculties are recruited from people who have had successful professional careers as performers or as music teachers. A college music educator, however, usually must have earned at least a master's degree in music.

A great many institutions require a doctorate. The music programs in institutions of higher education constitute one of the main sources of music standards and performances.

Private Studio Teaching

The studio of a private teacher may be located in a home, school, office building, or music store. Those who teach in the home are self-employed, whereas others have a business relationship with a school or store. Many self-employed music teachers teach only part-time due to other responsibilities. Satisfactory teaching arrangements sometimes can be made with the various types of schools that need individual music instructors.  

Careers include: 

  • Public school (approximate earnings $17,000-$45,000)  
  • Parochial school (approximate earnings $16,000-$35,000)  
  • College, university, conservatory (approximate earnings $18,000-$70,000)  
  • Private school, studio (approximate earnings $5-$60 per lesson)  
  • Supervisor, consultant (approximate earnings $20,000-$50,000)  
  • Administrator, university (approximate earnings $30,000-$100,000+)  

Private Instructor 

A private instructor usually does not work through a school, but gives individual instruction to students on a regular basis. They set their own fees, unless contracted by a music store or teaching group, and develop their own teaching plans and guidelines. Private instructors may work alone out of an office or home, with a group of teachers or at a music store that offers lessons. They may teach individual lessons or offer group lessons. Lessons generally run 45 minutes to one hour and are usually scheduled once a week. They may teach at different levels of skill, from beginners to professionals.

Professional Performer

To many young people, music performance as a career means giving concerts. The glamour of becoming a concert artist attracts many people, but opportunities for a career in music performance are very limited, and great perseverance and stamina are required for success. In addition to solo performance careers, there are performance opportunities in chamber music, folk, rock, and pop music, as well as freelance concert and studio opportunities. Performance careers differ widely and depend a great deal upon the instrument played and the performance medium. Most performers combine their activities with other careers in music. In general, concert performers pay their own travel and management fees.

Careers include:

  • Armed forces: bands, orchestras
  • Symphony orchestra (approximate earnings $300-$1,200 per week (22-52 weeks)  
  • Dance band, nightclub (approximate earnings $350-$700 per week)  
  • National TV (very limited) (approximate earnings $1,500-$2,500 per week)  
  • Small ensemble (approximate earnings $50-$4,000 per concert)  
  • Concert soloist (very limited) (approximate earnings $1,000 per concert)  
  • Rock or jazz group (approximate earnings: great variance in income)  
  • Clinician (approximate earnings $0-$1,000 per day)
  • Church choir soloist (approximate earnings $30-$500 per performance)  
  • Community choral group (approximate earnings $200-$3,000 yearly )  
  • Radio, TV shows (approximate earnings Local: $75 and up per show Network: $125 and up per show )  
  • Dance band, nightclub (approximate earnings $225 and up per week)  
  • Concert choral group (approximate earnings $80 and up per performance)  
  • Opera chorus (professional) (approximate earnings $350-$750 per week)  
  • Opera soloist (very limited) (approximate earnings $350-$8,000 per performance)  
  • Concert soloist (very limited) (approximate earnings $350 open)  

Certified Music Therapist

With increased awareness of the rights of children and adults with disabilities, the importance of trained music therapists has increased. These highly skilled individuals combine music, teaching, and therapy to help persons with disabilities improve their physical and mental health. Emotional stability and insight are essential for competent therapists. Approximate earnings are between $16,000-$70,000.

Employment locations include: 

  • Hospitals: general, psychiatric  
  • Schools  
  • Outpatient clinics  
  • Mental health centers  
  • Nursing homes  
  • Correctional facilities  
  • Private practice  

Composer and Conductor

Very few composers make a living from composing, but the non-monetary rewards for writing classical or popular music are great. Some composers earn a living arranging music for school performance groups or writing music for radio or television advertising. Successful composers receive commissions to write for specific occasions, ensembles, soloists, or institutions. Commissions and mechanicals income from the sales of recordings are important sources of income for composers. Conductors, like composers, often rely on supplemental income from teaching or guest appearances. Some conductors with international reputations can become wealthy, while a few hundred conductors will make very comfortable salaries.

Composer, Arranger, Orchestrator, Copyist careers include:

  • Educational music, art music (approximate earnings: commissions vary, royalties vary according to format)
  • Commercial: popular, films, TV (Royalties vary according to format) 

Conductor careers include:

  • Choir (approximate earnings See: Church/Temple (above))  
  • Dance bands (approximate earnings $300-$1,200 per week)  
  • Symphony (very limited) (approximate earnings vary widely )  
  • Opera (very limited) (approximate earnings $8,000 open )  
  • Choral group (very limited) (approximate earnings $8,000 open )  

Music Industry

The music industry is broad in scope and encompasses retail, wholesale, manufacturing, importing, exporting, publishing, recording, repair and rebuilding, tuning, and other businesses. Persons who are successful in the music industry have education and training in both music and business. Many new businesses have grown out of recent developments in the world of computers. State-of-the-art products and services in the music industry are providing new, exciting, and profitable business opportunities.

Careers include:

  • Publisher or editor: music books, periodicals, music software  
  • Manufacturer, importer, wholesaler: instruments, accessories, electronics, recordings, computer software  
  • Music software programmer  
  • Manager, booking agent  
  • Music dealer: management/sales  
  • Newspaper critic, reporter  
  • Tuner technician, instrument repair  

Approximate earnings varies widely according to the wage and salary scale of each industry. 

Music Librarian

Colleges and public libraries offer opportunities for trained music specialists with knowledge of library and research techniques. Music librarians are involved in research and reference, indexing, cataloging, selecting materials for purchase, and community relations. Skills in handling computerized information are increasingly important. Some opportunities for music librarians also exist in radio, television, and motion pictures.

Employment locations include:

  • College, university, conservatory (approximate earnings $26,000-$28,000 (entry level, full-time, may be augmented by teaching))  
  • Public library (approximate earnings $1,300-$30,000)  
  • Orchestra, band, chorus (very limited) (approximate earnings up to $72,800)  
  • Radio, TV station music coordinator (approximate earnings $14,000-$27,000)  

Television and Radio

The television and radio industries encompass a wide range of careers, including composition, scoring, production, editing, clearing copyrights, and licensing. Career opportunities are available at television and radio stations, production houses, post production facilities, and a host of related organizations involved in producing and distributing programming for television and radio. 

Society is increasingly dependent on the media as a source for news, information, entertainment, cultural and performing arts, and leisure activities. The proliferation of cable networks has greatly expanded the number of outlets for video productions and the need for related personnel. Television and radio are growth industries that offer many opportunities for those with appropriate backgrounds, technical skills and experience, and perseverance.  

Careers include:

  • Copyright/clearance administrator  
  • Music license administrator  
  • Music editor, producer, composer  
  • Sound mixer  
  • Post production/scoring  
  • Disc jockey, video jockey  
  • Program director (radio)  
  • Music advisor, music researcher

Approximate earnings varies widely according to the wage and salary scale of each industry. 

Church Musician

A career as a church or temple music director or organist combines music performance and teaching. Most musicians for religious institutions are employed part-time, although large congregations may employ a full-time music director or minister of music. In addition to being competent performers, church or temple musicians must understand music composition, transposition, and arranging, and must be familiar with the theology and liturgy of worship.

Careers include:

  • Organist  
  • Choir director  
  • Minister of Music  
  • Liturgist  
  • Choir soloist  

Salary for part-time employment (less than 30 hours per week) ranges between $7,800 to $44,500. Full time ranges between $27,500 to $59,300.