Music Professor Career, Job Outlook, and Requirements to Start

Ultimate guide on becoming a music professor, educational requirements, and job expectations. Learn how to start and advance in this career

Music professors work in colleges and universities to teach music-related disciplines. It is an advanced position that requires specific skills, competencies, and education. This can be an excellent career for those passionate about music, academia, and teaching others. 

This guide will find a career overview, needed skills, and ways to land a desired position. We’ve partnered with Jooble company to review step-by-step how to become a music professor. Here is all one needs to know about this path. 

What Is a Music Professor?

This is a career in academia that has to do with music. Professors teach such courses as: 

  • Introductory courses; 
  • Music appreciation; 
  • Music theory; 
  • Performance; 
  • Voice performance; 
  • Specific instruments. 

The courses can be either general or highly specific, based on the students one works with. 

The typical responsibilities of a specialist in this field are: 

  • Teaching; 
  • Work on lesson plans and syllabi; 
  • Grading students and their performance; 
  • Fulfilling administrative tasks within the college department; 
  • Organization and coordination of student performances. 

Typical Workday of a Music Professor

One can be employed full-time or part-time in an educational institution. Specialists work in schools, colleges, and universities. 

As a full-time music professor, you’ll spend most of the time in the classroom with students. Some specialize in a specific discipline, like musical theater, opera singing, or an instrument. 

Also, you are going to create coursework plans and grade assignments. This is a significant part of the duties that takes a lot of time. Some professors work on college committees, volunteer to help with performances, or serve as advisors. 

Those who are employed part-time might teach one course. So they might work one day a week in college and combine it with other responsibilities like giving private lessons or performing. 

Career Requirements 

Music professor is an advanced position one usually works towards for years. Usually, the progression in this field looks like this: 

  1. Singer/Musician; 
  2. Band instructor/Adjunct Music Instructor; 
  3. Assistant Music Professor; 
  4. Associate Music Professor; 
  5. Music Professor; 
  6. Assistant Dean; 
  7. The Dean. 

The educational requirements are also quite significant. To become a professor, you’ll need a Ph.D. in a related field. Usually, the specialization in education will become or teaching focus. Performance background and teaching experience are also necessary. 

Professional skills that employers are looking for: 

  • Knowledge of instruments; 
  • Deep understanding of music theory; 
  • Expertise in music history; 
  • Proficiency in composition; 
  • Ability to read and write music; 
  • Strong written and verbal communication; 
  • Attention to detail; 
  • Critical thinking; 
  • Leadership;
  • Organization and time management. 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual salary for this job is $76,710. The highest range is going up to $129,150. Also, the job growth rate is about 10%, which is a good percentage.

How to get a top job as a music professor?

Step 1. Gain BA

The first step is to acquire a college education. The usual choices for a Bachelor’s degree are BA in Arts, BA in Music, or BA in Fine Arts and Music. 

One can specialize in the niche one prefers. In the future, it might be their teaching focus (songwriting, performance, or an instrument). 

Step 2. Gain MA

For a Master’s degree, students often choose Music, Arts, or Fine Arts and Music. During a Master’s, it is essential to start performing and gain experience. Some might work as adjunct music instructors or assistants to graduate students. This is an excellent opportunity to gain teaching practice. 

Many colleges offer Master’s students courses for graduates to pay for their degrees. If such an opportunity arises, take it. It is a crucial work experience you’ll need in the future. 

Step 3. Ph.D. and Work Experience

These two are combined in one step as many choose to do them simultaneously. Some music professors can find a job only with a master’s degree. But it is instead a rare occurrence. It is a competitive field, and it is always recommended to go for Ph.D.

In the meantime, one can give private lessons or get a job in a school. With a Ph.D., you can already apply for a tenure-track position. 

Step 4. Work on Your Competencies 

It takes several years in a tenure-track position before you can apply for a full-time professor role. After that, the prospects include Distinguished Professor, Assistant Dean, and Dean. 

Often, specialists start teaching in schools, then move to city colleges, colleges, and, finally, universities. 

Step 5. Apply for Jobs

If you already have all the necessary qualifications and experiences, you can find open positions in several ways: 

  • Networking offline with colleagues; 
  • Reaching out to institutions directly; 
  • Looking for openings online on sites like Jooble. 

Be sure to prepare a well-written resume with a cover letter and details on experience and education. 

In Summary 

Music professor is a perfect career for those who are passionate about art and want to share their knowledge. But as with any other academic path, it requires advanced skills, qualifications, and a lot of work. 

Anthony Stockton
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