Musicians and Singers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
There are no postsecondary education requirements for those interested in performing popular music. Many musicians and singers of classical music and opera have a bachelor’s degree in music theory or performance. To be accepted into one of these programs, applicants are typically required to submit recordings or to audition in person and sometimes must do both.
Training Required
Musicians and singers need extensive training and regular practice to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to interpret music at a professional level. They typically begin singing or learning to play an instrument by taking lessons and classes when they are at a young age. In addition, they must practice often to develop their talent and technique.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 7% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Advancement
As with other occupations in which people perform, advancement for musicians and singers means becoming better known, finding work more easily, and earning more money for each performance. Successful musicians and singers often rely on agents or managers to find them jobs, negotiate contracts, and develop their careers. Some musicians and singers advance to leading musical groups or to writing complex music such as symphonies. For more information, see the profile on music directors and composers.
Median pay: How much do Musicians and Singers make?
$25.14 per hour

Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios. They perform in a variety of styles, such as classical, jazz, opera, hip-hop, and rock.

What do Musicians and Singers do?

Musicians and singers typically do the following:

  • Perform music for live audiences and recordings
  • Audition for positions in orchestras, choruses, bands, and other types of music groups
  • Practice playing instruments or singing to improve their technique
  • Rehearse to prepare for performances
  • Find and book locations for performances or concerts
  • Travel, sometimes great distances, to performance venues
  • Promote their careers by maintaining a website or social media presence or by doing photo shoots and interviews

Musicians play one or more instruments. To make themselves more marketable, many musicians become proficient in multiple musical instruments or styles.

Musicians play solo or in bands, orchestras, or small groups. Those in bands may play at weddings, private parties, clubs, or bars while they try to build enough fans to get a recording contract or representation by an agent. Some musicians work as part of a large group of musicians, such as an orchestra, whose members must work and practice together. A few musicians become section leaders, who may be responsible for assigning parts to other musicians or for leading rehearsals.

Others musicians are session musicians, specializing in playing backup for a singer or band leader during recording sessions and live performances.

Singers perform vocal music in a variety of styles. Some specialize in a particular vocal style, such as opera or jazz; others perform in a variety of musical genres. Singers, particularly those who specialize in opera or classical music, may perform in different languages, such as French or Italian. Opera and musical theater singers act out a story by singing instead of speaking the dialogue. Some singers become background singers, providing vocals to harmonize with or support a lead singer.

In some cases, musicians and singers write their own music to record and perform. For more information about careers in songwriting, see the profile on music directors and composers.

Some musicians and singers give private music lessons to children and adults. Others with a background in music may teach music in public and private schools, but they typically need a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. For more information, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Careers for Musicians and Singers

  • Accompanists
  • Backup singers
  • Band leaders
  • Baritones
  • Bassoonists
  • Buglers
  • Cellists
  • Choir members
  • Church organists
  • Clarinetists
  • Concert pianists
  • Concert singers
  • Double bass players
  • English horn players
  • Flutists
  • Guitar players
  • Guitarists
  • Harpists
  • Horn players
  • Instrumentalists
  • Musicians
  • Oboists
  • Opera singers
  • Organists
  • Percussionists
  • Pianists
  • Piano players
  • Piccoloists
  • Rappers
  • Section leaders
  • Session musicians
  • Singers
  • Soloists
  • Tenors
  • Timpanists
  • Trombonists
  • Trumpet players
  • Trumpeters
  • Violinists
  • Violists
  • Vocalists

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