It may come as a surprise for you to learn that music education is the most popular music major in the entire country. And for good reason – music education majors enjoy the highest job placement immediately after completion of a Bachelor’s over every other major in music. Some colleges boast a 100% job placement rate from their music education programs in almost every year.

That said, as music education is the most popular music major in the entire country, it is also among the most competitive. When it comes time to for you to attend your first job interview, having a solid foundation in musicianship and a thorough understanding of classroom curricula are obvious requirements. What may not be obvious, however, are a number of “insider” tips that will put you way ahead of the competition in the game of winning jobs in music education, tips that those who have been in the field for years know very, very well.

After having spoken to several music teachers and music education enthusiasts, I decided to put together a list with real insider knowledge to assist the job-seeking music education major, or for those looking into a career in music education. Without further ado, here are my seven tips for getting a great job with a music education degree.


7. Know Exactly How to Handle Any Given Classroom Situation and Stay In Control

photo by US Department of Education via Flickr Creative Commons

It might seem insensitive to say that most pre-college schools are looking more for teachers that can handle students in bad or unpredictable classroom situations rather than for teachers’ musicality and creativity. While musicality and creativity are endlessly important for a successful and rewarding career as a music education teacher, knowing how to handle unique student situations is the key to job placement and retention.

On the day of your interview, you will be probably be asked how to handle students in a variety of different situations. According to this Michigan State University music education sample interview, one question that could come up in your interview is “what do you do with a student who resists music?”

Translation: “What do you with a student who does not want to participate in classroom activities?” Basically, how do you, as a teacher, work with unruly and uncooperative students?

Answers to questions like these will help interviewers determine whether you have the necessary skills to work with children and teenagers successfully in a typical, not always idealistic classroom setting. I am not displacing emphasis on the absolutely true necessity of having a creative and genuine mind for music education, however, without having the ability to deal with young students on a basic level of behavioral discipline, you may not be able to get and/or retain the job you want.


6. Learn How to Not Get Fired – Here’s Why

Talk can spread quickly around different schools in a district or city. Getting fired can sometimes be out of your control, but if possible, try not to get fired as many music education teachers at different schools know each other (remember, everyone goes to the same music education conferences). Also, the administration at many different K-12 programs know each other as well.

If you are the bad apple in a crowd of good music teachers, a negative reputation about you in a specific location could become known, and it could be that much harder for you to find a job in the city you want to teach in. I can tell you right now that many music education teachers in locales like New York City, Long Island, Chicago, or suburban Boston all know each other and what the “going-ons” are of their fellow music departments.


5. Choose a College Music Education Program With Connections to Many Local K-12 Programs

This one is not nearly emphasized enough, yet is, in my opinion, one of the most important factors for choosing the best music education program. When a college has established connections to local K-12 academic institutions, the likelihood of a college student’s job placement in those schools is significantly higher than if there were no connection.

I will be publishing a list of the top music education programs in early November, but for today, I can say I am very fond of Northwestern University’s music education program. Their school has ties to over 60 Chicago area public schools, schools that regularly employ graduates of the Northwestern University music education program. Other schools that have strong ties to public K-12 music programs include (but are certainly not limited to) Ithaca College and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Choosing a program with connections already in place can act as a “job placement funnel” for students who wish to teach immediately after graduating with their Bachelor’s.