Music Teacher Career Profile

There are several possible career paths open to aspiring music teachers

female music instructor teaching girl guitar
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As you might have guessed, music teachers teach music! But that teaching can take on many different forms. Some are vocal coaches, some teach how to play instruments, some teach music theory, and some do a combination. Some music teachers are tied to a school or a business while others teach music independently.

Your music teacher career path can vary greatly and depends on the kind of teaching that interests you most.

Music Teachers in Schools

Most of us have had experience with music teachers in school. As a school-based music teacher, you will move from classroom to classroom providing music instruction. The exact curriculum you cover will be dictated by the school district and the grade levels with which you are working. Usually, there is a heavy emphasis on vocal instruction and music theory.

Some schools have elective music classes that go a little deeper into music, teaching instruments, working more on music theory, and so on. Music teachers may also be responsible for devising school musical productions or coaching the school band.

Music Teachers in Music Shops and Businesses

Some music and instrument shops have in-house music teachers. This setup can work in a few different ways:

  • Independent music teachers may rent space in the shop, like an independent hairdresser rents salon space, and set their own prices.
  • Workers in the shop may teach music on the side in the shop and share income with the business.
  • The business may have dedicated music teachers on staff.

Again, these music teachers may handle vocal instruction, instrument instruction, or both. Lessons may be private or group.

Private Music Teachers/Independent Music Teachers

Independent music teachers can work in a specific location, such as renting out space where they teach. They might teach out of their own homes, or travel to the homes of their students or teach lessons out of their own home.

In terms of the subject matter, working as a private music tutor is the same as working in a school or business; you can teach whatever aspect of music in which you are most skilled and feel comfortable teaching.

These music teachers are self-employed. They may teach full time, or they may teach music as a second job.

Qualifications Required to Be a Music Teacher

The qualifications you need to be a music teacher depend on the career path you choose. Of course you will need to be proficient in the subject you're teaching, but if you are self-employed, for instance, there is no outside vetting or professional certification process that you need to pass before you advertise your services as music instructor (though judgment will be passed soon enough if your students aren't thrilled with your expertise!).

On the other end of the spectrum, to work in a school, you'll likely need a degree, preferably music related, and depending on your location, possibly a teaching certificate as well.

Making Money as a Music Teacher

If you work in a school setting, naturally you will have a fixed salary. Other types of music teachers are typically paid per lesson. Setting your fees is something you're going to research. Find out the going rate in your area so you can price competitively to draw in students. You may want to start your prices at the lower end of the spectrum to build your client list. You can revise your rates periodically as needed.

For private music teachers, payment is usually expected at the time the lesson is given or even before.

Music Teachers and Contracts

Music teachers working in schools will have a contract with their employer every time.

If you are renting out space in a music shop to give lessons, you should have something in writing detailing the arrangement, such as your rent rate, how much notice either party needs to give to cancel the agreement, whether the shop makes a commission on referrals, and so on.

If you work privately, there is not usually a contract between teachers and students, but it is a good idea to always give receipts for payment and to have a written statement of your policies regarding things like cancellations.

How to Become a Music Teacher

To work in a school, you need to apply through the school system as you would with any other teaching job. To work privately as a music teacher, it is all about advertising your services. Try fliers in local record stores, music instruments shops—anywhere you think potential musicians might congregate—as well as your local paper, Craiglist, social networking sites and anywhere you can get the word out.