How to Become a Professional Musician in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a professional musician. Learn about the duties of this job, the education requirements and salary range to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Musician Do?

A professional musician trains in the field of music to perform solos or with others for audiences and recordings. Professional musicians may play in rock or jazz bands or classical orchestras, or they may work as music teachers, either for a school or as a private instructor. Those in bands or solo acts can promote their work by operating a website or doing interviews. The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Music theory, musical performance, music history
Key Responsibilities Obtain bookings and perform musical arrangements to audiences; record and market music; compose music and write lyrics
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% (for all musicians and singers)*
Median Hourly Wage (2015) $24.20 (for all musicians and singers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Professional Musician?

Professional musicians are gifted individuals who earn a living through their musical performances, either individually or with a group of other musicians. They not only write music and play instruments, but they sometimes sing songs. Many musicians perform on weekends or at night, with the rest of their time being spent in rehearsals or working at other jobs.

Step One: Research the Career Duties of a Professional Musician

Depending on your talent and versatility, you might excel in one or more areas of musicianship. You might play brass instruments such as the trumpet or trombone, string instruments like the guitar or violin, and a variety of others. By becoming a composer, you can create music for television, radio and operas. This can be done with pen and paper, or through the use of computer software.

If singing is your forte, you might perform tenor, contralto, baritone, bass or soprano. Attending auditions and giving live performances may be a regular occurrence. As a successful professional musician, you also have the opportunity to promote your art through interviews with the media.

Step Two: Learn To Play an Instrument

You can follow the path of many professional musicians and begin playing instruments during your youth. Joining a school band or one formed by a group of talented acquaintances are some options. You could even work with an experienced musical tutor. This is how you gain expertise and performance experience, as well as stage presence. Routine practice will be essential, not only to starting a career as a professional musician, but to maintaining that career. It helps to learn how to read music early on.

Step Three: Study at a Conservatory

Music conservatories provide special training for young aspiring musicians and other performing artists. Studying at a conservatory gives you the opportunity to perfect your skills while learning to communicate your love of music to others. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that acceptance into a conservatory is contingent upon an audition (www.bls.gov).

Step Four: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Music

An undergraduate music program can offer further training in music history and theory. In fact, if you'd like to become a director of music or a composer, you will find that a bachelor's degree is often required. By attending one of the several hundred schools that have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, you ensure that you receive the best education possible. You must audition to enter this program as well. As a music major, you can focus on areas of concentration such as jazz studies, music therapy, percussion, woodwinds, opera or voice. Your coursework consists of classes such as music education, modern popular music, world music cultures and music history.

Step Five: Market Your Talents

Once you have embarked upon your career as a professional musician, you can steadily increase your popularity by performing at new venues and learning new songs. You can also enlist the aid of a manager or agent to facilitate contact with music executives who can help your career. In addition, you could produce a CD and use the Internet to distribute your musical art. Additional work may be acquired through the professional reputation you build for yourself.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Music directors conduct orchestras and other ensembles while they perform for an audience or a private recording. If you are interested in writing and producing music for a multitude of mediums, such as film or theater, you could become a composer. Most in these positions obtain a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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