Answering the Question "Should I Become a Music Teacher?"

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As a musician, there are many career options, and it can sometimes be challenging to decide how to use your skills. One of the most popular career choices for musicians is teaching, because of its reliability and high earning potential. If you've ever asked, "Should I be a music teacher?" it may be helpful to learn more about the benefits of this career path.

In this article, we discuss the role of a music teacher, including what they do and the benefits of becoming one, plus we explore the salary, work environment and job outlook for music teachers.

What is a music teacher?

Music teachers are professionals that provide instrumental or vocal training to students. As a music teacher, you have several different career options that each provide unique benefits. These are the three main types of music teachers:

Private music teacher

Private music teachers are music educators that work independently. These professionals often own their own businesses and work from home or from a personal studio, although they may also be part of a private music school. Private music teachers are responsible for finding their own students, setting their own rates, making schedules and building lesson plans.

As a private music teacher, you can choose the level of instruction you want to provide and you have the option to teach music in any style your students are interested in. Most private teachers give vocal or instrumental lessons, while some may teach composition, music theory or production. Recently, more private teachers have begun teaching lessons remotely using video conferencing tools.

Related: How To Become a Private Music Teacher

School music teacher

Many elementary, middle and high schools have music programs for their students. These programs involve a range of music education professionals, including music teachers, band directors and choir directors. These educators often work with larger groups of students and teach fewer one-on-one lessons.

School music teachers also spend more of their time grading student work and often have less control over the curriculum that they teach. Some teach very basic theory and instrumental skills to young children, while others teach more advanced students in middle and high school. In addition to their teaching duties, many of these professionals organize annual or semiannual concerts to showcase their students' skills.

University music professor

Many music education professionals pursue careers in higher education. At this level, educators normally require a Ph.D. in their field and often have a very specific area of expertise. This could include performance on a certain instrument, vocal performance, composition, music theory, music history, jazz or a variety of other fields.

In college, professors often spend a lot of time teaching one-on-one lessons, grading student work and may also conduct research in their area of expertise. Other tasks may include preparing students for a future career and planning and directing concerts.

Related: How To Write a Music Teacher Resume (With a Template and Example)

What do music teachers do?

Music teachers may have a variety of tasks, depending on what career path they choose. These are some of the most common tasks that music teachers have:

  • Making lesson plans: Like other teachers, music educators often spend much of their time preparing courses of study for their students. This includes selecting pieces for students to play, choosing music theory topics for them to study and planning recitals and concerts for their students to test their skills.

  • Giving private or group lessons: Teaching instrumental and vocal lessons is often the most important task for music educators in all settings. University and private teachers often teach private one-on-one classes, while those in other schools often teach classes for large groups of students.

  • Assessing students and grading tests: As music educators teach their students, they continuously assess their performance and adjust the curriculum to introduce new skills. Educators in colleges and primary schools often administer and grade tests to assess their students' skills.

  • Setting rates and collecting payments: Private music teachers are often responsible for designing a pay scale for their businesses and charging their students for lessons. They may collect payments in cash or set up electronic systems for collecting their fees.

  • Planning, organizing and directing performances: Performance is an important part of music, and recitals are common for music students in all institutions. Music teachers are often responsible for planning performances, preparing their students, choosing repertoire, booking venues, sending invitations, selling tickets and directing performances on stage.

  • Maintaining their skills: Although their primary task is to share their knowledge with students, it's important for teachers to maintain and increase their skills. Music educators often spend much of their time practicing on their instrument, singing, participating in performances or composing music.

  • Teaching music theory: Learning music theory is an important part of becoming a well-rounded and successful musician. Many teachers at the primary and secondary level teach music theory to their students along with performance, while some professors may focus entirely on teaching theory and composition.

  • Preparing students for higher learning or a career: Music teachers often play an important part in their students' futures, whether it includes further education or a career in music. High school music teachers often help their students apply and audition for college, while university professors help their students make professional connections and find work.

  • Conducting research: University music educators often conduct research much like other college professors. This often includes writing academic papers for publication in journals and reviews.

Should you be a music teacher?

