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Music Schools: How to Become a Professional Musician

Learn how to become a professional musician. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career as a professional musician.

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Do I Want to Be a Professional Musician?

Professional musicians sing and play instruments in front of live audiences; they also record music in studios. While some musicians may perform as solo acts, others could be part of bands, choirs, orchestras or musical groups. In addition to performing, musicians also must rehearse, practice and audition on a regular basis. A certain amount of competitiveness exists among those vying for jobs, given the small number of employment opportunities available.

Job Requirements

While there are no formal educational requirements, prospective musicians often begin taking music or voice lessons at an early age and may participate in their school's choir, band or orchestra. Musicians can also take their skills to the next level in a post-secondary training program. The table below includes the requirements from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about how to become a musician.

Common Requirements
Education Level No degree is necessary; however, earning a degree in music may be beneficial*
Experience Experience playing an instrument is necessary
Key Skills In addition to musical talent, musicians need to be very disciplined and have the perseverance to audition and accept rejection*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Begin Taking Lessons

Musicians often begin taking lessons during their youth. Whether it's the piano, guitar, drums or saxophone, individuals will learn to play an instrument or sing by enrolling in lessons with a private teacher or through a school program. Young musicians will often need to practice on a regular basis in order to prepare for recitals.

Success Tip

  • Play in a school band or orchestra. At the junior high and high school level, playing an instrument in a band or orchestra can give you experience and formalize your training.

Step 2: Enroll in a Post-Secondary Program

While prospective musicians can enroll in an associate's degree program in music, the BLS notes that musicians who want to work as classical musicians may need to pursue a bachelor's degree. Students in a bachelor's degree program will be able to focus on a particular type of instrument and begin specializing in a specific genre, such as jazz, opera or classical. In addition to taking classes and participating in musical groups, students may also have an opportunity to take part in a senior recital.

Success Tip

  • Look into a music fellowship. Participating in a music fellowship may provide you with additional training and offer performance opportunities. A fellowship may also help you transition into a professional career.

Step 3: Begin Auditioning

Whether a musician wants to perform in a jazz band, professional orchestra or for an event, they will often need to audition to demonstrate their musical skills and talents. Musicians may also be expected to have a demo that they can send out to producers or potential employers that will include a sample of their work.

Success Tip

  • Develop contacts in the field. Building relationships with agents and managers may enhance potential employment opportunities. As a musician, you may also collaborate with other musicians, which can create a foundation for collaborative projects in the future.
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Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Colorado (1 campus)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA in Undeclared
        • BFA - Fine Art
        • BFA in Art Education

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Performing
        • Piano and Organ
        • Stringed Instruments
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music History and Literature
        • Music Performing
        • Musical Conducting
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
        • Piano and Organ
        • Stringed Instruments
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Georgia include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Performing
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Jazz
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Pedagogy
        • Music Performing
        • Musical Conducting
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
        • Piano and Organ
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Syracuse University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music History and Literature
        • Music Performing
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Michigan State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Jazz
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Pedagogy
        • Music Performing
        • Musical Conducting
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at New York University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Performing
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northwestern University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Jazz
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Performing
        • Musical Conducting
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
        • Piano and Organ
        • Stringed Instruments
        • Voice and Opera

Popular Schools

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics