Music Teacher Career Guide

A music teacher instructs students in the concepts of music and leads musical activities such as singing, playing instruments, and listening to and analyzing musical works. 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, middle, 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.

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 or education and completion of an approved teacher preparation program. There are no unilateral education or licensing requirements for private music teachers; career success will depend on combined education, 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 curricula, 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 to meet certification requirements. 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. The typical steps to becoming a music teacher are as follows:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in music or music education that includes a teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship in music at the grade level(s) you wish to teach.
  3. Take your state’s required tests for prospective teachers.
  4. Apply for your teaching certificate.
  5. Begin applying for open music teacher jobs.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in music but did not take the required education courses, you may be eligible to pursue alternative teacher certification. Earning a master’s degree in education designed for first-time teachers can be another pathway to teacher certification. Private schools may or may not require music teachers to hold a teaching license, but many will require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Music Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

As of 2015, kindergarten and elementary teachers earned a median annual salary of $54,550 while high school teachers earn a median annual salary of $57,200.1,2 Music teachers in postsecondary schools (universities, trade schools, or conservatories) earned an average annual salary of $76,710 in 2015.3 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a teacher employment increase of 6% for elementary teachers and high school teachers and 13% for postsecondary teachers through 2024.1,2,4 Job opportunities will vary greatly depending on locale. In many areas, cutbacks and reduced budgets are creating fewer full-time jobs for music and art teachers.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Deep knowledge and/or experience working with music and the ability to play multiple 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 Career Interviews

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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.

Question: How strong is the job market for music teachers?

Answer: In public schools, music teachers face a competitive job market as the education landscape continues to favor using public and government funding for core academic subjects. Hopeful music teachers may increase their prospects by pursuing certification in multiple subjects and by being open to teaching in private schools, non-traditional teaching academics, and/or private tutoring.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251121.htm
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm