So, What Can You Do With A Music Degree?

Piper MusicWhen a student decides that they want to pursue a degree in music they often aren’t aware of what types of jobs they are qualified for when they complete the degree program.  The truth is that the music degree qualifies their degree holders for a multitude of job opportunities that can vary by the specific type of music degree obtained. 

There are many types of music degrees and some of the Colleges and Universities offer very specific concentrations with regard to a music discipline or sub-discipline.  Most Colleges/Universities offering music curriculums will classify their music program offerings into one or more of the following music degree programs:

Music Business (Music Industry)
Music Education (Music Pedagogy)
Music History (Musicology)
Music Performance
Music Production (Music Technology)
Music Religion (Church Music)
Music Theory (Music Composition)
Music Therapy

Music Business -Any person possessing a degree in Music Business has all the education and training that they need to apply for a job in any BUSINESS related field but, specializes in the music/media related business arena.

Music Business careers/jobs:

Advertising Specialist           

Booking Agent, Talent Agent, Casting

Copyright Specialist/Music Attorney or law-related -A specialist with regard to copyright and/or music litigation matters (advanced law degrees will be required to become a lawyer and various other professional requirements such as becoming a paralegal will required for law-related opportunities).


        Traditional Music Stores

        Electronic Music Stores

         Any music (or non-music) related store or business

Music Librarian:

        Librarian for large scale ensembles and music houses

Music Publishing Companies:

         Sales, Organization, P.R., Marketing, Business Management, etc.

Music Industry (Business)  -Those that possess a degree related to the music industry (many times these degrees are a hybrid with music business) are able to look for jobs within the music industry field.

Music Industry (business) careers/jobs:

 Artist Managing/Management:
             Groups, Ensembles, Personal

Artists & Repertoire (A&R):

           A&R Scouting- Listen to and find new artists and songs
           A&R Management – Sign and negotiate new nands and deals
          A&R Executives- Label owners and policy makers

Music Performance Promotion:

          Live Concerts (Symphonies, Operas, Musicals, Bands, Groups, etc.)
          Radio/Television/Internet Sales

Music Related Business Research (Sales, Trends, Markets, etc.)

Internet based music distribution companies:

             Jobs with Naxos, Napster, iTunes, Rhapsody,, etc.

Music Education -While all public school jobs (in the U.S.) require a formal music education degree and college teaching jobs require at least a master’s degree, there are many career paths to choose from as an educator of music.

Music Education careers/jobs:

Church Related Ministries (many schools offer a Music Religion Degree):

           Church-related Music Educator

           Church Ensemble Director

           Minister of Music

           Missionary Work

           Youth Pastor

Music Consultant

Private School Teacher

Private School Administrator (often requires advanced degrees)

Public School Teacher (requires state certification): Pre-K through 12th grade

Public School Administrator (often requires advanced degrees)

Music or Fine Arts Dean (requires a terminal degree)

College Professor (often requires a terminal degree):

             Music Business
             Music Composition
             Music Education
             Music History (Musicology, Ethnomusicology, etc.)
             Music Industry
             Music Performance (adjunct or otherwise)
             Music Production (electronic or otherwise)
             Music Technology
             Music Theory

Private Studio Teacher (small, group, online)

Music Performance Degree –a degree program that concentrates on making you a better performer.  While many will argue that best performer will get the job regardless of any degree(s), the entire purpose of getting a Music Performance Degree is to develop you into THE BEST PERFORMER that you can be.

With this degree you will compete with any-and-all for a chance to perform all types of music:

Recorded Venues (Video, Film, Commercials, etc.)

Become a teacher in your chosen instrument or voice:

    Private, Public (with a music education degree), College/University, etc.

Music Production/Engineering –Degrees and specializations in this area allow individuals to work in the recording/media side of the music industry:

Acousticians/Acoustic Consultants: Work with builders and other specialists to determine/design the sound field properties of a given room or area

Audio Engineer:  Work with the recording of music: microphone placement, mixing, re-mixing, etc. 

Audio Producers: Usually have oversight of the entire recording process for any given recording session

Audio Technicians (assistants): Work side-by-side with the audio engineers

Electronic Engineer/Computer Engineer Sound Specialists:  These positions will require degrees in mechanical/electrical/computer engineering and get to develop and work with the latest music production technology equipment and gear

Multimedia Specialist/Developer: Work with the digitization of recorded media for anything from internet usage to video and film usage

Post Production Sound Engineer: A specific type of sound engineer that works with sound recordings after the recording process is finished

Software Designer: Design software with regard to the various music applications and music related computer needs (degrees and/or proficiency in computer programming will also be required)

Teach music related technology programs/courses at the private, public, or College/University level with the appropriate degrees

Music Theory/Composition –Arrange, Analyze, Compose, Edit, Orchestrate, and Transcribe Music:

    Ensembles and individuals
    Video Games

Teacher or Professor of Music Theory or Composition

Music Therapy -This type of degree is required for working within the medical health profession with regard to the various medical conditions of individuals.  Employment in many of the related music therapy areas often require additional certifications or registrations.

