Singers: Job Description & Career Requirements

If you've ever dreamed of taking your singing voice out of the shower and joining the world of professional singers, you should be prepared for what it takes to succeed in the field. In most cases, more than practice and perseverance are needed. Read on to learn about the required training and skills, in addition to the employment outlook, for this profession.

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Career Definition

Singers read and interpret musical compositions and apply their voice and style to create a song. Singers use one or more vocal ranges, such as alto, baritone, or bass in certain music styles, including folk, rock, country, gospel, jazz, or rap. Those working as singers might find employment as back-up performers for bands, commercial jingle singers, cruise ship singers, nightclub entertainers, or even vocal teachers.

Most singers are self-employed or freelance artists who work contractually with recording labels, nightclubs, or concert tour venues. Singers work in recording studios creating albums.

How to Become a Singer

Required Education

A bachelor's degree in music with a specialization in vocal performance is offered at many colleges, universities, and performing and visual arts colleges. Core courses might include music theory, music composition, and music history. Some singers may choose to continue their education and seek a master's degree in music. If no formal degree is pursued, those interested in becoming singers might take private singing lessons from professional vocal coaches.

Practice makes perfect and many singers participate in open mic nights at local nightclubs or in talent competitions to develop their vocal range and style.

Skills Required for Singers

Singers need more than a great singing voice and a distinct style to succeed in singing professions. Determination, perseverance, self-discipline, self-confidence, and the ability to face rejection are all traits that singers must develop. Communication and interpersonal skills are also important, as singers work with many different people, including managers, agents, recording label executives, and recording studio personnel.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), job opportunities for singers are expected to increase about 5% from 2012-2022, which is notably slower than the national average of 11%. Those singers who are able to perform in a variety of ranges and styles are usually most successful in obtaining work.

Singers might find the best opportunities in large cities such as Los Angeles or New York, though the Internet has opened a wide range of possibilities for singers to distribute their songs. The salary range for singers varies greatly, as singers who perform commercial jingles earn far less than popular singers who draw audiences to large venues. However, the median wages for singers and musicians were $23.50 per hour, stated the BLS in May 2012.

Alternate Career Options

Music Director and Composer

Composers who write and arrange music may need only experience and informal musical training, while directors who lead musical groups or orchestras for live and recorded sessions often need bachelor's or master's degrees, depending on the performance setting. Slower than average employment growth of 5% was projected by the BLS for these professionals during the 2012-2022 decade. In 2012, the BLS reported median earnings of $47,350 per year, or $22.77 per hour.

Dancer and Choreographer

Dancers often study and train for many years, audition for parts, learn dances, practice, and perform various dances. Choreographers often begin as dancers and may pursue postsecondary education, in addition to creating dances, choosing music, auditioning dancers, and teaching complicated dance moves. Average employment growth of 13% was predicted for dancers and choreographers from 2012-2022, and a median hourly wage of $15.87 was reported in 2012.

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