What Happens to Music Majors After They Graduate College? New Study Reveals Amazing Data

The Results of Peter & Lauren’s Study

According to this study, over 50% of the students in the music performance group found work relevant to their major within four months of graduation.

Additionally, more than 75% of the music education group also found work within four months of graduation.

Ultimately, more than 1 out of every 2 of all the respondents stated that performance or education was their jobs.

These, to me, are truly amazing statistics.

To put this in perspective, approximately 1 in 4 students who graduate college in other majors end up working in a field related to their major.

Another interesting thing to note is that 1 of out 5 in the performance group found a job concurrently teaching in a public school, suggesting that it is a relatively common practice for students who major in performance to also teach.

Those in the music education group reported annual income between $20,000 – $60,000, with a small number making over $60,000. The authors noted that although the average in this group would be lower than the national average salary of $56,000 for music education teachers, he concluded most musicians wouldn’t attain the average salary until they are further along into their careers.

For music performance majors, the salaries were wider in range – although many reported starting annual incomes in the $20,000 area, some did make more than $60,000.

My recommendation, to tag along with the study, is this…

It is prudent for any young musician recently graduated from college looking to boost income by A) diversifying performance opportunities among chamber, orchestral, solo, studio session, and popular-genre gigs, and B) work temporarily or long-term in other music-related capacities, such as in arts administration.


Things to Consider

This study illuminates something amazing; the percentage of musicians finding work within 4 months of graduating college is comparable to alumni who studied majors outside of music.

This data seems to be exceptionally and, dare I say, incredible for music majors looking to attain a career in music, as well as for high school musicians looking to attend college for music.

Some might rebut and state that 50% of performance majors finding work within 4 months of graduation is too low.

To this I say four things:

First, some students fall out-of-love with the idea of being a musician for a career after graduating college. This is 100% ok; being a professional musician is not for everyone.

As such, these students are either less motivated to find work OR they have decided to change professions after college.

Also, some of the results of this study came from students who graduated college in 2008 and 2009, a time when our economy had hit a recession.

Secondly, many music performance students choose to attend graduate school after completing an undergraduate degree. Because of this, their focus isn’t to find work, but rather, to focus on studies.

True, some respondents in the study were indeed graduate student alumni, but many were undergraduate alumni.

Thirdly, as I mentioned previously, this percentage is fairly comparable to alumni of majors outside of music performance and music education.

In fact, it’s actually better, when considering the relevancy of the major to the career outlook…

As previously cited, only 1 in 4 alumni of all majors work jobs related to what they studied, whereas in this study, we find that 1 in 2 music performance majors find work relevant to their major, and 3 in 4 music education majors find a job relevant to their studies within four months of graduation.

Fourth, and finally, it takes time to build a great music career.

One of my good friends from college, for example, spent years performing gigs as a soloist and teaching throughout New York City before becoming the newest member of one of the world’s lauded chamber groups, Imani Winds.

Students I went to college with are now in-demand as performers, teachers, and clinicians with their saxophone quartet represented by the highly respected management group Concert Artists Guild.

Other friends I went to school with are now studio musicians, members of renowned orchestras, CEOs at successful music companies, teachers who have started their own community music schools, music directors, high school and private school teachers.

Heck, I went to university for composition and am now a college consultant for music students looking to attain a degree in music. It took me years to get to where I am now, but I am here now and I am doing well.


What About Musicians Outside of Performance And Teaching

Although the study did not address majors outside of performance and teaching, the career prospects for those in other fields, such as Music Production and Music Composition, can be very good.

I have known composition alumni to make great salaries outside of teaching. The opportunities for composers includes, but is certainly not limited to, commissions for orchestral, chamber, and solo music, orchestration and arranging for other composers, engraving music (the art of taking written music and processing it through a notation program like Finale or Sibelius), writing film/commercial music, etc.

Music Production majors also have very good career prospects. Some of these include working in recording studios, working independently as recording engineers, mixing and mastering tracks and albums for artists, running live sound in music venues, producing & DJing music, and consulting for record labels.

For both of these majors, those career paths are just the beginning.

Employment outlook is also very good for other majors, including Music Therapy.


What I Am Saying Is This…

If you have a dream, a passion, and you desire to work in music, then even if you decide to regard any study, you can make a career for yourself after you graduate college.

This study exudes tremendous factual data. It is promising for families, institutions, young musicians.

If nothing else, the study can serve as a boost of confidence for the journey into the creative world of pursuing music and art at the collegiate level.

Published in a 2015 edition of “Arts Education Policy Review,” the article in totality is called “Undergraduate Music Program Alumni’s Career Path, Retrospective Institutional Satisfaction, and Financial Status.”

Check out this link to read the study yourself.


Featured Photo by Vancouver 125

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