Music Teacher Career Guide

A music teacher instructs students about the concepts of music and leads musical activities such as singing, playing instruments, and listening. Jobs in teaching music are available in a variety of settings. Music teachers can work part-time or full-time from home, in a private music school, at an elementary or secondary school, or at a college, university or music conservatory. This guide provides information on how to become a music teacher, common tasks, salary, and the job outlook for music teachers.

Music Teacher Job Description

A music teacher instructs students or classes in general music, choral or voice, instrumental music, or a combination of these topics. Both class and one-on-one instruction can include a range of student ages, abilities and grade levels. Independent music educators who provide lessons from their homes or private studios may also work with adult pupils. Music teachers must show considerable skill, knowledge, patience and creativity; they encourage music appreciation as well as instruct students in the technical aspects of music and performance. A successful music teacher requires dedication and experience beyond the requirements of many other education careers.

Music Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Music teacher requirements vary depending on the type of school. Becoming a music teacher in a public school requires a bachelor’s degree in music education and a completion of an approved teacher preparation program. There are no specific education or licensing requirements for private music teachers; career success will depend on combined experience and skill in the chosen musical specialty.

The duties of a music teacher will vary depending on the chosen specialty and employment setting. Public and private school music teachers may direct a school choir, marching band or orchestra. Music teachers develop curriculums, conduct rehearsals and musical performances, and assess students for grading purposes. Many music teachers also participate in extracurricular activities such as taking students on field trips to attend or participate in various musical performances.

How to Become a Music Teacher

Like any teacher who works at a public school, a music teacher must have a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. If you already have a bachelor’s degree but not in education, you can pursue an alternative teacher certification through your state. Private schools may or may not require music teachers to obtain a teaching certification, but many will require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s program in music education may include courses in musical theory, music in early childhood, and choral conducting. A period of student teaching is usually included, giving prospective music teachers real-world experience. State-issued certifications are usually renewed annually.

Music Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Music educators may advance through combined experience and continued education. In 2012, kindergarten and elementary teachers earned a median annual salary of $53,090 while high school teachers earn a median annual salary of $55,050 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1,2 Music teachers in postsecondary schools (universities, trade schools, or conservatories) earned a median annual salary of $72,630 in 2012.4 The BLS projects teacher employment to increase 12% for elementary teachers, 6% for high school teachers, and 19% for postsecondary teachers through 2022.1,2,5 Job opportunities will vary greatly depending on locale. Low income, urban and remote, rural areas will offer more music teacher jobs due to higher turnover, increased federal funding, and difficulty attracting prospects. In some areas, cutbacks and reduced budgets are creating fewer full-time jobs and more part-time positions. Also, teachers who have knowledge in a specialty area like music are more likely to find jobs than general teachers.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Deep knowledge or experience working with music or the ability to play instruments can help prospective music teachers stand out. A master’s degree in music or a portfolio of work may also help. Music teachers should have good organizational skills, excellent communication and presentation skills, and sound decision-making skills. Music teachers who will be working with children should have patience, and be able to remain calm and fair. A love of children and a kind nature are also helpful.

Music Teacher Interview

See our interview with Sharon Callahan who has been teaching music for 37 years and is the President of the Texas Music Teachers Association.

Additional Resources

Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) – The MTNA is dedicated to advancing the study of music and supporting teachers who educate in the field.

National Association for Music Education (NAFME) – The NAFME offers lesson plans, programs, and news to music teachers and prospective music teachers.

Music Education Teaching Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Music Teacher

Question: Besides public schools, what are other employers of music teachers?

Answer: Non-profit organizations such as churches, community centers, daycare centers, and private schools may hire music teachers for part-time or full-time roles. Music teachers are also needed for vocational

Question: How long is a typical work week?

Answer: According to O*Net Online survey data, 79% of elementary teachers report working over 40 hours per week.3 Teachers typically spend time outside of normal classroom hours on planning lessons, grading student work, and other administrative tasks.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
3. O*Net Online: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2021.00
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251121.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm