How to Become a
Music Teacher

Teacher helping student play guitar

Being a Music Teacher combines musical interest or talent, a love of teaching and an interest in being around children. If this sounds like a career that you would like to pursue, read on to get more information about education, training and certification requirements needed to become a Music Teacher.

What Does a Music Teacher Do?

It is the main responsibility of a Music Teacher to instruct students in how to sing, play instruments and to increase their understanding of basic music concepts. They might also teach students how to read music and direct students in a choir or band. Music Teachers can teach at the elementary, middle or high school levels. A Music Teacher might also work as an independent instructor, providing private instrument or singing lessons.

Music Teachers should have a love for and talent in music and possess strong communication and organizational skills. Common Music Teacher duties and responsibilities include:

  • Communication tasks, such as directing students in playing instruments

  • Administrative tasks, such as charting students' progress

  • Clerical tasks, such as maintaining lesson plans and creating progress reports

  • Technical tasks, such as tuning and repairing instruments

Music Teacher Skills

An important skill for a Music Teacher to possess is an "ear" for melody and rhythm. Music Teachers should also have strong listening, oral communication and problem solving skills. They should have a thorough understanding of musical history, theory and different styles. In addition, Music Teachers should be able to work independently in teaching students with little or no supervision.

Other key Music Teacher skills include:

  • Music-reading abilities

  • Strong creative and analytical skills

  • Classroom management skills

How Do You Become a Music Teacher?

Education and Training

After carefully consulting several online job postings, we have concluded that most employers require that Music Teachers possess a bachelor's degree in education or music education. Some employers might even request that job candidates hold an advanced degree.  Some experience as a teacher's aide or having completed an internship by working in a classroom setting is helpful. In most cases, an internship is part of a degree program in education.

An internship, sometimes referred to as a student-teacher experience, generally takes about one or two semesters to complete. During this experience, aspiring Music Teachers will work closely with licensed teachers by instructing students, assisting in developing lesson plans and evaluating student performance. Though not typically required, a Music Teacher might opt to pursue a master's degree for advancement purposes or even to become eligible for higher pay.

Music Teachers must hold a teaching license in the state in which they are pursuing employment. In addition, they must obtain a music endorsement or credential by passing required state exams. Certain professional development requirements, such as attending continuing education courses, must be completed at certain intervals in order to maintain teaching certification. These requirements may vary from state to state.

Finding a job

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment opportunities for elementary, middle  and high school teachers is expected to increase 6 percent in coming years. Music Teacher employment growth could be most affected by budget cuts or deficits for specific programs.

When seeking a job as a Music Teacher, it is crucial that you have a quality resume. Refer to our library of Music Teacher resume samples to get a good idea of how to construct a quality resume.

Once you have created an effective resume, search online for Music Teacher job opportunities. Draw on your network of professionals you might have met while completing your student-teacher experience.

Insights from a Music Teacher

It is helpful to gain more information about a specific career by speaking with a professional in the field. To present more details about being a Music Teacher, we spoke with Don Long, head of the music department at Fort Osage School District in Independence, MO. Following is our question-and-answer session with Mr. Long.

What is the common career path for a Music Teacher?

The common career path for most Music Teachers begins with earning a Bachelor of Music Education, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of the Arts in music education.  A student’s area of focus (general music, choral, or instrumental) will likely dictate the specific courses required.  Many years of private lessons in voice or on the Music Teacher’s major instrument is necessary as is participation in ensembles to prepare for a career in teaching music.

After graduation, new Music Teachers frequently begin teaching in a small and/or rural school district or those in the inner city.  As the music teaching gains experience they may seek positions in larger, more suburban, districts and often pursue advanced degrees.  Although the majority of Music Teachers teach in public or private schools, some seek positions at the collegiate level.  These positions require a Masters degree in a specialized field of music and in many cases a Doctoral degree.  A few Music Teachers will teach only private lessons outside of a school setting.

What should someone consider before becoming a Music Teacher?

A Music Teacher must be prepared for a wide variety of teaching experiences and settings. Music Teachers will encounter students and families with little to no musical background creating potentially challenging situations when establishing an acceptable level of rigor and performance.  Conversely, Music Teachers may find themselves in positions where the level of expectation is very high leading to pressure for continued musical success.

Further, Music Teachers in school settings will find building schedules, meeting times, and rehearsal spaces not always accommodating the best interests of music training specifically. Music Teachers must be prepared to be flexible as they continue to seek the best for their students and programs.

What type of person excels in this job?

The type of person that excels as a Music Teacher is someone who is prepared to spend a great deal of time working with their students and in coordinating performances.  A Music Teacher must be able to set and meet short and long term goals while balancing a large number of factors surrounding their students and their overall program. A Music Teacher must be an entertainer, a politician, and a coach.

What are some of the most important skills for Music Teachers to have?

Music Teachers must have strong musical performance skills and be able to impart their love for music to their students.  A command of group leadership is a necessity as an ensemble director as are non-verbal conducting skills.  Music Teachers have a working knowledge of music theory, history, and composition. Strong communication skills are essential.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Music Teacher?

The most rewarding aspect of being a Music Teacher is helping students to be successful musicians and providing opportunities for their families to share in their success.

How Much Do Music Teachers Get Paid?

The BLS supplies salary information for postsecondary Music Teachers. According to this information, high school Music Teachers earn a median annual wage of $65,340. Those at the lower end of the pay scale earn $33,450 and those at the top make $129,150.

Top 10 States for Music Teacher Salary

Music Teachers in the following states make the highest median salary in the U.S.

    New York

    $109,700

    Massachusetts

    $96,110

    California

    $88,090

    New Hampshire

    $87,200

    Maryland

    $84,800

    Maine

    $80,750

    Illinois

    $79,920

    Ohio

    $79,240

    Florida

    $78,460

    Alaska

    $78,420

    Rhode Island

    $73,490

    Music Teacher Resources

    The resources below have been assembled to help you take an even closer look at a career as a Music Teacher and to help you decide if this is the career for you.

    On the Web

    Music Matters Blog
    From music education mobile apps to a look at the history of music education in America, this blog explores many creative and practical approaches to teaching music.

    Mrs. Miracle's Music Room
    Presented by a Music Teacher, this blog offers various teaching tips and strategies that teachers can employ in their classroom.

    Music Educators Journal
    A quarterly online publication exploring trends, instructional strategies, music teaching philosophies and other relevant topics for Music Teachers.

    Industry Groups

    Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)
    Founded in 1876, MTNA offers conferences, summits, webinars and forums as well as online publications, teaching tips and professional support.

    National Association for Music Education (NAfME)
    This large organization promotes music education as a career and advocates for Music Teachers. It provides professionals with lesson planning strategies, journals and magazines, professional development opportunities and more.

    National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS)
    An international association founded in 1944, NATS offers workshops, conferences, archived video sessions and other resources for Music Teachers.

    Music Teacher Books

    Becoming a Music Teacher: From Student to Practitioner
    A close look at how to apply what is learned in a music education program to an actual classroom.

    The Savvy Music Teacher: Blueprint for Maximizing Income & Impact
    Written by an accomplished musician and music educator, this book explores how one can pursue a career as a Music Teacher.