Music Industry

What Can I Do With A Music Degree? Jobs To Get With A Music Degree

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When it comes to higher education, choosing which degree subject to pursue is often a thorny and difficult decision to navigate. Many musicians question whether a degree in music is the right course of action, especially given the perceived lack of career opportunities that are directly tied to a music degree – the question of what jobs can I do with a music degree is a tough one to answer as it is incredibly broad. In this blog, we’ll examine the different types of music degree available and some of the different jobs to get with a music degree.

sheet music

What Jobs Can I Get with a Music Degree? Jobs for People with Music Degrees

For those wondering what jobs can you get with a music degree, the answer is a little complex. On the whole, music degrees are mostly not vocational degrees (i.e. tied to a specific job), however, there are a number of roles where a music degree is often a pre- requisite. One thing to note is that there are a few different types of music degree – some are more academic in nature, others more performance-based and some that incorporate or even focus on technological elements such as recording and computer sound design, so if any of the below careers do capture your imagination, think about what kind of music degree might best support this.

Private Music Teacher

Whilst not all music tuition is reliant on the teacher having a degree in music, for some teacher agencies (particularly those sending teachers into educational establishments) do require that you have a music degree and also a minimum grade in the instrument you are teaching.

Secondary School Teacher

What Can I do with a Music Education Degree? For most music teachers in Schools, the route into the role is firstly a degree in their chosen subject (in this case music) plus a teaching qualification allowing them to teach that subject. And of course, when it comes to teaching, there is quite a promising career path that starts with subject teacher but moves on to head of department and beyond that out of subject teaching entirely and more into the role of head teacher and beyond.

Music Therapist

Music Therapy is an incredible role that involves working in lots of different situations with lots of different kinds of people. The career path for arts therapy is a degree in the chosen subject (Music for Music Therapist, Drama for Drama Therapists, etc.) followed by a masters in Arts Therapy which then allows you to register as an arts therapist and deliver services either privately or via the NHS (or a mixture of both).

music therapist music job

Music Producer

The route to work for some producers is gained through hands-on experience in studios and internships, or even by starting their own studios. On the other hand, some of the larger studios offer graduate programs for music or music technology graduates where you learn on the job and finish the program in a producer role.

Sound Design

Sound design is a really interesting field where you are responsible for creating specific sounds for broadcast purposes – whether that’s the sound of someone crunching through a crisp leaf-laden path for a radio drama or creating the sound of a spaceship entering the atmosphere in the latest Pixar movie. Most studio roles for this kind of work will require some kind of degree that includes sound design.

Sound Technician for Broadcast

Broadcast is an umbrella term that incorporates Radio, TV and Movies and of course all of these mediums require support from a sound technician – ensuring that the relevant audio is captured in a broadcast safe manner and that dialogue and other audio can be clearly heard and is at a consistent level. Many broadcast companies will have a degree in music or music production as integral to being able to act in one of these roles. 

Sound Technician

Just as broadcast relies on Sound Tech’s, so too do theatre performances, gigs and concerts and in many cases the engineers working at these events will have completed a degree that incorporates music technology.

Musician

Of course, there are many examples of musicians (especially in popular music) where some of the most successful players have had no formal training at all and it’s been more a case of their talent and experience being the foundation for their careers. However, there are also a number of examples of where a degree is a prerequisite for a musician – particularly if the situation is that of position in an orchestra or a similar formal setting.

orchestra job to get with a music degree

Special Effects Technician

Beyond broadcast and sound design, there are also technical sound roles in special effects design. This might include mixing different disciplines to partially create and partially capture the sound of an explosion or the thwack of a punch in a fight scene.

Audio Equipment Manufacture

An often overlooked industry that music or music technology graduates go into is the manufacture of audio equipment. Often combining electrical engineering and physics with music, these degrees will provide the knowledge and qualifications necessary to build synthesisers, guitar pedals and speakers.

Jobs where a Degree in Music is Useful

A music degree is actually a really useful degree to have with a lot of cross-functional and easily-transferrable skills that it teaches you. Here are a few jobs where a music degree might prove useful:

Technology

Music degrees often involve a lot of working with technology, especially if you are working in a degree that also incorporates recording. And this foundational knowledge translates easily and effectively into a number of different verticals in the tech industry.

Arts Administration

Arts administration is quite a broad term but it effectively covers a range of different tasks that includes working with arts festivals and centres, community and disability groups, dance companies, arts councils and theatres and museums to help deliver arts programmes and a knowledge and appreciation of music such as that provided in a degree can be invaluable.

Music Management

Having a good foundational knowledge of music and how it is constructed can also help you in being a good artist manager as you can use that knowledge to better understand your clients and liaise with the wider music industry on their behalf. Managers need to have a working knowledge of all parts of a musician’s career which means they often need to marry the requirements of the industry with the requirements of the artist and communicate to both sides.

