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15 Ways to Put Your Music Degree to Work

by Christine Occhino on October 13, 2015 via Sonicbids

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Everyone who obtains a music degree typically expects to go in one of two directions: performing or teaching. Though the former is the more "glamorous" option if you can actually manage to make a living out of it, it's unstable. On the flip side, teaching is more secure and can also be very lucrative, but it doesn't always fulfill the dreams of grandeur that most budding performers have sought out for the better part of their lives. Those who are able to balance a little of both sides of the coin often find themselves at the best intersection of success, where they're able to satisfy both their needs as an artist and desires as a pro musician. The best way to find this balance is figuring out how you can best put that music degree to work for you! Here are 15 different opportunities that exist for those with a music degree to help recoup some of the investment you made in that expensive piece of paper.


1. Accompanist

Work as an accompanist with different music schools, ensembles, churches, and theater groups.

[How to Accompany a Singer Like a Pro]

2. Music union/association administrator

Work on the administrative side of the various music unions and associations that exist to protect and help musicians prosper.

3. Cruise ship performer

If you love playing, want to get paid to travel to some of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world, and don't mind being at sea for several months out of the year, a cruise ship gig is perfect for you! Your "room and board" expenses are covered, you get all of the benefits of most luxury boats, and typically only play a few shows each day… to a packed audience of people always in a great mood and ready to party!

4. Private educator

There's a lot of money in the private education market – the trick is knowing how to market yourself as an individual private teacher or linking up with the right pre-existing music school that gives you the most opportunities for success.

5. Military band performer

Perform in a military band (most are in the US, but some do exist overseas as well) – steady job, doing what you love for people who truly appreciate it, and lots of great perks – like a portion of your salary, plus housing and food allowances, being tax-free!

6. Music teacher

Teach at a public or private school for kindergarten through grade 12, earn a steady paycheck, and inspire some young talent yourself!

7. Session musician

Play on different recordings for artists, labels, studios, and songwriting houses. It's usually relatively easy and fun freelance work that can get more frequent and lucrative depending on the good contacts you make on the job!

[How to Get Hired as a Session Musician]

8. Sound designer

Work in venues, theaters, or on films to create the aural atmosphere of the performance. Salaries can be very high, especially depending on the region you choose to work in.

9. Music therapist

Use your music to help those who need it most! Music therapists are able to use music as an alternative form of treatment, and work within different health facilities to aid ailing patients. And depending on your additional years of formal education in the field, pay can be extremely good!

10. Video game composer

Create the backing soundtracks for video games for entertainment companies. On the high end, composers make about $1,000 to $2,000 per minute of music written for major companies, with deals usually being for about 30 minutes of score.

11. Arts administrator

Assisting with tasks for an arts organization – like those staffing many major orchestras, theater venues, and music academies – can be as simple as general administrative responsibilities or as advanced as event planning and grant writing for nonprofits.

12. Music licensing specialist

Oversee the copyrights to musical works, license them out, and negotiate fees for their usage (usually at a music publishing company).

13. Music supervisor

Oversee the musical choices that are placed on different visual mediums like TV, video games, films, and advertisements.

14. Music blogger

(Oh, the irony!) Using your vast knowledge in your subject matter, you can easily start up your own blog or lend your writing talents to a preexisting force in the market like Rolling Stone, the Huffington Post, or even Sonicbids!

15. Music programmer

Make selections of what will appear on a program or be heard by an audience in a variety of places from radio, to events, to the music channels on your TV.


Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business & management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove. She is also the proud founder and CEO of Hope In Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that brings music to those in need.

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