Putting a music degree to work

By Nick Kiekenapp

Whether you are studying music in an academic setting, pursuing a career in the music industry, or educating the next Mozart, you have likely been asked questions like:

I didn’t know you could study music in college. What are you going to do with your degree in music?

Or, if you have already graduated with a music degree, you often hear:

So what’s you real job?

These questions often do not have simple answers, as many professional musicians earn their income via several drummersources. Post-secondary degrees in Music Performance, Music Education, Music Theory, Music Business, Liturgical Music and Recording Technology are some popular pathways to prepare for a career in music. The technical abilities musicians develop through these different areas of study can lead down a variety of career paths.

What careers do music degrees lead to?

Graduates with music degrees often apply their musical abilities and creative skills in fields such as:

What transferable skills do music graduates have?

Many music graduates pursue careers outside of the music—either as a “day job” in tandem with a music career, or as a different pathway altogether. And while those careers may seem to have nothing to do with music, the fact is that musicians develop a range of transferable skills throughout their intense study of music.

With regard to employability outside of music careers (i.e. a “real job” or “day job”), music graduates have developed soft skills which are valuable in any workplace. Here are some of the soft skills developed through studying music:

  • Participate as a team member
  • Active listening
  • Determined and Persistent
  • Quick Learner
  • Think Critically
  • Meet Goals
  • Follow Directions
  • Attention to Detail
  • On Time
  • Improvise
  • Synthesize Vast Amounts of Complex Information
  • Communicate Well
  • Self-Motivated
  • Flexible
  • Creative Problem Solving

What other skills should I develop for a successful career in music?

Professional musicians often develop strong entrepreneurial skills to maintain a successful career. Whether choosing a full-time music career or keeping a day job for more stability, there are many essential skills required for a successful music career. These skills include:

Want to learn more? Explore other careers with CareerOneStop’s Occupation Profile.

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