There are also specific music industry masters courses (which you can enroll onto with a music undergraduate qualification) and dedicated qualifications in Music Business. And if you’re thinking ‘what can I do with a music business degree?’, well the possibilities are almost endless. An understanding of how the music business fits together will allow you to work with Performance Rights Organisations, or go into artist management, or work for record labels – and all of this across all genres of music. The Recorded music industry was worth 23.1 billion US dollars in 2020 so there’s a lot of work to be done.

Sales

It might seem like a strange leap, but a lot of the knowledge and skills gained via a music degree centre of effective communication and an ability to convey meaning. This often translates very positively to a sales or account management environment as those skills are put into place in order to help your customers.

Event Manager / Promoter

Event Managers and Promoters are responsible for putting together comprehensive programs of events and ensuring that they run smoothly and to plan. A music degree can teach someone in this kind of role how different styles of music fit together to create a good flow for an event and it also teaches that person about the operational considerations for different kinds of performers and their instruments which can help in the planning and successful execution of an event.

man performing at gig

Radio Producer/DJ

Creating and delivering radio shows is in itself a performance and a degree in music can offer a great foundation for this kind of work as it offers a great awareness of music of different genres, an understanding of how music is created, experience of performing and of course, some familiarity with the technology used by radio broadcasters.

Composer for Film

Whilst a degree is not a pre-requisite for film composition, it is incredibly useful. If you are wondering ‘what can I do with a music composition degree?’ this is probably an avenue you have considered. A music degree gives you a broad understanding of different musical genres and the conventions within those genres. 

Some music degrees have more composition included than others but most have at least one module which teaches you how to compose music for different effects on the audience. And more than that, it teaches you how to score for different instruments (for example, Brass instruments are often in different keys so you need to factor that in to your score and some instruments such as harp and pedal steel have some unique scoring techniques) so your compositions can be played by groups of musicians in different settings.

Other Performance Industries

Just like many successful musicians have undergraduate degrees in other fields, there are also many music graduates who have successful careers in other industries. A good example is that of James May, whose degree in music allowed him to take some of those transferrable skills and an understanding of how productions fit together and how a performance is structured apply that to the world of television.

james may

Marketing

Marketing is all about the communication of ideas and putting together material in order to generate interest in a product or service. Music incorporates a lot of these skills and a degree in music can be a great foundation for a career in marketing.

Journalism

Whilst providing a great understanding of music and the ability to think critically about music, a degree in the subject also facilitates the development of written communication as you learn to discuss musical devices in detail as well as the significance of music in its social and historical context. Not to mention the natural skill of working to deadlines which accompanies most degrees. This ability is key to being an effective arts journalist and also for working in other disciplines.

Music Producer

Being a producer is a mixture of functional skill and knowledge in the studio and also creative talent and an ability to work with an artist to get the most out of them and their songs. Some producers have degrees and others don’t – so whilst it’s impossible to say that a music degree is vital, important or insignificant, I would argue that it can’t hurt and having a good knowledge of musical devices when you’re working with a band. As an example, the opening chord in The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was the creation of the band’s producer George Martin. Paul McCartney credits his knowledge of film music and composition with suggesting this introduction, which also served as the opening credits to a movie the band were making.

A Degree is Good, Experience is Better

Whilst a music degree is incredibly useful in terms of building a foundational knowledge – most music industry roles rely on experience, so start as early as you can in getting internships to understand more about the industries that music covers. The music industry has tons of opportunities for internships and employment – look for opportunities at record labels, recording studios, the BBC, independent production houses, theatres, orchestras, arts organisations, composers and artist management agencies.

Enhance your CV with Skills

A music degree involves a number of transferrable skills that are valuable in a wide array of different industries. These include proficiency in:

– Written communication

– Critical thinking

– Creative thinking

– Problem solving

– Use of technology

– Organisation

– Decision making

– Ability to work to deadlines

– A knowledge of music not only in terms of how it is created but also in terms of the technology involved, how it is scored and how it fits into an historical and social context. All of which are really useful in a professional environment.

Further Study.

Music as an undergraduate degree is very empowering, but it’s also fair to say that further study at a higher level can be invaluable to leading to other careers. Further study can open doors into academia at a higher level. It can also support a switch in career – for example, a law conversion qualification can help a music graduate go into media law, or a masters in arts therapy can allow you to go into that industry, or a masters in music business can open doors into the music industry.

Our Final Thoughts

When it comes to deciding what you want to study – music is a great subject to pursue if you are passionate about it. If you love music, then delving into it for three years is an exciting and fascinating opportunity. And as we’ve outlined, the foundational knowledge you pick up in a music degree is useful in a number of different contexts – so if you love the subject and want to keep your options open, music is a great option.

That said, it is not a typical vocational degree that automatically leads you into a specific career so if you have a fixed idea of exactly what you want to do, there are probably more direct routes into a specific field as opposed to via a music degree. There is a wide array of music degree jobs where a degree in the subject can be helpful but the nature of the creative arts is that talent in whatever role you are looking to fulfil, is king. The unsung benefit of doing a music degree is in the time outside the lecture theatre – as you exchange ideas and play with other like minded and extremely talented people, your own talent grows as you foster an environment where you can reach your full potential.

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