How to become a music teacher (plus duties and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're passionate about music and interested in working with children and young people, a career as a music teacher may be a good fit for you. Music teachers teach music to children, young people and sometimes adults, and they work in schools, musical institutions or on a private basis. Becoming a music teacher involves earning formal qualifications in both music and education and developing key skills in music, communication and empathy. In this article, we explore what a music teacher is, how to become a music teacher and what key skills they require.

What is a music teacher?

A music teacher is an education professional who teaches students basic principles of music and instructs students on how to play instruments or sing. Music teachers work in schools and teach musical principles, including scales, keys and rhythm, while introducing students to different types of instruments and music production techniques. Music teachers in schools usually follow the national curriculum and tailor the material they teach to the subjects covered by exams.

It's also possible to teach music on a private basis. Private music teachers work with both adults and children to offer instruction in a particular discipline or instrument, such as piano, guitar or singing. Private music teachers teach from their own homes or visit their students' homes and usually offer lessons on a one-to-one basis. This means it's possible to tailor lesson content to the needs of each student. Most music teachers are proficient in at least one instrument and understand how to read music. Typical duties of music teachers include:

  • planning and preparing lessons and schemes of work

  • conducting music lessons with a class or individual

  • arranging class schedules and collecting fees from private students

  • assessing students' musical abilities

  • grading students based on their proficiency in an instrument

  • helping students prepare for music exams

  • setting assignments and marking written work

  • assessing coursework at GCSE and A-level

  • marking theoretical music exam papers

  • organising school concerts, choirs and musicals

  • arranging performance opportunities for students

Related: 10 teacher career paths: requirements, salaries and duties

How to become a music teacher

When learning how to become a music teacher, either within a school or on a private basis, it's necessary for you to understand the skills and qualifications that most music teachers have. Music teachers usually gain formal qualifications in both music and education before embarking upon a career in teaching. Follow the steps below to help you become a music teacher:

1. Earn qualifications in music

Whether you want to become a music teacher in a school or teach music privately, earning an undergraduate degree in music from a university is an important first step in this career path. Studying for a degree in music provides you with the technical skills and knowledge you require to teach music and demonstrates your expertise in the subject to employers and clients. If you want to go on to teach music at a college, conservatoire or university, you may want to study for further postgraduate qualifications, including a master's degree in music.

2. Earn qualifications in education

If you want to teach music in a school, you also require a specialist degree in education or a teacher training degree, such as a PGCE from a university in England or a PGDE from a university in Scotland. Teacher training qualifications provide the skills you require to plan lessons, manage classroom behaviour and assess pupil progress. If you want to teach music privately, you may study for a PGCE or take another qualification such as the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators (CME). There are no strict rules on the qualifications that private music teachers require.

Related: How to become a teacher in the UK

3. Get work experience

Before securing a role in a school or teaching music privately, getting experience teaching music to children and adults helps strengthen your CV. You may be able to spend some time in a school volunteering as a teacher's assistant, or you may offer private music lessons to friends, family members and relatives for free or cheap rates while you build your experience. Gaining experience in music education improves your CV and allows you to develop your skills in education, instruction and assessment.

Related: Work experience: definition, importance and tips

4. Build performance experience

Gaining practical experience in musical performance is particularly important if you want to work as a private music teacher. Joining local musical groups, such as orchestras, bands and choirs, may give you opportunities to perform and develop essential skills in teamwork and music performance. Becoming a respectable performer in your own right gives you credibility as a music teacher and helps you to stay on top of developments in music theory and performance.

5. Apply for teaching roles

When you have qualifications in both music and education, you may start applying for relevant roles as a music teacher. If you have a PGCE or another teaching qualification that qualifies you to teach in a school, you may apply to become a newly qualified teacher (NQT), which allows you to partake in various induction programmes. Many school music teachers also offer private music lessons in their own time, which involves advertising them online or on local listings pages and noticeboards.

What is it like to be a music teacher?

Music teachers spend most of their day delivering classes and lessons to groups and individuals. They often work with children and young adults, although some private music teachers also work with adults. School music teachers divide their time between classroom teaching and office activities such as lesson planning and marking. In contrast, private music teachers spend most of their time delivering music lessons either from their own homes or in their clients' homes.

School music teachers work core hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during term time, with additional marking and lesson planning taking place outside these hours. Private music teachers schedule lessons during the day, evenings and weekends. Overnight travel away from home is rarely necessary unless you're attending conferences or seminars or taking students on field trips. Some short-distance travel to attend students' performances may be necessary.

Music teacher skills

Music teachers have various skills that enable them to communicate with their students and effectively convey complex ideas to students of different ages and abilities. Some of the most important skills for school music teachers and private music teachers are below:

Communication skills

All teachers have excellent communication skills, including both written and verbal communication skills. These skills allow them to convey complicated ideas to students and give clear and concise instruction when teaching students how to sing or play instruments. Good written skills, including punctuation and grammar, are necessary for school music teachers who regularly mark written work and assess exam papers. Strong communication skills are also useful when meeting with other teachers to discuss class progress and scaffolding.

Related: How to improve your communication skills

Patience

It's essential that music teachers are patient, especially when working with students of lower abilities. Patience is also important when working with students who are easily distracted or have trouble focusing on the task at hand. Music teachers may develop their patience by gaining more experience working with young children and practising skills like mindfulness.

Organisational skills

Music teachers require excellent organisational skills. School music teachers have many responsibilities both inside and outside the classroom, and they regularly juggle these responsibilities while managing a busy schedule of classes and extra-curricular clubs. Private music teachers manage their own schedules, including accepting new clients and organising lessons. Strong organisational skills are necessary to ensure that music teachers attend all of their lessons punctually and meet all their deadlines for marking and other milestones.

Related: What are organisational skills? (Types and examples)

Empathy

Empathy is a key skill for all teachers because it allows them to understand how their students feel and respond appropriately. Music teachers who empathise with their students' feelings towards the subject are more able to tailor their lessons and instruction toward the needs of their students. This is particularly important for teachers working with young children, who may find it difficult to express themselves verbally. Music teachers working in schools may also take on pastoral duties such as looking after a form group, which involves monitoring the emotional wellbeing of students.

Related:

  • A Complete Guide To Teacher Interview Questions

  • 14 Essential Teacher Skills


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