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Teaching Careers

Music Teacher Career: Job, Education, Salary Information

By Robbie Bruens May 5, 2017

Boy learning to play cello in high school orchestraMusic classes give children a special outlet to explore their feelings and express themselves creatively. As a music teacher, you will guide your students through musical practice, giving them a chance to use musical instruments and their own voices and bodies to generate musical sounds, melodies and harmonies. Along the way, you may just instill in them a lifelong love of music and culture.

This guide will bring you up to speed on the prerequisite education, likely income, and advantages and disadvantages of a career as a music teacher. Browse through the article or use the following links to skip forward to what you’re looking for:

At-a-glance
> Music teacher job description
> Who makes a good music teacher?

Types of music teachers
> Elementary school music teachers
> Middle and high school music teachers

Professional development
> What kinds of programs can help music teachers?

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: music teachers

Elementary school music teachers Middle and high school music teachers
Minimum education Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred
Estimated annual income $55,490 (BLS)
$45,197 (Glassdoor.com)
$58,631 (Neuvoo.com)
$65,340 (Sokanu.com)
$48,422 (Indeed.com)
$40,350 (PayScale.com)
$58,030 (BLS)
$48,380 (Glassdoor.com)
$45,000 (PayScale.com)
$65,340 (Sokanu.com)
$48,422 (Indeed.com)
$44,000 (SalaryGenius.com)

Music teacher job description

As a music teacher, your classroom is your workplace. You will probably teach several groups of children each day in sessions up to an hour long. During these sessions, you will teach your students to sing songs and play musical instruments. Your job is to channel your students’ creative energy into a more disciplined expression through music education.

Music education often includes theoretical and practical approaches to music. Therefore, in addition to teaching your students how to read musical notes, you may cover music theory, music history and other academic aspects of the discipline. In some cases, you may assign and grade homework. This could simply be practicing a song or playing an instrument, or it could be essays or other assignments with a more academic approach to music.

Music teachers can expect to work school days (mornings and afternoons five days a week, nine to 10 months of the year). You will teach more than one class of students each day. Between classes and after school, you may have to prepare lessons, attend meetings and work one-on-one with students. You may enjoy winter, spring and summer vacations. Some teachers pursue a second career when school is not in session.

Who makes a good music teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Passionate about music
  • Creative and always generating ideas
  • An experienced musician
  • Highly curious and a lifelong learner
  • Sociable and easy to talk to
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to learning
  • Service-oriented
  • Informed on music history and theory
  • Careful about documentation and note-taking
  • Qualified with training in music and a degree in music and/or education

Interested in becoming a music teacher?

Check out this video to get a better sense of what you’ll encounter when pursuing a career as a music teacher.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/OjaMnZjeOLc?t=1s[/youtube]

Different types of music teachers

As you think about becoming a music teacher, you’ll want to consider what age group you want to teach.

Elementary school music teachers

Elementary school music teachers teach songs and musical techniques to children under the age of 10. Each day, they provide lessons about a particular song or aspect of musical performance.
Continue reading to learn more about elementary school music teachers

What elementary school music teachers do

Some days, classes might include a lesson on the history of music and its cultural context, while other days may be fully devoted to vocal or instrumental performance.

Elementary school music teachers must develop a curriculum for elementary-age students. It may have to vary from year to year because they’re often teaching the same kids every year. This structure allows students to improve their musical abilities and expand their appreciation of musical expression each year.

In the later years of elementary school, music teachers often oversee band, orchestra or choir practices for students who elect to pursue more advanced musical education opportunities. In these practice sessions, music teachers choose music for their students to perform and oversee rehearsals, giving instruction on methods students can use to improve over time. These efforts culminate with concerts where students show their musical talents to the school, their family and their friends.

Elementary school music teachers have many of the same duties as regular classroom teachers, including grading students and meeting with parents and other faculty members.

Education and certification requirements

Public school districts seek music teachers with a bachelor’s degree (including a bachelor of fine arts, or BFA) at minimum. You’ll also need a state-issued teaching credential. Private schools may not require a state teaching certificate, but most still seek teachers with a bachelor’s degree and a strong musical background.

If you want a higher salary and better job opportunities, pursue an advanced degree in music or an education-related subject.

Income projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average annual salary for all elementary school teachers, and career-related websites offer estimates of average salaries for all music teachers or specifically music teachers at the elementary level.

  • BLS: $55,490 (elementary school average)
  • Glassdoor.com: $45,197 (elementary school average)
  • PayScale.com: $40,350 (elementary school average)
  • Neuvoo.com: $58,631 (elementary school average)
  • Sokanu.com: $65,340 (music teacher average)
  • Indeed.com: $48,422 (music teacher average)

Pros and cons of being an elementary school music teacher

As you consider this career, make sure to think about the upsides and downsides of becoming an elementary music teacher.

Pros

  • Inspire the imagination of young students in a medium that is perfect for uninhibited self-expression
  • Many full-time jobs have good benefits
  • Potential to earn job security via tenure
  • You may need only a bachelor’s degree
  • Elementary school music curriculum is very broad and open
  • School year provides flexibility with lots of time off
  • Serve as a positive role model for youth
  • More job opportunity and security than many other arts- and music-related jobs
  • Young children are more open and enthusiastic about learning and self-expression during elementary school

Cons

  • Younger students are less likely to develop into sophisticated musicians during elementary school
  • Frustrating when dealing with unmotivated or disruptive students
  • Can be difficult to find a great full-time job at a good school
  • Lower pay than other jobs requiring college education
  • Most states don’t mandate music and art education in public schools, so there will be less demand for your services
  • Low job growth projected over the next decade

Middle and high school music teachers

Middle and high school music teachers lead elective music classes for students interested in pursuing a musical education.

