Band Director: Educational and Training Requirements

A band director serves as the conductor and instructor for a group of musicians. He or she may audition players, select or arrange music, provide guidance during rehearsals and prepare the band for performances. Band directors often need at least a 4-year degree to obtain the necessary teaching skills and musical knowledge.

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Band Director Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum education needed to become a band director in any setting is a bachelor's degree in an appropriate music field, which could include music education or performance on a specific instrument (www.bls.gov). The BLS further stated that education requirements for prospective band directors in academic institutions ranged from undergraduate to doctoral degrees, depending on the type and level of institution, and whether it was public or private.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Although private schools and community organizations may not require a band director to have an undergraduate degree, band directors in public elementary, middle and schools are teachers who must have a bachelor's degree and state teacher certification or licensing, the BLS said. Undergraduate music education programs prepare students for careers as school band directors through classes in music history and theory, instrument-specific teaching methods and conducting, as well as through student teaching internships. They also gain experience performing solo and in musical ensembles, which can help them teach others to do the same.

Master's Degree Programs

The BLS noted that a master's degree is often sufficient for postsecondary teaching positions at 2-year colleges, and sometimes for positions in the arts, such as music, at 4-year colleges and universities. A master's degree program in music education provides additional advanced training in conducting, teaching skills, music education administration and leadership and opportunities to apply experience in lessons and groups. In these programs, students enhance their theoretical knowledge by studying the psychology of music and completing research.

Doctoral Degree Programs

A doctoral degree in music education provides prospective college band directors with the knowledge to lead a variety of music ensembles, give lessons and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses. Doctoral music programs may be divided into teaching or research tracks and allow music educators to develop their expertise in curricular, pedagogical and administrative aspects of the arts.

Training Requirements for Band Directors

The BLS recommends that those interested in music careers have the dedication necessary to practice and improve, and a passion for increasing their knowledge of musical styles and technique. Additionally, teaching careers require individuals who are able to communicate with and encourage others, in order to foster their creativity and motivate them to succeed. Participating in or giving music lessons, joining ensembles and assuming leadership roles will help prospective band directors test their abilities by using them.

Band directors in school settings may participate in professional development and continuing education courses, and some states require this for renewal of teaching licenses. Professional organizations, such as the High School Band Directors National Association (www.hsbdna.org) and the College Band Directors National Association (www.cbdna.org) grant teachers the opportunity to network with other band directors and enhance their skills in the classroom.

Salary and Employment Outlook

While the BLS doesn't specifically have data for band directors, it did find that the related field of music directors and composers earned a median annual salary of $47,350. These professionals were expected to see employment increase during the 2012-2022 decade, and the growth could be by as much as five percent, the BLS predicted.

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