Heading to Music School? Career Goals Up in the Air?

Concerned that your music school-bound student’s career goals are still up in the air? Wondering if they’re making a mistake by going to music school? Here are 5 suggestions that should set your mind at ease.

I was talking with a friend whose son, Mike, a talented vocalist and trumpeter, is a senior in high school. He’s getting ready to audition for schools across the country. His mother, however, was lamenting the fact that Mike’s career goals are still in flux. She’s wondering whether he should be going to a liberal arts school instead, or to at least pursuing a field where she thinks he’ll stand a better chance at getting a job. (Whatever that is, these days!)

“What kind of career guidance will he get at the schools he’s applying to?” I asked. “More than just a required class for juniors or seniors that scratches the surface on topics like time management, paying taxes, and setting up a website?”

Heading off to music school will be a much more fruitful experience if you’re well aware of the career-related resources there, and know how to use them.

Heading off to music school will be a much more fruitful experience if you’re well aware of the career-related resources there, and know how to use them. While some students do enter music school knowing exactly what they want to do when they graduate, many do not. And those who do know, may or may not be able to fulfill their dreams. The purpose of going to college to study music, whether at a stand-alone conservatory, university music college or department, or department within a liberal arts college, is to strengthen what you know, broaden your horizons, and prepare for grad school or the working world. It’s also a great place to continue to grow up.

Often, the career support at colleges and universities is available only to those who seek it. Students need to pay attention to announcements of career-related classes, special events, career fairs, interesting panels, and other presentations that will provide food for thought and networking opportunities. They also need to make themselves known in the career services office, as well as to professors whose backgrounds are of interest and relevance.

Here are my 5 suggestions to Mike’s mother:

1. Don’t panic.

2. Help Mike explore the career-related resources available at the schools he’s interested in. This may help him decide between and among them should he get accepted to several or all of them.

3. Encourage Mike to investigate internships during the school year as well as during the summers. This is a great way to learn about career options he may never have thought of on his own. He’ll need to stay on top of deadlines for applying for internships because they get taken quickly.

4. Talk to Mike about the value of mentoring so he can find good mentors at his school. Encourage him to read: “Why You Need a Musical Mentor.”

5. Networking is essential for anyone interested in a career in pretty much anything. If Mike is shy or uncomfortable reaching out and talking with people he doesn’t already know, encourage him to learn how to do this as early on as possible. Read the articles on performance anxiety on MajoringInMusic.com; they’re relevant to de-stressing about networking.


  1. Martha,

    If you check the various schools on MajoringInMusic.com, you’ll see that many if not most offer a post-baccalaureate certificate program or actual master’s degree that prepares a music major who has NOT majored in music education to receive K-12 licensure in the state where the school is located. There are some schools that offer licensure that may apply to other states as well.

    Your daughter may also want to check the American Choral Directors Association (click the link at the bottom of this page) for more information about choral conducting.

  2. Martha Cava

    Question: Are there any Master’s-level MusicEd Degree programs in the US that DO NOT require a Bachelor’s in Music Ed as a prereq? My daughter is currently finishing up earning a Bachelor’s in Jazz Performance (vocal), because she stubbornly maintained that she would NEVER contemplate a teaching career. A few years later, and she is considering it … but as we have researched grad-level MusicEd, it seems as though most programs require the BMusicEd. Her primary interests would be chorale conducting and arranging … are there any options for her that we’ve overlooked? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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