Continue reading to learn more about middle and high school music instructors

What middle and high school music teachers do

Middle school music classes are categorized as an elective, which means that students can choose to take the class based on their interest level. In middle and high school, music teachers usually offer more specialized instruction than their elementary school counterparts. Usually, each music class will focus on a musical niche such as jazz band, classical orchestra or choir.

Students choose elective music classes based on the instrument or musical genre they are passionate about. For example, a student learning to play saxophone may join band class, while a budding violinist will join orchestra class. Students who want to focus on vocal performance will probably choose choir. Sometimes, there is overlap or opportunities for collaborative learning between the different classes.

During each class period, the music teacher gives a lesson typically involving learning a new song or rehearsing a song introduced in a past lesson. In addition, music classes in middle school and especially in high school integrate a more academic, theoretical component. You may teach your students how to read musical notes and lead them in the study of music theory and history.

Middle school music teachers assign homework assignments that usually involve practicing a song or exercises specific to each instrument. For example, trumpet players may be assigned homework with mouth exercises. At this stage of music education, music teachers may begin assigning homework, quizzes and tests on musical notation.

High school music teachers use all of these instructional methods and add to them occasional assigned academic readings, written homework and essays on music theory and history.

Educational and certification requirements

Public school districts usually require middle and high school music teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued teaching certification. Having a bachelor of fine art (BFA) degree is acceptable or even advantageous for prospective music teachers.

Private schools typically seek music teachers with a BFA or a strong background as a musician. They do not usually require a state-issued teaching certificate.

It can be useful to learn about adolescent psychology and pedagogy before becoming a music teacher. You should also consider an internship in music education and other student-teaching opportunities.

Finally, if you want to boost your job prospects and income potential, consider pursuing a master’s degree. For a middle school art or music teacher, you should consider a master of fine art (MFA) degree in your field or an advanced degree in an education-related field.

Income projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average annual salary for all high school teachers, while career-related websites offer estimates of average salaries for all music teachers or specifically music teachers at the middle and high school level.

  • BLS: $58,030 (high school teachers average)
  • Glassdoor.com: $48,380 (middle and high school music teachers average)
  • PayScale.com: $45,000  (middle and high school music teachers average)
  • SalaryGenius.com: $44,000  (middle and high school music teachers average)
  • Sokanu.com: $65,340 (music teachers average)
  • Indeed.com: $48,422 (music teachers average)

Pros and cons of being a middle and high school music teacher

It will help to think through the positive and negative aspects of becoming a middle or high school music teacher.

Pros

  • Curriculum becomes more specific
  • Student potential is more likely to bloom in middle and high school
  • Many full-time jobs have good benefits
  • Potential to earn job security via tenure
  • School year provides flexibility with lots of time off
  • Serve as a positive role model for youth
  • Music courses are electives so students have chosen to commit their time to the subject
  • More job opportunity and security than many other arts- and music-related jobs

Cons

  • Adolescents can be more challenging to teach than younger kids
  • Frustrating when dealing with disruptive or delinquent students
  • Lower pay than other jobs requiring college education
  • Can be demanding to keep students engaged and focused
  • Most states don’t mandate music and art education in public schools, so there’s less demand for your services
  • Low job growth projected over the next decade

Professional development for music teachers

If you are serious about becoming a music teacher, start thinking about how to improve your career prospects, develop your skills and improve your connections. Consider becoming involved in an organization such as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) or the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).

You may want to focus on becoming an accomplished musician before you begin to teach full time. Giving private lessons part time is a great way to gain teaching skills before you are ready to work for an elementary or secondary school.

Eventually, working in a music classroom with students will be great preparation for becoming a professional music teacher. Look for internships as well as student and assistant teaching opportunities. You’ll also want to consider going back to school for an advanced degree.

Benefits of continuing education

Music teachers with a master’s degree have a greater chance for promotions and salary increases. The difference in salary between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree for a novice teacher is $3,000 annually, and after 10 years, the bump increases to $4,500.

What kinds of programs can help music teachers?

Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs that can help improve your skills and job prospects as a music teacher.

MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)
MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Methods and Curriculum

The Curriculum and Instruction program includes many concentrations. Choose a concentration based on enhancing music instruction and learn transformative education practices that will enable you to teach elementary, middle and high schoolers effectively.

Jobs for music teachers beyond teaching

With additional education or certification, music teachers may become librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals or an educational administrator at a college or university.

Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.

Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to a subject like curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor.

Education consultant: Music teachers can become education consultants if they want to tackle challenges in a variety of schools and education systems. You’ll probably need an advanced degree in an education-related subject.

Education policy analyst: With an advanced degree in an education-related subject, music teachers can become policy analysts and examine big-picture issues affecting education nationwide.

School principal: Music teachers wishing to become a school principal should seriously consider earning a master’s degree in an education-related field. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators.

Educational administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree or doctorate in educational leadership may be required.

Best of the web: our favorite music teacher blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent middle and high school music educators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite music websites and blogs

Favorite music Twitter handles

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