Music Teachers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a music teacher, you probably are already taking voice lessons or are learning to play an instrument in high school. Participation in music classes, choral groups, bands, and orchestras is also good preparation for a music teaching career. Communication skills are also essential in teaching careers so be sure to take communications, speech, and writing classes.

Postsecondary Training

Like all musicians, music teachers spend years mastering their instruments or developing their voices. Private teachers need no formal training or licenses, but most have spent years studying with an experienced musician, either in a school or conservatory or through private lessons. Teachers in elementary schools and high schools must have at least a bachelor's degree in music education, experience working as a student teacher, and a state-issued teaching license. Approximately 639 conservatories, universities, and colleges offer bachelor's degrees in music education to qualify students for state certificates. The National Association of Schools of Music offers a directory of accredited music schools at its Web site, https://nasm.arts-accredit.org.

To teach music in colleges, schools of music, or in conservatories, you must have a graduate degree in music. Many teachers at this level also have doctorate degrees. However, very talented and well-known performers or composers are sometimes hired without any formal graduate training, but only a few people reach that level of fame.

Other Education or Training

The American String Teachers Association, Music Teachers National Association, National Association for Music Education, and The College Music Society provide continuing education webinars, classes, and workshops on music theory, using technology in the classroom, and other topics. Contact these organizations for more inrformation.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) offers voluntary certification to music teachers who meet academic, performance, and teaching competencies and pass proficiency examinations in music theory, music history/literature, and/or pedagogy/teaching education. Upon fulfillment of these requirements, the applicant may use the designation nationally certified teacher of music.

Elementary and secondary music teachers who work in public schools must be licensed under regulations established by the state in which they are teaching. If moving, teachers have to comply with any other regulations in their new state to be able to teach, though many states have reciprocity agreements that make it easier for teachers to change locations.

Licensure examinations test prospective teachers for competency in basic subjects such as reading, writing, teaching, and other subject matter. In addition, many states are moving toward a performance-based evaluation for licensing. In this case, after passing the teaching examination, prospective teachers are given provisional licenses. Only after proving themselves capable in the classroom are they eligible for a full license.

Another growing trend spurred by recent teacher shortages in elementary and high schools is alternative licensure arrangements. Some states are issuing provisional licenses to aspiring teachers who have bachelor's degrees but lack formal education courses and training in the classroom. These workers immediately begin teaching under the supervision of a licensed educator for one to two years and take education classes outside of their working hours. Once they have completed the required course work and gained experience in the classroom, they are granted a full license.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

One of the best ways to gain experience in the field is to work as a student teacher, which is often a requirement of your education degree program.

Above all, music teachers must have a broad cultural background and a love for music. They should be proficient with at least one musical instrument or demonstrate strong vocal ability. Many feel that the desire to teach is a calling. This calling is based on a love of learning. Teachers of young children and young adults must respect their students as individuals, with personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of their own. They must also be patient and self-disciplined to manage a large group independently. Because they work with students who are at very impressionable ages, music teachers should serve as good role models. Elementary and secondary teachers should also be well organized, as they have to keep track of the work and progress of many students.

If you aim to teach at the college level, you should enjoy reading, writing, researching, and performing. Not only will you spend many years studying in school, but your whole career will be based on communicating your thoughts and ideas. People skills are important because you'll be dealing directly with students, administrators, and other faculty members on a daily basis. You should feel comfortable in a role of authority and possess self-confidence in your teaching and musical abilities.