How to Become a Music Professor


College music professors miss out on the fame and glory of rock stars and other popular musicians, but they provide an invaluable service to their students and the arts as a whole. The competition for job openings at music schools is fierce, and the selection process often involves several interviews and an audition. The yearly mean salary for a college music teacher in 2008 was $65,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given the job's healthy annual income and the chance to teach what you love, it's no wonder music professor applicants greatly outnumber the available job openings.

Things You'll Need

  • Audition tape
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College transcripts
  • Binder
  • Concert or recital programs
  • Live and breathe music. The more technical and creative knowledge you have about a musical specialty, the better chance you have of gaining a coveted music faculty position. Begin study in voice, instrument and theory at an early age. Practice above and beyond the call of duty. Devote time to composing and performing as a teenager. Participate in school orchestras, musicals or bands.

  • Work towards a D.M.A. (doctorate of musical arts) degree. This advanced degree emphasizes the performance and teaching of music. It's favored by college musical faculties for those wishing to teach piano, cello, violin or other instruments. You can earn a musical arts degree in composition, conducting, music education and a number of other fields, depending on the college you attend. Earn a Ph.D. in music theory if you want to concentrate on teaching the mechanics of music. Take part-time or assistant teaching positions as you get closer to graduation.

  • Check for openings at the colleges where you'd like to teach. Contact music departments directly or browse publications that advertise music job openings. Then familiarize yourself with the schools' hiring methods. Most schools require a resume and audition tape to begin the hiring process.

  • Arrange a portfolio of your accomplishments. It should include a performance audio and video, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, printed programs from noteworthy recitals and a detailed resume of your prior teaching experience. Present the material in a professional manner using a binder and high-quality printing for the resume. Preface it with a table of contents.

  • Prepare yourself for the interview. For highly competitive positions, a screening phone interview may be used before an in-person meeting. Rehearse what you will say, and remember to sell yourself by highlighting your accomplishments so you stand out against the other candidates.

  • Perform your best piece at the audition. Remain calm and focus on your playing, not on the staff evaluating your recital.

  • Use all your prior teaching knowledge during the master class. This serves as an evaluation of your classroom style and will be the final step in the selection process at most colleges.

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  • Photo Credit music image by Mat Hayward from
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