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, depending on the grade level taught. 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 high 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 subjects from 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 the 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 vary depending on the chosen specialty and employment setting. K-12 public and private school music teachers may direct a school choir, marching band, or orchestra. At the elementary level, they may teach a classroom of young children the basics of music, including tone, pitch, and an introduction to various instruments. Music teachers may 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 in a K-12 public school are as follows:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in music or music education that includes a teacher preparation program.
- Complete a student teaching internship in music at the grade level(s) you wish to teach.
- Take your state’s required tests for prospective teachers.
- Apply for your teaching certificate.
- 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
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,980 while middle school teachers earned a median of $58,600 per year, and high school teachers earned a median annual salary of $60,320.1-3 Art, drama, and music teachers in postsecondary schools earned a median annual salary of $69,960.4 Teachers at the postsecondary level typically need a master’s degree or higher.4 The BLS projects a teacher employment increase of 3-4% for elementary through high school teachers between 2018 and 2028, and O*NET OnLine reports a projected increase of 7-10% for postsecondary teachers of music through 2028.1-4 Job opportunities will vary greatly depending on location and type of school
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 a teacher get hired. Music teachers, like all 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, an “ear” for music, and a kind nature are also beneficial.
Music Teacher Career Interviews
- Former President, Texas Music Teachers Association, Sharon Callahan
- Former President, Arizona State Music Teachers Association, Chyleen Lauritzen
- Former President, Colorado Music Teachers Association, Joan Sawyer
- 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): NAFME offers lesson plans, programs, and news to music teachers and prospective music teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Question: How much do music teachers make?
Answer: Music teachers’ salaries depend on a variety of factors including location, type of school, years of experience, and educational background. The BLS reports that teachers of all subjects in elementary through high schools earn around $58,000 to $60,000 per year.1-3 Private schools and other employers, including private lessons, may command different salaries.
1. 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. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
4. O*NET OnLine, Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1121.00