Music Teachers


Employment Prospects


There are more than 2.5 million elementary and secondary school teachers employed in the United States. Music teachers make up a very small percentage of this group. The largest number of teaching positions are available in urban or suburban areas, but career opportunities also exist in small towns. Music teachers are also finding opportunities in charter schools, which are smaller, deregulated schools that receive public funding.

There are approximately 94,310  college and university music, art, and drama professors in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the following states have the highest concentrations of college music teachers: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, West Virginia, and Utah. With a doctorate, a number of publications or notable performances, and a record of good teaching, music professors should find opportunities in universities all across the country.

Starting Out

Elementary and secondary school music teachers can use their college placement offices and state departments of education to find job openings. Many local schools advertise teaching positions on their Web sites, on professional associations' sites, and in newspapers. Another option is to directly contact the administration of the schools at which you'd like to work. While looking for a full-time position, you can work as a substitute teacher. In more urban areas with many schools, you may be able to find full-time substitute work.

Prospective college professors should start the process of finding a teaching position while in graduate school. You will need to develop a curriculum vitae (a detailed, academic resume), work on your academic writing, assist with research, attend conferences, demonstrate your musical ability, and gain teaching experience and recommendations. Because of the competition for tenure-track positions, you may have to work for a few years in temporary positions. Some professional associations maintain lists of teaching opportunities in their areas. They may also make lists of applicants available to college administrators looking to fill an available position. The National Association for Music Education offers job listings at its Web site. Association members can also register as job seekers at the site.

Advancement Prospects

As elementary and secondary music teachers acquire experience or additional education, they earn higher wages and are assigned more responsibilities. Teachers with leadership skills and an interest in administrative work may advance to serve as principals or supervisors, though the number of these positions is limited, and competition for them is fierce. Another move may be into higher education, teaching music classes at a community college or university. For most of these positions, additional education is required. Other common career transitions are into related fields.

At the college level, the normal pattern of advancement is from instructor to assistant professor, to associate professor, to full professor. All four academic ranks are concerned primarily with teaching and research. College faculty members who have an interest in and a talent for administration may be advanced to chair of a department or to dean of their college. A few become college or university presidents or other types of administrators.

Private music teachers advance by establishing reputations as excellent teachers, which increases the number of students interested in studying with them.

Tips for Entry

Subscribe to the Chronicle of Higher Education ( to learn about trends in higher education and to access job listings for college professors.

Conduct information interviews with music teachers and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.

Read Music Educators Journal and Teaching Music (both available at and American Music Teacher ( to learn more about the field.

Visit and for job listings.