Music education is an exceptionally broad, in-demand, and for those who absolutely love the vocation of teaching, rewarding profession. Music education has been one of the most noble professions for centuries, as nearly every professional musician of all time has been taught by an educator.

Just think about every single album, commercial jingle, member of an entire symphonic orchestra, or rock band you have ever encountered: somewhere along the path of that musician who made the music you are encountering was a thoughtful music educator who helped that musician get to where he or she is now.

Although you could make an argument that there are dozens of types of music educators, and that many choir directors, instrumental clinicians, and administrators are also music educators (which is true), for this article I will break up music education into three primary types.

1. Pre-college Music Education

Typically, music educators at the pre-college level will have degrees in music education, which is actually the most popular music degree in the entire country (I will be making a music education college list very, very soon). These musicians have to learn the basics of playing multiple instruments in order to be effective educators and conductors to orchestras with young musicians.

For a full-time profession, music educators find themselves teaching in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and in private music academies. There are also opportunities to teach specific instruments at specific pre-college programs, however, very frequently these programs are taught by college-level faculty.


Music educators will usually have a degree in music education; many of them also receive degrees in conducting, which gives them preference in the job market if they are seeking a position conducting a high school orchestra, band, and/or choir. Typically, they will also have teaching experience by the time they reach college; without question, every single bachelor’s degree in music education provides its students with ample hours of required teaching.

I am nearly positive that every single state requires all music educators at the pre-college level to be state-certified, but if there is a state that does not require this, then feel free to email me and let me know.


Most pre-college music educators have a starting salary in the range of $30,000 – $40,000, with the average salary of all music educators being between $40,000-$50,000. However, the secret behind getting a higher salary is trying to get a music education job in a wealthier district, since teachers’ salaries are funded by the town’s tax dollars. Wealthier districts are able to pay pre-college music educators as much as $60,000 – $75,000, and more if they have been with the school for a very long time.

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2. College Music Education

Besides pre-college music educators, there are also positions in universities as both staff members and faculty. Staff members are typically graduate students who teach in exchange for a stipend, while the faculty will be comprised of both lecturers and professors. These professors usually take on more specialized niches in music than a pre-college music educator would, who is more focused on teaching young musicians the basics of enjoying, practicing, and performing music, as well as helping the more dedicated and advanced ones achieve goals outside of the classroom.

College Music Education Requirements

To be a professor you almost always need to have a PhD. There are noted exceptions to this rule if you have had an exemplary music career, and some teachers are able to secure professorships with just a Master’s degree. Rarely, you can be a lecturer/professor with just a bachelor’s degree, but I have seen it happen.

To be a lecturer, it is generally required that you have a PhD, although there are many lecturers who have only master’s degrees. Keep in mind that for both professors and lecturers, these PhDs are not in music education, but rather, a specialized field of music, like instrumental performance, music composition, music theory, orchestral conducting, etc.


  • Assistant Professor: $40,000 – $70,000, more for a top university
  • Associate Professor: $65,000 – $90,000, more for a top university
  • Professor: $80,000 – $150,000, more for a top university

There is a great deal of range in professor’s salaries due to the varying budgets and wide ranges of quality throughout colleges.  A college like Harvard or Princeton would probably pay a starting assistant professor more than the ranges above, while a small liberal arts college or a small state school would probably pay in the lower end of the salaries above.

3. Private Music Education

There are also private music instructors who work outside of a university or high school (although they can teach simultaneously at these places while holding a private studio) who teach either with a company or independently. If these teachers work independently, they may work out of a studio, or they may travel to the homes of the students they work with. Both methods certainly have their different benefits.

These private teachers who usually have a core focus, like violin performance, piano performance, music composition, etc., and take on students of varying ages to teach them how to play the instrument they choose. Most private music educators inevitably take on young students, but one of my friends at this school has had students over twice her age.


The only true requirement if you work independently is having proficiency with your instrument and being good with young children/private students. You do not need a degree to teach instrumental lessons. That said, if you choose to work for a private school, you will probably need to get at least a master’s degree in the instrument you wish to teach in to be hired at those schools, especially in schools with in more affluent areas like Long Island and New York City.


The standard salary these days, if teaching independently without the assistance of a music school, is $60/hr for a musician with a performance degree. Many accomplished professional musicians charge up to $90/hr or even more.

If you are working in a music school, the average salary will be between $25-$40 per hour. Full-time, all of these salaries would be very good for a musician, however, it is not easy to fill up a studio with enough full-time students. Many music instructors supplement their teaching income with church gigs, performance opportunities, and other musical activities on the side of teaching.

Online lesson companies have become very popular, such as TakeLessons, a portal sponsored by Best Buy. I talked to these people a few years back and the salary was around $30 per lesson.

Featured Image by woodleywonderworks Via Flickr Creative Commons