Opportunities for musicians can often feel few and far between, but there are actually a lot of options available to those with a Music Major.
Most people who hold a music degree look towards either teaching or performing music, but there are also plenty of opportunities for those willing to diversify their music knowledge so it can apply to other fields as well. Music Majors often have roles in industries like content creation, app and video game development, audio engineering, or booking agencies -- while these jobs all require a degree of knowledge found outside of the major itself, a strong background in music is still needed for these roles to be done properly.
But given the huge variety of industries that someone with a music major is able to dip into, it can be tough to tell where a Music Major should look to find their place in the world of jobs.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Music Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Music Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Music Majors
Because so many Music Major jobs involve either teaching or performing music, many of the hard skills involved with the major have to do with command of a particular instrument or vocal technique coupled with writing or composition skills.
Soft skills for the major often include communication and interpersonal skills, especially for music-related jobs that aren't purely performance-based.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for Music in particular:
Music Majors participate in a number of events and performances during their time in college -- this awareness of what goes into putting on these events will come in handy during a Music Major's career, regardless of whether they're featured in the event or planning the event themselves.
As with any highly specialized discourse, not everyone's going to know what you're talking about when you tell them about music. If you hope to be a teacher, you're going to have to learn how to explain to others the concepts that you take for granted, but even those who aren't bound for education are going to have to work with others at some point in their career.
Particularly for Music Majors outside of the performance field, the ability to come up with creative solutions to problems is an essential skill. You might be composing music for a new app, or organizing an event with a number of different bookings that all come with their own unique sets of problems. Working in music can be a tough balancing act of understanding how best to apply your musical knowledge to the situation at hand.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Music Degree
Internships are an excellent way to start accumulating experience in any discipline, gaining valuable resume cache while also helping you start your network of industry contacts.
For the Music Major, internships are typically found at one of the various arts organizations that either puts on shows or manages shows by other artists. This includes places like music venues, studios, radio stations, or record labels. Other less common internships can be found in other industries where music is used extensively, such as in app development, video games, film, television, or for advertising.
One of the best places to look for Music internships is with your college's career resources department.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Music Majors
Jobs for Music Majors that deal purely with the major tend to focus on either teaching music or performing music, whether in the context of singing, using instruments, or composing. However, a number of positions also exist in the job world that require musical knowledge -- these positions just happen to take other skills that a music major might have to develop outside of the major itself.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Music Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Event Managers are responsible for preparing event documentation, coordinating with caterers and other booked services, and managing employees throughout planned events like galas, weddings, and group dinners.
Arts Administrators organize and manage gallery spaces, including deciding the art on display, coordinating with artists and event planners, and distributing monthly newsletters.
Music Therapists use music as a form of therapy to help clients address their physical, psychological, cognitive, and social needs, which they do by evaluating their clients' individual needs and developing programs tailored to these needs.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Music Majors
Look Outside of the Limelight
If you're having trouble finding a position, part of the issue might be that you're looking for a job as a performer.
The world needs performers, and being a performer can be an extremely rewarding career, but competition is fierce. There's only so many paid positions out there, and you'll often be competing with people who have been performing music for literally their entire lives.
But there are other positions out there -- less glamorous, but no less important or rewarding. Administrative jobs are needed to keep venues alive and booking, and teachers and choreographers are always needed to help the next batch of music-lovers learn what they need to give things a shot.
Granted, if you know your dream is to perform on stage, then don't let anyone (let alone us) stop you. Just be aware that there are other wonderful options out there that you might enjoy even more.
Think Outside of the Box
Think about all the media you consume on a daily basis. Now think about all the music you hear in that media, the stuff that a lot of people might miss. Someone has to compose that music; someone has to produce it; someone has to distribute it.
You could work any one of those positions, but (again) it might require you to diversify your interests a little. Learn some marketing basics, and your first job could be composing music for advertisements. Learn some computer skills and you could produce the audio for a company's videos or podcasts.
The opportunities are out there, but it's up to you to go out and look for them.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Music
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Due to the fact that many music careers don't require higher education to attain, few of those intent on entering the work force in music go on to pursue an advanced degree. The Master's in Music is sometimes used to help a student get a leg up in the field of their choice and boost their pay slightly, but for the most part the Master's is intended for those who want to become teachers or music directors.
The PhD is typically for those in the music field who intend to study the theory, history, or science of music, and typically includes those who intend to focus on the research side of things or who want to teach in higher education. Another degree available to music students is the Doctor of Musical Arts, which is similar to the PhD except that a significant aspect of the degree includes musical performance and composition.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with a Music degree normally consider:
Master's in Music
- Primarily geared toward getting students to be a little more confident in a particular skill or specialization, many Master's degrees are also designed so that graduates will also leave with teaching certifications.
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Music)
- PhDs in Music focus on conducting research, writing papers, and teaching college students about the field of Music.
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
- Like the PhD, the DMA includes conducting research and writing academic papers, but also includes a significant focus on performing and composing music.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)
The AFM is the largest professional organization in the world for performing musicians. Made up of over 80,000 members, the group offers benefits such as freelancing opportunities, continuing education, local meetings, and conferences.
Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)
Another professional organization, this one devoted to music teachers. The MTNA offers many similar membership benefits, including meetings, publications, conferences, continuing education opportunities, and other resources.
Enter "Music" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Music Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.