If you are wondering whether to become a music teacher, it may be helpful to review some reasons that other professionals choose it as a career path. These are some of the primary benefits of choosing a career as a music teacher:

Flexibility

Many musicians choose a career as a music teacher because it can offer much more flexibility than other careers. This is especially true for private music teachers. These professionals have the flexibility to choose their location and hours, can work from home and can sometimes use remote teaching techniques to work from home. Private music teachers can also decide how much they charge for lessons, based on their skill level and their primary customer base.

Private teachers can select a teaching style that works for them and their students, design their own curricula and teach whatever style of music that their students want to learn. Teachers in schools and universities usually have a stricter curriculum and teach primarily classical music and jazz, although they may also have flexibility in their work. All these factors make teaching music one of the most flexible jobs you can pursue as a musician.

Related: How To Become a Music Teacher

Reliability

As a musician, it can sometimes be challenging to find a job that provides constant work and reliable income. Performers may go for long periods of time without earning income and may struggle for years before becoming prominent enough to gain some stability in their work. Working as a music teacher allows musicians to use their skills and continue enjoying music while creating a stable career.

School music teachers and university music professors often have the most stability and have regular schedules, hours and salaries. Many university professors also have tenure, making their careers even more secure. Private teachers may have less stability while building their customer base, but they can create a regular schedule and predictable income stream once they have a group of regular clients.

Related: 10 Jobs In Music Education (With Duties and Salaries)

Fulfillment

Many professionals who pursue musical careers gain a huge amount of satisfaction from playing and teaching music. It allows them to express their unique talents and earn money while doing what they love.

Music is also a collaborative activity, and music teachers often have the opportunity to interact with many like-minded artists. This can help them create a community of friends and colleagues and a professional support network.

Another source of fulfillment for music teachers is their role as mentors. They spend much of their time teaching young artists to express their talents and have the opportunity to share what they love with a new generation of musicians. All these factors can make a career as a music teacher very rewarding for talented individuals.

Performance

Choosing a career as a music teacher doesn't mean that you won't have opportunities to play music. Increasing your own skills and participating in performance is an important part of music education.

As a music teacher, you may have many opportunities to prepare your students for concerts and recitals. You may also be able to plan and direct performances, especially if you work with school or university ensembles. As a music teacher, you may also meet many other musicians, giving you a chance to build a community of artists to perform with.

Options

Working as a music teacher can provide a wide variety of opportunities that may not be available in other careers. There are music schools and colleges all over the country that require qualified candidates, allowing music teachers to find jobs wherever they are.

Music teachers can also transfer their skills into different careers if they want to change their lifestyle. For example, a musician could work as a high school bad director for several years and then build an independent business as a private teacher. Alternatively, they could choose to pursue further education and find a job at a university.

Independence

Independence is a valuable career asset that many professionals desire in their work life. Working as a private music teacher can offer much more independence than other careers in the music industry. Private music teachers are small business owners without a physical storefront, allowing them to relocate or travel when necessary.

They can also set their own prices, locate their own clients, build a unique and flexible schedule and take vacation when they want. All these factors allow private music teachers to create a unique work experience that matches their work style, needs and preferences.

What's the work environment for music teachers?

Music teachers can work in a variety of different environments, based on their career path. Private music teachers often work from private studios that they can decorate and equip however they want. Some may also work from small independent music schools or hold classes in their home. In some cases, private teachers can use video conferencing platforms to work remotely.

School music teachers and university professors usually work in a more conventional work environment and may have an office and regular hours. All music teachers work with many other musicians, including students and often other educators. While most music teachers work out of a single location, some professors and teachers may occasionally have to travel for performances and special events.

Related: 57 Great-Paying Flex Jobs for Musicians

What's the salary and job outlook for music teachers?

Salaries for music teachers can vary widely based on their individual career paths. Although it doesn't collect salary data for music teachers specifically, Indeed reports that all teachers earn an average base salary of $32,085 per year, while professors earn an average of $76,090 per year. These rates can vary greatly based on a teacher's location, level of experience and employer.

Private teachers have significant variability in their salaries since they set their own rates. They have the potential to earn good salaries, especially if they have extensive experience and a large client base. Depending on the sector they work in, the job outlook for music teachers varies.

Although it doesn't collect information on music teachers specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of 12% for postsecondary teachers between now and 2031. The bureau also forecasts 4% job growth for primary and secondary teachers during the same period.

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