What Does a Music Teacher Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A Day in the Life of a Music Teacher

Theresa Chiechi/The Balance

The specific duties of music teachers can vary depending on whether they work for a school, an instrument shop, or privately. They may teach students how to sing, play musical instruments, understand music theory, or a combination of these jobs. Their career path depends on the kind of music teaching that interests them the most.

Music Teacher Duties & Responsibilities

Music teachers may have a variety of duties, depending on what they teach and where. School music teachers generally perform the following duties:

  • Teach choir, band, orchestra, or a combination of all.
  • Work with students on plays, concerts, and other events that include music.
  • Assign practice and other music-related homework and test students on their knowledge.
  • Keep grades, meet with parents, and share progress reports.
  • Perform other functions the same as teachers, such as school and lunchroom monitoring.

As a school-based music teacher, they move among classrooms providing music instruction. The exact curriculum they cover is dictated by the school district and the grade levels they teach. Usually, there is a heavy emphasis on vocal instruction and music theory.

Some schools have elective music classes that are more advanced, such as teaching instruments and working more on music theory. Music teachers also may be responsible for devising school musical productions or coaching a school band.

Some music and instrument shops have in-house music teachers. This setup can work in a few different ways:

  • Independent music teachers may rent space in the shop, like an independent hairdresser rents salon space, and set their own prices.
  • Workers in the shop may teach music on the side in the shop and share income with the business.
  • The business may have dedicated music teachers on staff.

These music teachers may handle vocal instruction, instrument instruction, or both. Lessons may be private or group.

Independent music teachers can work in specific locations, such as renting space where they teach. They may teach in their own homes or travel to the homes of their students.

In terms of the subject matter, working as a private music tutor is the same as working in a school or business; music teachers can teach whatever aspect of music they are most skilled at and feel comfortable teaching. These music teachers are self-employed. They may teach full time, or they may teach music as a second job.

Music Teacher Salary

Music teachers who work in a school setting have a fixed salary. Other types of music teachers are typically paid per lesson. Fees are set based on the going rate in the area so they can price competitively to attract students. They may start their prices at the lower end of the spectrum to build a client list. They may revise their rates periodically as needed.

For private music teachers, payment is usually expected at the time the lesson is given or even before, depending on the agreement between the teacher and the client. Private music teachers generally earn the following if working full-time:

  • Median Annual Salary: $106,933 ($51.41/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $130,998 ($62.98/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $78,000 ($37.50/hour)

Source: PayScale.com, 2019

School or company-employed music teachers earn the following:

  • Median Annual Salary: $41,234 ($19.82/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $67,965 ($32.68/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $27,639 ($13.29/hour)

Source: PayScale.com, 2019

Music teachers who work in schools have contracts with their employers. If you rent space in a music shop to give lessons, have something in writing that details the arrangement such as the rent rate, the amount of notice required for either party to cancel the agreement, and whether the shop makes a commission on referrals. If you work privately, there is not usually a contract between teachers and students, but it's a good idea to give receipts for payment and have a written statement of policies regarding issues such as cancellations.

Education, Training, & Certification

The qualifications required to become a music teacher depend on the career path you choose. To work in a school, a music teacher must accomplish the following:

  • Education: A bachelor's degree in music education or a related field from an accredited college or university is necessary. Coursework may include basic educational classes on classroom management and childhood development, as well as music-specific classes.
  • Training: Aspiring music teachers will be required to complete observation and student teaching hours in a school environment and should contact local schools for training and internship opportunities.
  • Certification: Most schools require music teachers to be certified. Research the certification requirements and programs in your state. You also will need to pass a state examination to teach at one or more school levels, depending on your goals.

If you are self-employed or wish to work for a business such as a music store, certification may not be necessary. However, you will need to prove your knowledge and skills to clients and employers if you wish to succeed in this field.

Music Teacher Skills & Competencies

This job generally requires the following skills:

  • Organizational skills: The ability to maintain and keep track of student records, client bills, and private appointments, as well as teach various harmonies, songs, and programs to an entire school.
  • Interpersonal skills: The ability to relate well to clients, students, parents, and staff members when giving group or individual lessons, holding parent-teacher conferences, or school rehearsals.
  • Musical proficiency: The ability to share music and musical knowledge to a specific age group, whether in school or privately.
  • Patience and insight: The ability to teach different types of learners to further their knowledge and skills.
  • Leadership skills: The ability to gain and keep the attention of students in a band, orchestra, or classroom.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teaching jobs are expected to grow about 8% during the decade ending in 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for school teachers, but employment growth will vary by region. 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.

Work Environment

Depending on whether a music teacher works for a school or business, or privately determines where they work. School music teachers work in classrooms, auditoriums, or even outdoors coaching and leading band members at events such as football games. Music teachers employed by businesses may work at the business location such as a music store, providing instruction to clients in a designated room. Those who provide private instruction may rent space, use their home, or visit clients at their home.

Work Schedule

Work hours vary depending on the type of employment. Music teachers who work at schools teach during school hours but do not work when schools are closed such as on weekends, holidays, and summer months. However, teachers may opt to work summer school hours or tutor students privately during this time. Those who work privately or for a business may work part-time or full-time, or may even have this as a second job.

How to Get the Job


To work in a school, apply through the school system as you would with any other teaching job. You also can search for teacher-specific job boards such as K12JobSpot.com.


To teach music lessons privately, you will need to advertise your services. Try fliers in local record stores or music instruments shops as well as social networking sites.


Join an organization such as the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), or the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) to connect with others in the industry. Membership in one or more of these organizations can lead to employment.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in a career teaching music may want to consider these jobs, along with the median annual salary:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018