Forge Your Educational Path to Success as a Music Teacher: Licenses, Degrees and More

Guest post by Audrey Allen, Assistant Content Editor from University of Florida.

Becoming a Licensed Music Teacher

Skilled musicians who want to share their passion for music often find teaching to be a rewarding career path. Some of these musicians offer private lessons in their own studio or teach at a private music school, and may have no formal academic training. You can expand your opportunities for a successful teaching career vastly, however, through formal education.

To teach in a public school, for example, individuals need to earn a teaching license in their home state. Many private schools also only employ teachers who are licensed. Most states require a bachelor’s degree in music or in education with a minor in music from an accredited program. Many of these degree programs offer coursework that prepares students for music education licensure. Higher educational institutions refer to this teacher education component by various names including music teacher certification and music education certification.

Every state has its own licensure standards and requirements, and requirements may vary for elementary school, secondary school and high school teachers. Licensure helps ensure that teachers are qualified to effectively instruct and support the academic achievement of students. Obtaining a license typically requires individuals to demonstrate, through exams or other measures, that they have basic math and writing skills and a firm grasp of the subject that they teach. Most states also require supervised teaching experience. This helps ensure that teachers can competently prepare lesson plans and manage a classroom. Teachers with licenses from states with reciprocity agreements may be able to transfer their license to another state. Individuals who have bachelor’s degrees but no teacher training or education in the subject they want to teach may be able to pursue alternative paths to licensure.

License, Credential, Music Certificate: What’s the Difference?

Some states refer to their license as a “credential” or “certificate.” There’s a difference, however, between state mandated licensure and music certificate programs. Some higher educational institutions offer programs that provide coursework in specific music subjects. These programs can range in length and intensiveness from a few courses to a few years. They neither confer degrees nor lead to licensure, but can provide valuable knowledge in specific instruments or areas of special interest including music history, chamber performance, improvisation, arranging, and songwriting.

What a Master’s Degree in Music Education Means for You and Your Teaching Career

Though few states require master’s degrees for licensure, it’s becoming more common for states to require a post-graduate degree within a specified number of years of teaching. Many music teachers further their education at some point in their career and some even choose to enroll in a master’s in music education program right after completing a bachelor’s degree. Music teachers pursue master’s degrees for many reasons. Some simply want to expand their knowledge and skills so that they can be better teachers or for self-improvement. Holding a master’s degree also can help teachers achieve a promotion, pay increase or pursue a doctorate.

Completing a master’s degree increases earnings in most states and districts, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. In some states, certified teachers with a master’s degree earn an annual income that is from $5,000 to $10,000 higher than that of their peers at the same seniority level without an advanced degree. This figure is based only on minimum state-sanctioned salaries and may be higher in some states.

Accredited master’s programs in music education typically provide advanced coursework in music theory and practice, and explore best practices in curriculum development and instructional design. These skills not only enhance a student’s abilities, they also can lead to leadership positions at a school or district level. Earning a master’s degree also sets the stage for pursuing a doctorate, which can further expand your career options and compensation.

Earning a master’s in music education may be a significant investment, but it’s one that pays off both personally and professionally. Your confidence, teaching skills, music knowledge, earning potential, and career prospects can all be strengthened by the right master’s program. And with advancements in technology, an online degree can provide a high-quality curriculum without disrupting your life.

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