Music Directors and Composers Overview

Music directors and composers generally work part-time during the nights and weekends and intermittent unemployment and audition rejections are common. For this reason, it is common for music directors and composers to supplement their income with other jobs. Usually, a passion for music drives these individuals to begin their training early by studying an instrument or training their voice. There is a fierce competition for jobs because of the many individuals who wish to enter this field.

Nature of the Work for Music Directors and Composers

Music Directors and Composers

Musical directors and composers are often highly trained musicians who have a background in playing musical instruments or singing. They conduct and compose for recordings for radio, film, TV or video games. Musical directors spend a significant amount of time practicing with their orchestras, bands or other musical ensembles.

Groups such as orchestras, choirs and glee clubs need musical directors and conductors to plan, direct and lead vocal or instrumental performances. A music director’s main duties are to audition and select music, select the most appropriate music for their abilities and talents and orchestrate rehearsals and performances. A choral director works specifically with glee clubs and lead choirs, or in some cases, a band or an orchestra conductor. In addition to auditioning and selecting singers, choral directors work with singers at rehearsals and performances to maintain the correct tempo, rhythm, harmony, shading and other desired musical effects.

Music composers use instruments and computer software to create original music including operas, symphonies, sonatas, radio and television jingles, popular songs and film scores. They transcribe ideas into musical notation using melody, rhythm, tonal structure and harmony.

Music directors and composers who work with symphony orchestras or film and television production companies travel less and enjoy steady work. Often, part time music directors and composers supplement their income with other types of jobs because many can only find part-time or intermittent work.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Music Directors and Composers

Recommended Education Level

Generally, a music director is required to hold a bachelors degree in a music related field. They need a large amount of time for training and practice to acquire the knowledge and skills desired to interpret music at a professional level. There are 615 accredited college-level programs in music that are belong to the National Associated of Schools of Music. Common courses include music interpretation, composition, performance, conducting and music theory.

Music directors and composers who wish to teach need to have a masters or doctoral degree for advanced music courses. Sometimes a bachelors degree is sufficient for teaching basic courses. Those who pursue a degree in music education are qualified to apply for a State certificate and teach music in public elementary or secondary schools. Otherwise, they may teach in private schools and recreation associations or hold private lessons.

Music directors and composers must have a broad range of musical styles in order to help expand employment opportunities and musical abilities. Aspiring music directors and composers should have versatility, music talent and creativity. Those with self-discipline thrive in this occupation because the very nature requires quality work on a consistent basis, which demands constant practice and study.

Music directors and composers advance in their field by finding work more easily, becoming better known and performing for higher earnings.

Top 10 Most Popular Music Schools

1. Full Sail University (Multiple Campus Locations)
2. Berklee College of Music, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts)
3. Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Tempe (Tempe, Arizona)
4. Musicians Institute (Los Angeles, California)
5. Belmont University (Nashville, Tennessee)
6. Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
7. Indiana University, Bloomington (Bloomington, Indiana)
8. New York University (New York, New York)
9. Manhattan School of Music (New York, New York)
10. University of North Texas (Denton, Texas)

See All Music Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Music Directors and Composers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

Music directors and composers hold about 53,600 jobs. Close to 43 percent work part-time, while 50 percent are self-employed. Cities in which recording activities and entertainment are concentrated, such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Nashville and New York provide the most jobs for music directors and composers.

Employment for music directors and composers is projected to increase 8 percent in the next decade, which is about as fast as average. Religious organizations will provide the most new wage-and-salary jobs.

A number of job opportunities for music directors and composers will grow in demand and will also arise from those who leave the career permanently because they cannot earn a living, or for other reasons.

Keen competition is expected for full-time jobs for music directors and composers. This is due to the fact that there are more talented jobseekers than there are job openings. However, talent does not guarantee success and often people leave the occupation to find more steady employment.

Earnings and Salary for Music Directors and Composers

The median annual wage of salaries music directors and composers is $45,090, and the middle 50 percent earn between $32,210 and $61,630. The highest 10 percent earn more than $85,020, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $21,480.

Annual Salary for Music Directors and Composers

On average, Music Directors and Composers earn $45,090 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $21,480/yr $32,210/yr $61,630/yr $85,020/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook