Musical Performance

Explore musical performance as a career option. Learn about related bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as job duties, occupational outlook and earning potential to determine if this is the right career for you.

Is Musical Performance for Me?

Career Summary

Musical performers play instruments and sometimes sing in front of an audience. Many performers arrange and compose their own music as well. You can perform as a solo artist, with a band or with an orchestra. Professional musicians should enjoy playing in front of large groups of people. If you're part of a touring act, you need to be prepared for an irregular schedule and a significant amount of traveling in addition to devoting a lot of time to practicing.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly income of music performers was $23.74 in 2013 ( Since many musicians have sporadic periods of employment, it's difficult to provide accurate yearly salary information. The highest paid musicians generally are in high demand and able to sell the most tickets for venues. Some orchestra performers are guaranteed work for up to a year at a time, giving them some of the best job security of all musical performers. The BLS projects 5% employment growth for musicians and singers between 2012 and 2022.

How Can I Become a Musical Performer?

Education Options

Future musical performers typically learn to play an instrument at a young age, sometimes through private lessons. Participation in a school, church or community band also can help build a foundation for performing music later in life. While formal education is not needed to become a musical performer, you might choose to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music program, which offers specializations for most instruments. Music students take required music courses, in addition to courses tailored to their chosen concentration. You'll also have opportunities to play in front of large audiences in the form of ensembles, combo groups and orchestras.

Graduate Studies

Master's degree programs are available in music performance, music education and music composition. Doctoral programs in music might offer advanced courses in music editing, music criticism or performance analysis. Musicians need to continually train to improve their skills, and participation in a doctorate program in music performance might provide an opportunity to perform at prestigious locations.

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