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Do you need to go to school to be a music teacher?

July 30, 2011

Many people wonder if there are education requirements to becoming a music teacher.
There are various forms of musical training that a person can go through, from informal lessons to advanced academic degrees The following lists types of musical training in order from most basic to most formal:

  • Private music lessons – Private music lessons from an independent music teacher
  • Professional certificate – A certificate program that typically is received in less than two years from a community college or professional trade school
  • Associate of Arts – A two-year college degree in music
  • Bachelor of Music/Arts – A four-year college or university degree in music
  • Master of Music/Arts – Typically an additional two years of music studies at a college or university beyond a BM/BA
  • Doctorate of Musical Arts or PhD – An additional 2+ years of advanced music studies beyond a MM/MA.

Typically, to be a music teacher, the only education required is an advanced understanding of music (as informal as simply having taken private music lessons).  However, continued education in music can certainly help and advanced degrees can assist greatly when looking for a job at a music school or to attract potential clients such as parents who are looking for music teachers for their children.  Higher degrees can also maximize your salary.  Advanced degrees can definitely assist on a resume and impress potential clients.  At some music school employers, higher education can be a mandatory requirement, with a sliding scale for salary.

Many city community colleges offer programs in music.  Music degree programs can also be found at most colleges and universities.  In addition, another option is a professional music trade school, such as Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.  All of thesse programs can give music students a foundation in musical knowledge (such as theory and history), instrument technique, and experience in music performing.  Certain universities have gained a reputation as consistently having graduates that are extremely talented and successful in their music careers (such as Juilliard or Curtis).

Since there many options, you may wish to discuss with other music teachers what kind of training they had.  You will probably find that there are are wide variety of training levels, and you can find good teachers from each category of music training.

No, a person is not required to go to school to be a music teacher.  There are many music teachers that teach music lessons without any advanced music degrees, as long as they have the required amount of knowledge and patience to be an effective music teacher.  However, it can certainly be beneficial to those who have continued education in music, since it can make it easier to find work, command higher pay, and some employers may even require you to have gone to school.  Good luck!

About the Author

Theresa Chen is the owner of a music school in Los Angeles called Opus Music Education.  If you are interested in becoming a music teacher in California, please check out Opus Music Education at

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 19, 2011 11:42 pm

    Hi I just got my master in music at the school of music at University of Washington in Seattle in 2010 I will be happy to teach African music in xylophone and tradition dance call bawaa

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