Opting for music as a career opens you to a number of potential future jobs to take.
If you have talent in singing, for instance, then you can be a performer. You can be a professional lyric writer or a music composer too—or both—if you are linguistically and musically skilled. You can also infiltrate the media industry as a music supervisor, particularly if you have good administrative and communication skills.
Some, on the other hand, are blessed with teaching skills. So, rather than becoming a professional musician, performer, or songwriter, they choose to become music teachers.
What Is a Music Teacher?
Per teacher.org, a music teacher is a person who is responsible for educating students—both at primary and secondary level—about music. The teacher’s teaching duty covers a wide range of music-related subjects, including music history, music theory, instrument playing, and even vocal techniques.
But in general, they teach music reading, performance skills, and even composing.
A music teacher’s role may expand from teaching to leading as well. In some instances, the person is also assigned to lead a choir, a musical ensemble, an orchestra, and even a marching band.
Music teachers perform the same task as other regular teachers do too. These include meeting with parents, tabulating grades and recording students’ progress, and even lunch, hallway, and bus monitoring.
Teaching Music at Different Levels
While teachers may require having general knowledge about music, do take note that the subjects the instructor will teach vary depending on the educational level of the students.
In lower grades, for example, classes may include learning how to sing on key and correct tempo only. But on higher grades, topics may stretch from learning how to play an instrument to learning how to write songs.
That being said, here’s how teaching music differs in elementary, junior high, and high school.
- Elementary School. Teaching music in elementary school is not as easy as you might think. And since it is composed of students from preschool to fifth grade, instructors will need to be versatile. Essentially, music teachers are responsible for giving age-appropriate lessons. In preschool, kindergarten, and other lower grade levels, for instance, instructors may simply teach tempo counting and rhythm. Teaching older students, on the other hand, may include music reading. The class may involve instrumentation and vocal teaching, too, depending on the school’s program.
- Middle School. Middle school is often where students receive formal music lessons. So, when it comes to middle school, teachers are bound to have at least one general music class. They are required to teach music theory as well. But aside from teaching, instructors are also given tasks to lead a choir, orchestra, and even a band. And those who are assigned to lead a band, or an orchestra will have to teach the students how to read applicable notations as well as how to play instruments.
- High School. In high school, teaching music is more about application than discussion. As such, music instructors at the high school level typically specialize in teaching choir, band, and even orchestra.
Music Teacher as a Music Career
Now that you have an idea of what a music teacher is, let’s talk about it as (your) potential future career.
A music teacher’s income varies depending on several factors. Aspects such as the instructor’s skills and experience, for example, can largely influence it. The school district where the teacher is employed may affect his median annual pay as well.
Aside from that, instructors teaching in private schools may earn $10,000 lower compared to those who are teaching in public schools. That said, below are the estimated salaries of both entry-level and seasoned music instructors teaching in elementary, middle school, and high school.
- Elementary school. For entry-level music teachers, the yearly average pay is $59,670. For experienced instructors, it can go as high as $97,900. Although the 10th percentile of entry-level music teachers earns as low as $39,020.
- Middle school. In middle school, the median salary of music teachers starts at $59,660. Experienced instructors (90th percentile) earn as high as $96,660 while entry-level teachers’ salary (10th percentile) starts at $39,990.
- High school. In high school, on the other hand, the average income of teachers starts at $61, 660. Entry-level teachers (10th percentile) earn as much as $40,540, while experienced ones (90th percentile) earn as high as $99,660.
Note: All information above is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated annual salary for music teachers, dated May 2019.
Education and Training
Just like other academic subjects, teaching music requires proper education and training to qualify for the job.
That said, aspiring music instructors will need to attend university or college and earn a degree. They also need to participate in a student teaching practicum, as part of their on-the-ground training. Keep in mind that to qualify, the school must be accredited by the Council of Accreditation for Educators Preparation.
Apart from that, aspiring music teachers need to study basic classroom management and childhood development. They will also need to take music classes such as music theory and music in early childhood.
Moreover, they will have to take state exams too as it is required to teach at their preferred grade level. Here’s a few of the same they need to take:
- Exams for music teaching. To become a certified music teacher, the person will need to take several tests. These include basic skill tests such as writing, reading, and mathematics. They must pass the proficiency exam for a particular subject as well.
- Alternative certifications for music teachers. A certificate that proves you are qualified to teach music is extremely crucial and must be obtained. Otherwise, you would not be able to teach in public school. On the other hand, there are schools—public or not—that offer teaching jobs even without a certification yet. But that does not mean you would not need to get one! These types of schools, instead, will let instructors teach as long as they would get one within the agreed time. Or, through alternative certification. But do take note that each state has varying laws when it comes to teaching in public and private schools. As such, it is best to check them first instead.
Teaching music is indeed a challenging but fun endeavor to take. It requires effort, time, and a large amount of patience to achieve it. As such, before you decide to take music teacher as your future job, make sure you have the perseverance to get through all the requirements needed to qualify.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.