Music Directors and Composers
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Overview
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Conduct, direct, plan, and lead instrumental or vocal performances by musical artists or groups, such as orchestras, bands, choirs, and glee clubs; or create original works of music.
Titles for this career often contain these words
MusicDirectorComposerChoirBandLeaderWriterOrchestraArrangerMasterConductorCopyistOrchestratorArtisticChildren'sTeacherChoirmasterChoralChoristerChorusTeachingArtistConceptorCreativeDigitalFilmHandbellJingleLiturgicalMaestroAdapterInstructorManagerMinisterMinistriesPastorProducerSupervisorScoreSongSongwriter
Education
About 65% of music directors and composers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by music directors and composers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More music directors and composers have bachelor's degrees than 76% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Music directors and composers, with 64,700 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for music directors and composers are expected to grow by 1%, and should have about 7,800 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Music directors and composers are less likely to be automated than 86% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for music directors and composers compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most music directors and composers earn.
$52K$0$50K$100K$150K
Gender
Women account for 23% of music directors and composers -- that's a smaller percentage than 63% of other jobs.
Gender of music directors and composers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For music directors and composers, the median men's salary was 14% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 19% of music directors and composers are minority, and 14% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of music directors and composers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (14%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Music Directors and Composers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of music directors and composers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (77%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do music directors and composers earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries. This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for music directors and composers (BLS Salary Data)
$52K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$52K$0$50K$100K$150K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for music directors and composers (ACS Salary Data)
$45K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$45K$0$50K$100K$150K
Musicians, singers, and related workers: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $42KAll jobs' median $45K$41K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire music directors and composers.
Employers of Music Directors and Composers (ACS)
Private for-profit (19.0%)
Private not-for-profit (34.2%)
Local government (1.1%)
State government (0.5%)
Federal government (3.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (11.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (30.4%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of music directors and composers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$45K$53K$52K$46K$32K$58K$57K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of music directors and composers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$52K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for music directors and composers

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$49K$37K$48K$48K$58K$45K$45K$54K$23K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
01K2K3K4K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Music directors and composers and gender

With 23% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 63% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
23%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Music directors and composers
Men (77%)
Women (23%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for music directors and composers, with the median salary for men 14% higher than the median salary for women.

$42K$47K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men.

14%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of music directors and composers

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. The percentage of minority music directors and composers falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. The percentage of foreign-born workers in this career is near the middle of all careers.

Race/origin of music directors and composers
White (79% )
Black (11% )
Asian (4% )
Multiracial (3% )
Other (2% )
American Indian (0% )
Hispanic (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
14%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for music directors and composers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$42K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KBlackWhite
Distribution: Salaries for music directors and composers by nativity
$45K$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Music directors and composers and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 51% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 95% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
51%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time music directors and composers is shown following.

$13K$45K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by music directors and composers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), music directors and composers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as music directors and composers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for music directors and composers

Employers generally prefer candidates with a master’s degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting for positions as a conductor or classical composer.

Applicants to postsecondary programs in music typically are required to submit recordings, audition in person, or both. These programs teach students about music history and styles, and educate them in composing and conducting techniques. Information on degree programs is available from the National Association of Schools of Music.

A bachelor’s degree typically is required for those who want to work as a choir director. Those who work in public schools may need a teaching license or certification. For more information, see the profiles on teachers.

There are no specific educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music. These composers usually find employment by submitting recordings of their compositions to bands, singers, record companies, and movie studios. Composers may promote themselves through personal websites, social media, or online video or audio of their musical work.

Education attained by music directors and composers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for music directors and composers? Below we see the distribution of music directors and composers salaries based on the education attained.

$33K$40K$45K$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KHigh School (7%)Some College (21%)Bachelor's Degree (37%)Master's Degree (24%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

College majors held by music directors and composers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as music directors and composers.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Music directors and composers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as music directors and composers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

What college major is your best entry?

About 65% of people working as music directors and composers have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%5.0%10.0%15.0%20.0%25.0%30.0%35.0%40.0%45.0%50.0%Percentage with this major$35,000$40,000$45,000$50,000$55,000$60,000$65,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for music directors and composers

What jobs will most music directors and composers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of music directors and composers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Musicians, singers, and related workersSpecialized Teachers and InstructorsSpecialized Entertainers, Sports and Related WorkersSpecialized Religious WorkersChief executives and legislators
Lateral job transitions for music directors and composers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as music directors and composers as well as 1% of respondents after working as music directors and composers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Prior and next careers for music directors and composers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as music directors and composers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of music directors and composers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most music directors and composers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as music directors and composers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Music Directors and Composers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.10.20.30.40.5
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where music directors and composers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for music directors and composers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for music directors and composers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Music Directors and Composers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which music directors and composers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?