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 music 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. Many colleges and universities require students to audition on their primary instrument/voice in order to be accepted into the school of music. 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 and any required content-specific tests.
- Apply for your teaching certificate, along with a music endorsement, if required for your state.
- 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), elementary school teachers earned an average annual salary of $67,080 as of May 2021 while middle school teachers earned $66,880 and high school teachers earned $69,530 annually.1-3 Art, drama, and music teachers in postsecondary schools earned an average annual salary of $86,240; however, it should be noted that educators at this level typically need a master’s degree or higher.4 The BLS projects a teacher employment increase of 4-5% for kindergarten through high school teachers between 2021 and 2031, and 9% for postsecondary teachers of art, drama, and music through 2031.5-8 Job opportunities will vary greatly depending on location, type of school, and the teacher’s experience.
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): Dedicated to advancing the study of music and supporting teachers who educate in the field.
- National Association for Music Education (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. With the addition of STEM and increasingly rigorous demands on students, music and the arts are typically the first programs to be cut, whether it be for budgetary or space reasons. 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 school earn, on average, between $66,880 to $69,530 per year, while music teachers at the college/university level earn an average of $86,240 per year.1-4 Private schools and other employers, including private companies, may offer different salaries.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wages, Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wages, Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251121.htm
5. 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
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251121.htm