Music Industry Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Read on for information about music industry careers. Get real job descriptions and education requirements to see if a career in the music industry is right for you.
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Careers in the Music Industry

The music industry is a vast field filled with a variety of jobs requiring a broad range of skills. A few common positions in this field include sound engineering technician, musician/singer and director/composer. The following table provides you with information about each of these careers at a glance:

Sound Engineering Technician Musician/Singer Director/Composer
Career Overview Sound engineering technicians operate the computers, machines and equipment needed to record sound in studio and live environments. Musicians and singers play instruments and/or perform vocally. Directors and composers create or select musical compositions to be performed for a variety of purposes.
Education Requirements A high school diploma or a GED, but a certificate or associate's degree may be needed Depending on music style, may need a bachelor's degree A bachelor's or master's, depending on career path
Program Length 2 years full-time for an associate's 4 years full-time 4 years full-time for a bachelor's, 1-2 more for a master's degree
Additional Training None Long-term training to continuously develop abilities Musical training in vocals or instrumentals, which can begin in childhood
Certification and Licensing Voluntary certification available None None
Work Experience Entry-level None 1-5 years
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Fast-as average growth (8%)* Slower than average growth (3%)* Slower than average growth (3%)*
Mean Salary (2014) Roughly $58,670* Roughly an average of $32.49 per hour* Roughly $55,230*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sound Engineering Technician

Sound engineering technicians set up and operate equipment to record and mix a wide variety of sounds and kinds of music. As a sound engineering technician, you'll typically be in charge of computer operations, software and machines that record and affect how audio sounds are processed. Labeling and organizing information for recording sessions, troubleshooting issues with equipment, connecting wires and operating mixing desks and consoles are common tasks. You may work in live sound and controlled studio environments.


You typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent to meet the minimum requirements to become a sound engineering technician; however, some employers may want you to have some college-level training due to the technical level of this job. You can find relevant associate's and certificate programs in audio or sound engineering at many postsecondary schools. Curricula in these programs are typically hands-on in order to teach you various types of equipment and techniques. You may learn about acoustics, music editing, mixing, pre- and post-production and live sound.

In November 2012, a few employers posted the following requirements for sound engineering technician positions online:

  • In Miami, a studio was looking for a dubbing sound engineer to record actors and voice-over artists. Additional duties included editing and synchronizing sound and mixing audio. Two to three years of experience in post production recording was required.
  • A broadcasting company in New York City was seeking a freelance audio engineer to operate audio boards for live shows, maintain equipment and mix sound outputs. A relevant associate's or technical degree along with five years of experience was required.
  • In California, a technology start-up company sought a senior audio engineer with five years of experience in audio development to lead all aspects of audio/speech integration.

Standing Out

With job growth expected to be below average, standing out can be integral to landing a sound engineering position. Because technology is continuously evolving, staying current on the newest developments in software and equipment can keep you competitive in the field. You may find some manufacturers of audio products that offer certification in their products. To earn the certification, you may need to complete classes and pass an exam.

Additionally, you can seek certification from the Society of Broadcast Engineers. After acquiring five years of relevant experience and/or qualifying education, you may be eligible to sit for the Certified Audio Engineer exam.

Musicians and Singers

There are numerous capacities in which you can be a professional singer or musician. You could be a bass player in an advertisement, a chorus singer in a musical or play in a band at special events. You may specialize in a particular musical style, such as jazz, country or pop. It often takes years of personal practice to develop a professional level of skill. Job duties vary widely. You may have to travel regularly, and depending on your level of fame, you may go on nationwide or international tours. Many musicians and singers also hold down additional occupations in order to supplement the irregular work often associated with these careers.


Training for musicians and singers often starts during childhood and continues into the adult years. The BLS reported that postsecondary educational requirements often vary according to your musical ambitions. Classical performers must often obtain bachelor's degrees in music theory or performance. Several colleges and universities offer relevant music programs with concentrations in vocals or specific instruments. In addition to musical instruction, you may learn about music theory and history. Alternatively, if you aspire to perform pop music, you may not need any formal education.

Here are a handful of requirements for positions that were available online in November 2012:

  • An orchestra in Ohio was holding auditions for the fourth horn position. Applicants were required to play music according to a repertoire list that included a solo of the applicant's choice and numerous other excepts from classical pieces. Candidates were also expected to demonstrate sight reading.
  • A nationwide-traveling circus was hiring for singers who could sing in various conditions and environments and who had diverse stage experience. Candidates needed to be physically fit, and those with acrobatic experience were at an advantage.
  • A national sandwich shop chain was seeking musicians who could sing and play instruments for various locations across the U.S. Candidates needed to know how to perform at least 20 songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Standing Out

In this vastly competitive occupation, it's imperative to find ways to stand out among your competitors. The BLS stated that those with the most extraordinary abilities should have the best prospects. Continually practicing and seeking additional training opportunities can help you develop your talent to the best of your ability. You may find music schools in your community that offer workshops in a variety of musical elements. Additionally, you can acquire stage experience by getting involved in community theater productions or student productions at your school.

Directors and Composers

As a music director, or conductor, you may select musical compositions to be performed in various venues, lead orchestras during performances, hold auditions and give musicians advice on their performances. Composers write new music for stage performances, film and television productions, advertising campaigns or musicians. The BLS reported that approximately 38% of composers and conductors were self-employed as of 2010.


If you want to write pop music, a college degree may not be necessary. However, if you want to work in the classical style or with choirs, a college degree is usually required. A bachelor's degree may suffice to become a choir director; however, if you want to conduct a symphony, you may need a master's degree. Look for majors in music composition or music theory. A master's degree program in music theory may teach you about tonal analysis and Schenkerian analysis and also include a thesis.

Some employers were looking for composers and music directors with some of the following requirements, according to job posts from November of 2012:

  • A music college in California was seeking a modern classical composer with a master's degree to teach music theory, analysis and composition.
  • A Pittsburgh high school was hiring for a pit orchestra conductor with a music degree and experience conducting student and adult ensembles. Job duties included hiring adult musicians, rehearsing students and conducting performances.
  • A Manhattan-area content provider for movies, television and advertising was looking for composers with songs or tracks available for licensing.

Standing Out

You may be able to find internships that provide additional training in music direction or composition. Some degree programs include internships or practica in their curricula, which enable you to gain real-world experience. In a conducting internship, you could assist musical directors in various musical productions by attending rehearsals, arranging music and performing any other duties the conductor requests. Additionally, you can look for opportunities, such as national contests, offered through organizations like the National Association of Composers/USA (NACUSA). NACUSA also publishes ComposerUSA, which lists various competitions, performance opportunities, concert reviews and other industry information.

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