How to Become a Music Teacher

If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing. J.M. Barrie

A certified music teacher is often the favorite teacher of many students. Music teachers usually teach choir, band, orchestra, or a combination of all.

A music teacher is responsible for sharing music and musical knowledge with his or her students. In lower grades, this may simply mean singing on key, keeping tempo, and learning new songs, but older grades may mean teaching range, how to play an instrument, or helping prepare for college level musical pieces. A music teacher will also be responsible for the same duties as regular education teachers. These teachers will be expected to keep grades, meet with parents, share progress notes, and perform lunch, bus, and/or hallway monitoring.

Qualities of a Music Teacher

A music teacher needs to be upbeat, musically inclined, and willing to sing all day and every day. Normally, music teachers should be able to play basic instruments and read music. A music teacher must also be someone who can handle a great deal of noise from children, instruments, and singing each and every day. A music teacher is strong in organizing a large number of children in order to teach harmonies, songs, and often programs for an entire school. A music teacher must be willing to explore a wide range of music with students of all ages.

Job Growth

Music teacher job outlooks are positive in that they are on target with teaching jobs in general, which is about 6% growth through the year 2028 for high school levels and 12% for elementary levels. A music teacher may advance to teaching music education at the college level or return to school to take leadership classes to become a school principal if advancement is desired.

What are the Requirements for Teaching Music?

Education Requirements for Teaching Music

Those who wish to become a music teacher must go through an educator preparation program and receive a Bachelor's Degree at an accredited college or university. The college must be accredited by the Council of Accreditation for Educators Preparation. A music teacher will be required to take basic educational classes on classroom management and childhood development, but will also be required to take music specific classes. Future music teachers will be required to complete observation hours and students teaching. These future teachers will also need to take the state exams necessary to teach at the level in which they desire.

Most accredited colleges and universities offer dual programs in which you earn a degree and a teaching certificate simultaneously.

Tests to Pass for Teaching Music

A certified music teacher will need to pass several exams. A Basic Skills test will be required, which is a proficiency test in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. The test must be taken and passed based on state standards. In addition, a certified music teacher must pass proficiency exams in their specific subject areas before being granted a teaching certificate.

Alternative Certification

Without certification, a teacher will most likely not be able to teach in a public school. However, some states or specific schools may offer music teachers a job with the condition that certification is gained within a set time period or through alternate certification means. Some states may offer alternative certification for individuals with industry-specific experience or skills; however, this route may not necessarily lead to full licensure. This can vary between and within states, so the best way to find out is through a phone call to your local department of education.

Each state has different requirements for becoming a teacher.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Who Will My Students Be?

The experience and age of students in a music class can vary greatly. A band teacher will have students who wish to play particular instruments as a group, a choir teacher will have students who wish to sing in various programs, and a general music teacher could have all students within a school and at every grade level.

Teaching Music in Elementary School

Those teaching elementary school will usually have every student in the school ranging from preschool to fifth grade. Music teachers at the elementary level will be responsible to delivering developmentally appropriate lessons to a wide range of students. For examples, a music teacher may teach simple rhythm and tempo counting to a Kindergarten class while teaching older students how to read notes. Depending on the school's music program, the teacher may be required to teach chorus (vocal class) and instrumentation classes.

Teaching Music in Middle School

Music teachers at the Middle school level are likely to teach at least one general music class, but also teach a choir or band class at the same school, depending on the school's needs. During the middle school years, music teachers will likely be required to introduce music theory. Orchestra and band teachers will often be required to teach a large group of students how play their individual instruments and read the applicable notations. Depending on budgeting, many middle school's have separate orchestra, band, and choir teachers. Many students receive their first music lessons during the middle school years.

Teaching Music in High School

High school music teachers are much more likely to be specialized to choir, marching band, or orchestra. Generally, students who participate in music at the high school level have already had some sort of musical experience prior to entering. With that said, many high school students already come in knowing how to read music and play an instrument. High school music teachers may be able to take their song selections to a more challenging level in regard to notation and time signatures. Some high schools may also offer general music classes for students.

What Does a Music Teacher Do?

Music Classroom

Music classes are usually filled with instruments, music stands, and chairs. The majority of music classrooms do not contain student desks as music does not require a great deal of paper and pencil work. These classrooms are typically bright with the goal of inspiring those who enter. Music classes are taught in regular classrooms in smaller schools, but may be taught in larger rooms or auditoriums in larger schools. Music classrooms are most often stocked with a piano or keyboard and CD or tape players. Many newer rooms will likely have an iPod docking station or laptop that can stream the necessary music.

Music Curriculum

The music curriculum is chosen by the state, but standards are not as in-depth as core classes. Depending on the grade level, a developmentally appropriate level of music theor will be taught. Music theory, or the ability to read notes, is not tested on any standardized test used for state purposes. However, music teachers are expected to take and give grades to every student enrolled in his or her class. The music teacher will also record absences, deal with any behavioral issues that arise, and perform duties as required by the school administrator. A music teacher can be an integral part of the learning process if the teacher will become a team player with fellow educators.

Music Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Like most of the arts in schools, music teachers work to quantify what makes music education and appreciation important to students of all ages. In addition to adding joy to the human and academic experience, music education is essential to students' growth and development as learners and citizens of the world. The role of a music teacher does change between elementary and secondary classrooms; read on to learn more about what music teachers do in each.