Music Therapists are employed in the following settings:

Alcohol/Drug Rehab Centers
Correctional facilities
Geriatric facilities
Group homes
Mental Health centers/institutions
Nursing Homes
Universities and Colleges

Related Music Careers (any degree):

Disc Jokey
Instrumental Repair (some schools offer degrees or certifications in Music Repair)
Piano Tuner (a great “ear” and likely…additional professional training/certifications)
Music Critic
Music Historian (usually requires advanced degrees in Music History/Musicology)
Music Journalist or Publicist (may require advanced education in writing/journalism, etc.)
Instrument Design (most likely you will need an acoustics/engineering background for this one!)

While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it certainly provides a good survey of the opportunities available for those seeking or having a music degree.  


Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website
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  • emmalynneadrian

    Hey Dr. Pisano!
    It wasn’t until college that I realized music teachers are not just educators. They are musicians, mentors, teachers, business people, administrators, and a million other professions. This article let me sift through all the professions involved in music so that I could see which strengths I have to offer in music. Reading through all of these professions it has helped narrow my graduate school search to a few professions instead of “music.”
    I think as a future educator it is important to approach teaching from the perspective this article gives. To support music and continue its growth it is important to expose students to the many different venues of professions that music offers. I know when I was in high school I thought you could perform for the Pittsburgh Symphony or teach band. I do feel that a lot of students and parents of students shy away from a career in music because they do not realize the options and avenues of success that can be made through music. This article gives students the run down on their options.

  • stephaniecramer

    There are so many options that people just don’t think about in regards to a career in music. When we hear a person is a straight music major, we laugh and say, “What are you going to do with that?” But in all actuallity, there are things you can “do with that.”

    It is really nice to see a list composed of all types of careers in music. It’s nice to see that we have options and can do a lot of different things. Within each degree of music, there are many options and it is good to know we are not restriced to just one thing.

  • brittanybell1

    When i was deciding on what my major would be when I went to college, I always thought about working with music, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with it. Music education is such a great program, but, as with any degree, there are only certain amounts of jobs as school. With that fact in mind, many people have wondered what the backup plan is.
    This list is a great thing to work off of to get ideas for careers other than teaching k-12 music. there are so many possibilities for careers and/or further studies to investigate. Having options and possibilities is great, and this is a great sounding board to work with.

  • nathanperriello

    As a music business major with only a few ideas of what to do upon graduating, it is refreshing to see that there are many options out there to pursue. I had only ever considered arts management as a potential future career, but now I feel like I have a better insight into what else I would be qualified to pursure. I am often asked what I want to do with my degree, and sometimes I just have to answer “I really don’t know”.
    After reading this list, I feel slightly more confident about graduating and applying for jobs. Not only can I apply for jobs in the arts management field, but I now realize that this is not my only option upon graduating. I had never before considered Naxos or iTunes as legitimate job prospects, along with such options as running music stores and being a music librarian.

  • Christopher Bruce

    This article was extremely informative! There are so many jobs that the general public doesn’t think about! Over the years, I have been asked many times what I want to do with a music degree. Out of the people that have asked me, half of them probably thought that getting a music degree was a waste of time with an extremely limited amount of jobs. This is a good resource to come to when someone asks me about the jobs that someone can get with a music degree.

    I am glad that I read this article for I didn’t know about half of these fields that you could do with a music degree. Although it may help with my job selection, it will also help make it more complicated. I am a very indecisive person. This article may make my life more frustrating in that respect, but it will be very worth while.

  • Jacksonlogan

    I have worked in music for 24 years and I am making plans to leave it. Many of my friends chose a degree and a career that was solid and lucrative and as a result are financially stable. I followed my heart and completed two degrees in music. At 42 I wish I would have done this the other way round and pursued my 9 to 5 career when I was younger.
    Yes, there are careers in music but lucrative is not how I would describe the majority of them.
    Idealism, hopes and optimism do not pay the bills, mortgage or help put your kids through school. Consider your choice carefully.
    My 2 cents. L.

  • Sorry to hear about your situation. Although I can’t say this is uncommon I can’t say that it is common for most people either. Other fields change jobs and struggle just as much and I have many friends from my college days that now have a career outside of their college major.

    According to a news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Number of Jobs Held – A Longitudinal Study, June 27, 2008) the average person changes jobs 10.8 times during the ages of 18 and 42. So at the age of 42 I’d say your job was 10 times more stable than most. That being said, many people go into music knowing that they probably won’t become part of the “rich” class, but they will be have a rich life instead.

    An example in music education, our student’s have almost a 100% placement rate after graduation -but, those that make the most money (in music ed.) are the ones that are open to moving to where the “need” is and, quite frankly, the ones that have the most creative energies, have made the most of their networks, and ideas (the movers and shakers). Those that decide they absolutely have to stay in one area are extremely limited. Also, the ones that think that just by having a degree in hand put’s them on “easy street” typically find themselves wondering why they aren’t progressing. It is very similar with the other music majors. And.. like any field, there are the truly sad stories where someone that excels just can’t seem to “get a break” either…

    So, I guess I can say with regard to your situation, I’m happy you finally found something else that is attractive to you and I wish you the best -I think you will find that your time spent in music and the creative thought process it spawns will server you well in whatever field you have chosen.