Is going to music school a risky career choice?

Michael Hearing

Michael Hearing


Pursuing a creative arts education, such as music, is sometimes discouraged. Some people believe that the music industry doesn’t have a lot of career options. However, the music industry is changing, and career paths in music are plentiful. Going to music school can open up many doors that can result in a successful, long-term career.

Why you should enroll in music school

Having a formal music education can increase your chances of finding a job in the music industry. Only practicing or going to music lessons may not be enough to teach you specific music skills, like music composition or performance.

Learn about music theory

In music school, you will learn music theory. Understanding music theory and how music is written is an important step in learning how to compose your own musical works.

Expand music knowledge

Through music programs and courses, you’ll learn theoretical and practical music knowledge. You can also take certain subjects to increase your skills. Topics include music composition, digital music, live events’ production, media and communications, music business, music production, music psychology, and music education.

You can find work internships, and you’ll have the chance to make industry contacts. You can also join live school performances. Being on stage will help you develop the skills needed for your future music career.

Music school alternative

If you can’t afford music school but still want to improve your skills, community schools may be the best option. Community music schools provide lessons or classes to the public, and their main focus is on helping people learn to play music. Music enthusiasts can also read books or magazines to learn more about music.

A pianist is sitting at a piano and playing a song.

How to choose the best music college

Picking the best music school depends on factors such as programs offered and performance opportunities.

Music programs

The first thing you should think about when choosing a music school is the types of music programs available. The music programs need to perfectly match the type of career path you want to pursue. It wouldn’t make sense to go to a school that doesn’t have a music education program if you’re going to be a music teacher.

Extracurricular activities

If you want to be a music performer, it’s important to research what types of performance opportunities the music school offers. The kind of projects or extracurricular activities available is also key. It’s where you can get hands-on experience. For example, the Berklee College of Music has a radio network students can join to enhance their performance skills and musical knowledge. The program can benefit those pursuing a career in music journalism or live music recording and mixing.

Careers in music

A degree in music opens the door to many career opportunities within the industry. For example, if you want to be a composer, you need to be an expert in music theory. If being a booking agent is your dream, you’ll need to have a music management degree.

With a music education, graduates can snag jobs in other sectors such as education, business or journalism. Music graduates can also work as program directors for a creative arts organization or work at a music nonprofit as a performer or mentor.

Music producers with a lot of experience can earn up to $1,000,000 a year. If you want to be a music producer, you must learn the music industry’s creative and business side. You also need to create good relationships with musicians and record labels.

Video and sound engineers also have one of the highest-paying jobs in the music industry, with some earning over $120,000 a year. Recording engineers can also make a lot, up to $150,000 a year.

A music career that many people might not know a lot about is music therapy. Music therapists use sound to help other people’s mental states. They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, or schools.

Other careers in music include:

  • Music directors/conductors
  • Tour managers
  • Music teachers
  • Songwriters
  • Music journalists
  • Music agents or publicists
  • DJs
  • Composers
  • Sound effects artists
A closeup view of a recording studio's music workstation.

Benefits of music education

There are many benefits to having a music education that goes beyond being able to play many instruments. People studying music tend to have better language abilities. They are also more empathetic, focused, and self-confident. Music students are tougher and can handle failure. These traits can be applied to any industry. If you went to music school but decided to pursue a different career, you can use everything you learned from music to other professions.

Having a music education can skyrocket your career. Two of the industry’s best composers have a music degree. John Williams studied piano at the Juilliard School. He has composed music for the Star Wars franchise. James Horner studied at the University of California and his works include composing Titanic‘s score.

Misconceptions of the music industry

It’s a common misconception that music graduates have fewer career options. A recent study found that over 50% of the music performance students and over 75% of music education students quickly found work after graduation.

With social media’s arrival, the music industry has changed a lot in as little as 10 years. Sites such as Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok have opened up opportunities for many aspiring singers and musicians. Singers who post original songs or covers on YouTube or their own website can quickly build hundreds, or even thousands, of followers. If their videos are popular enough, or they go viral, they may catch the eye of music record labels.

For some, pursuing a career in music may not seem like a viable option. People may believe it won’t lead to employment. However, there are several career avenues music graduates can pursue that are lucrative and meaningful. Attending music school can teach students valuable skills and provide hands-on experience to kick start their music careers.

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