Careers in Music Education

Elementary/Primary School Music Teacher

Elementary school music teachers work in public, private, or parochial schools. Their duties vary depending on the school and the ages and grades they teach, but for the most part they teach a general music class in kindergarten through sixth grade, introducing students to the different aspects of music and the varying degrees of skill study. They must often follow guidelines for what they teach that are set up by the school music department heads, district music supervisors, and state music education supervisors.

Kristen NunesMeet the Alumnus: Kristen Nunes
Kindergarten Music Specialist at Chelsea Public Schools
Majored in Music Education
Class of 2006

Read Kristen Nunes's alumni interview.


Secondary School Music Teacher

Secondary school music teachers generally teach in grades seven through twelve, and they work in public, private, or parochial schools. Their duties vary depending on the type of job they are hired for. They may teach specifically on one instrument or many. They may be responsible for leading a school band, orchestra, or choir, and for putting on school concerts and competitions. They may handle rehearsals and conduct the school groups as well.

College/Conservatory/University Music Educator

College/conservatory/university music educators may be hired for a variety of different positions. They may be brought into a school as a general music educator to teach areas of music theory, music arranging, music history, or vocal or instrumental performance. Educators are also hired to coach chamber music groups or to conduct choruses or orchestras.

Private Instructor

A private instructor usually does not work through a school, but gives individual instruction to students on a regular basis. They set their own fees, unless contracted by a music store or teaching group, and develop their own teaching plans and guidelines. Private instructors may work alone out of an office or home, with a group of teachers, or at a music store that offers lessons. They may teach individual lessons or offer group lessons. Lessons generally run 45 minutes to one hour and are usually scheduled once a week. They may teach at different levels of skill, from beginner to professional.

Choir Director

A choir director provides direction and guidance to a vocal group or choir in a school, church, or elsewhere in the community. The choir director is responsible for researching and selecting material, rehearsing and conducting the choir, and preparing and presenting public performances of the choir.

Music Education Supervisor (or School Music Supervisor)

A school music supervisor is responsible for directing and coordinating activities of teaching personnel who are engaged in instructing students in vocal and instrumental music in a specific school or school system. This person may teach a few days a week and administer programs in the remaining days. The music supervisor plans and develops the music education curriculum.

“As a Berklee student, I had the unique opportunity to interact with and hear music of so many different people, which I consider to be so important.” - Kristen Nunes

Independent Primary or Secondary School Music Teacher

These teachers work specifically at private, independent, parochial, or cooperative home school programs. Usually state certification is not required to work at these schools.