Careers in Music

Having a career in music is both challenging and exciting. Most people build a career through some combination of teaching, composing, and performing/conducting. The list of possible careers is large. Below are just a few of the possibilities for which a degree from Washburn University will prepare you. Many careers involve several different musical skills. Some careers will require a graduate degree after completing an undergraduate degree.

Music Educator

Public School Music Teacher

Your Bachelor of Music Education degree from Washburn University will qualify you to teach in public schools, K-12. In addition, you would also be qualified to teach in any independent or private school as a music teacher.

Elementary School Music Teacher

Elementary School Music might involve teaching general music classes to all of the students in a particular school. Or, you may teach beginning instrumental or vocal music to a more specialized group of students specifically interested in singing or playing an instrument.

Secondary School Music Teacher

Secondary school music involves working with high school music students in band, orchestra, and/or choir. Secondary school teachers direct marching bands, concert bands, jazz bands, orchestras, concert choirs, jazz choirs, show choirs and small ensembles. The job can also involve teaching music theory, music history, and helping students to prepare solos.

Independent/Private School Music Teacher

Independent/private school music teachers usually teach many of the same ensembles and classes that are found in the public school setting. Often these schools center on a particular academic standard or a religious faith.

University Music Professor

The university music professor provides instruction in a variety of ways, including applied teaching, classroom teaching, ensemble directing, and administration. Most have doctoral degrees in performance, education, conducting, etc.

Private Studio Music Teacher

This music teacher may teach in a music store or in a private music academy or even at home. Some music teachers provide private instrumental or vocal lessons while others teach class lessons and even music theory or music history seminars.

Music Education Supervisor

This is an administrative position usually filled by an experienced public school teacher. The music education supervisor oversees all the music teachers in a particular school district. Often this person is involved in the hiring of new music faculty and assigning them to particular schools and jobs.

Church Musician/Director

This person oversees all the music for a church or synagogue, directing the choir, organizing the worship services, and generally working with the pastor, priest, or rabbi to provide all the musical needs for the house of worship.

Music Librarian

This person works in a music library in a large university music department. They have all the skills of a regular librarian, but also have expert knowledge of all kinds of musical resources both printed and on the Internet.

Instrument Repair

Usually working in a music store, an instrument repair specialist can repair brass, woodwind, string, and percussion instruments. Some instrument repair specialists own their own businesses and specialize in a particular category of instrument.


Freelance Musician

A freelance musician is a jack-of-all-trades, who plays for a wide variety of musical engagements including weddings, corporate parties, conventions, and any other function requiring music. Some musicians become contractors who book bands for all kinds of functions, drawing from a pool of local musicians. The freelance musician often performs for Broadway shows, churches, and does recording as well. They must be able to play any style of music.

Popular Singer/Instrumentalist/Band Leader/Performer

Many young musicians dream of becoming nationally known, either as popular singers, instrumentalists, or rock band members. While a small percentage of those who try ever “make it to big time,” bands like Kansas and many others began in a small town and were able to work their way up to stardom. It is important to follow your dreams, and a music degree can give you many of the tools you need to pursue this career.

Symphony Orchestra Performer

This musician is a hired member of a major symphony orchestra, usually located in a major city. Symphony musicians rehearse regularly with the orchestra and present numerous concerts throughout the season. Some musicians also do freelance work in shows and other musical events. Most symphony musicians have a master degree in music performance.

Studio Musician

The studio musician is adept at playing for recordings which might include playing for popular singers, performing as a member of a popular band, or working in the film recording industry. These musicians are excellent sight-readers.

Opera Singer

This is a highly specialized singer/actor who performs music from the western musical opera tradition, dating from the 17th century to the present. Performances are usually given in an opera house with scenery, costumes, and an orchestral accompaniment.

Theater Musician

Theater performers are singer/actors who perform in music theater productions. In addition to singing, stage performers must be able to deliver lines, dance, and communicate well with the audience. Theater instrumental musicians often specialize in playing Broadway show music in the pit of a theater. These musicians are excellent sight-readers. They often do some freelance work as well.

Cruise Ship Musician

Cruise ship musicians travel the world playing music for cruse lines. They have the skills of a theater musician and can perform in all styles of music.


Film Scoring

This person composes music for motion pictures of all types. These may be short films for corporations or major movies. This composer must know how to synchronize music with film.

Song Writing

This person writes popular songs for themselves or others to sing. The goal is to write a song that becomes a hit recording.

Commercial/Jingle Writing

This person uses their song writing skills to compose songs to advertise for businesses and companies on radio and television.

Educational Composer

This composer writes ensemble pieces, solos, duets, and/or method books to be used by public school ensembles and also for individual soloists. They must have a good understanding of the pedagogical requirements for students at various levels of learning.

Arts Management

This person works as an agent or promoter for various artists and musical ensembles. They set up performance schedules, handle publicity, and take care of many other aspects for their clients.

Music Retail

This person earns a living selling musical instrument, music books and sheet music, and all kinds of musical accessories. Most music stores also offer music lessons and hire private teachers to teach in the store. Many stores also sell musical instruments and accessories to public schools.

Music Therapy

A registered music therapist works in a wide variety of settings, including general and psychiatric hospitals, community mental health agencies, rehabilitation centers, day care facilities, nursing homes, schools, hospice care, children’s camps, and private practice. They are skilled at using music to minister to people with various physical and mental disabilities. This work requires specialized certification.

A Ssudent playing piano

A student playing Harp

Instructor giving voice lessons