Elementary Music Teacher

Much more than singing, elementary music teachers provide an integral skill to students from kindergarten to grade 8. Students develop an understanding of music and teachers build on their capabilities to create and perform it. For many students, elementary music class is their first experience with the arts. Music teachers will:

  • Engage students to think critically about music
  • Teach a love for music
  • Provide opportunities to explore the various elements of music
  • Teach students how to focus their thoughts in a musical format
  • Model how to explore various instruments and modalities of playing
  • Teach students foundations of rhythm and meter and how they can affect playing
  • Teach students problem solving as it relates to music
  • Have students apply their knowledge in collaboration with others
  • Model feelings and ideas about music creation and music experience
  • Model how to brainstorm solutions to musical problems
  • Teach children how to conference and assign various musical roles
  • Teach students the value of cooperative approaches to music
  • Give students a framework to discuss music and its impact
  • Give students freedom to experiment and ‘daydream' musically to become musical innovators
  • Teach children to discern between focused and free exploration of musical concepts
  • Help students understand the fundamentals of pitch, duration, timbre, texture and form
  • Teach children that their voice is one of the easiest and most expressive instruments to harness
  • Identify a variety of musical styles and pieces, attach meaning and analysis to each
  • Apply the creative process to music creation and performance
  • Identify and describe musical experiences and moments of significance from their own lives and their larger cultural world
  • Describe personal responses to music
  • Identify the purpose of some songs and types of music
  • Identify why people make music in their lives
  • Identify different types or genres of musical expression like blues, opera, country, and the significance of each
  • Explain musical significance at various times throughout history
  • Be flexible to meet the educational needs of students from varying backgrounds and contexts as this varies from day to day
  • Enthusiastically support the school's culture and practices while modelling this to students
  • Offer professional time and skill to co-curricular and extracurricular activities
  • Praise students to acknowledge their academic development and achievements
  • Work collaboratively with students and their families to achieve best outcomes
  • Conduct all work activities in a timely and professional manner reflecting best educational practices

High School Music Teacher

Many high school music teachers are students' experience with deepening the scope of musical appreciation and practice through the improvement of skills and creative exercises. High school music teachers will:

  • Help students develop deeper awareness of the elements of music
  • Help students practice skills and knowledge of theory
  • Help students perform individually and in small groups
  • Help students refine and broaden instrument knowledge and practice
  • Help students express music as written on paper or with digital technologies as applicable
  • Help students use the process of critical analysis to deepen music understanding
  • Teach students the symbols, concepts and musical conventions as are used in modern day music
  • While performing notated music, apply an analytical process
  • While performing improvised music, apply an analytical process
  • Engage in creative process when composing music via notation or instrumentation
  • Model how to manipulate the elements of music to evoke different emotions
  • Demonstrate technical proficiency with notated music
  • Use relevant technology to improve practice
  • Help students understand the different purposes of music
  • Help students understand how performing and creating music affects their musical skills and abilities
  • Identify various opportunities for how to remain an active musician
  • Empower students to research musicians and musical styles and then analyze what effect this had on their personal style or ability
  • Identify and explain the relationship between music and society
  • Identify and explain the relationship between music and the individual
  • Empower students to develop skills and knowledge, as well as self-assessment
  • Identify and describe some skills and work habits that contribute to musical aptitude
  • Describe how music has influenced American culture and how culture has influenced music
  • Empower students to explore all different type of musical groupings and to participate in as many as possible
  • Teach students rudimentary theory for musical notation
  • Teach students the origins and development of some types of music
  • Help students identify characteristics of musical eras
  • Help students identify skills and characteristics of ideal practice for instruments and considerations that should be undertaken
  • Teach students about legal and ethical considerations related to music and intellectual property
  • Offer professional time and skill to co-curricular and extracurricular activities
  • Praise students to acknowledge their academic development and achievements
  • Work collaboratively with students and their families to achieve best outcomes
  • Conduct all work activities in a timely and professional manner reflecting best educational practices

Certified music teachers have many career options - read on to discover more information about this field.

Where Can a Certified Music Teacher Teach?

A certified music teacher can teach at any public, private, or charter school in which they are hired.

Public Schools

Those that choose to be employed at a public school are more likely to have a highly diverse student population. The state will decide on a curriculum, but standards are often general and can be interpreted by the teacher to a large degree.

Private Schools

Private schools are likely to have less diversity and higher standards for all teachers. Private schools may offer specific music lessons for students as the school is funded through parent paid tuition. Private schools choose their own curriculum and could require you to be affiliated with a specific religion or group to gain a teaching position.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are free to attend, but are usually not run by the state. A charter school can choose a specific curriculum and may be based on a music-centric curriculum in some cases. The music teacher will have to make the personal decision of what school works best to meet their teaching hopes and desires.

What is the Salary of a Music Teacher?

Certified music teachers can find employment in schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Most commonly, certified music teachers are found in middle schools and high schools. An average salary for a beginning music teacher in the public sector is between $39,956 (Payscale.com) and $47,166 (Glassdoor.com) a year. Salaries for private school teachers may be as much as $10,000 lower than their public school counterparts. Teachers with a Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Music may have an easier time finding employment as a secondary music teacher and thus earn more money. On average, the more experience a teacher has, the greater their salary.

Read more on teacher salaries and all the other benefits associated with it.

Music Teacher Organizations & Associations