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How to Become a Music Director or Composer

Educational and training requirements for music directors and composers vary. A conductor for a symphony orchestra typically needs a master’s degree, but a choir director may need a bachelor’s degree. There are no educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music.


A degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting is generally preferred for those who want to work as a conductor or classical composer. To enter these programs, applicants are typically required to submit recordings or audition in person or both.

These programs teach students about music history and styles, as well as composing and conducting techniques. Information on degree programs is available from the National Association of Schools of Music.

A bachelor’s degree is typically required for those who want to work as a choir director.

There are no specific educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music. These composers usually find employment by submitting recordings of their compositions to bands, singers, and music and movie studios. They may seek representation by an agent, who helps them find employment and performance opportunities.

Work Experience

Music directors and composers typically begin their musical training as a child, learning to play an instrument or sing.

Music directors and composers who are interested in classical music may seek additional training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities.

Important Qualities

Discipline. Talent is not enough for most music directors and composers to find employment in this field. They must constantly practice and seek to improve their technique and style.

Musical talent. To become a music director or composer, one must have the talent to play, write, and conduct music.

People skills. Music directors and composers need to work with agents, musicians, and recording studios. Being friendly, respectful, open to criticism as well as praise, and enjoying being with others can help music directors and composers work well with a variety of people.

Perseverance. Attending auditions and submitting compositions can be frustrating because it may take many different auditions and submissions to find a job. Music directors and composers need determination and perseverance to continue attending auditions and submitting work after receiving many rejections.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition